The real problem with cinemas today

I was reading Melinda aka Miss Geeky post about the Dark Knight then linked off to a old post which I've never seen before. 10 problems with today's cinemas is a frank look at the problems with cinemas. I'll quickly run through them here.

  1. Poor Projection Quality
  2. Bad Volume
  3. Screen Size
  4. Bad Seats
  5. Coat and Bag Space
  6. Air Conditioning
  7. Seat Selection
  8. No Decent Waiting Area
  9. Queues
  10. Movie Showing Duration

So I've got some comments about most of these.

The Poor Projection Quality is a big problem, not only is it lazy projectionist but also dirty glass. I have a couple of times gone out and asked for someone to fix the projection. I remember in one film in Beckenham Odeon, the screen was so out of focus half the cinema went out and complained. Who knows what the other half did. Bad Volume, is again another big problem but its more that this. Some cinemas haven't been setup correctly. For example a cinema where I worked didn't even have a working sub in a couple of the smaller screens! The larger ones were THX certified but that was when they first opened. Speakers can blow or more likely go out of phase. Hell I think a rat in one of the big cinemas in London had chewed through a speaker wire because the sound was so unbalanced. Its not always the cinemas fault is true. For example me and my cousin have done tests between different multi-channel formats. Dolby Digital 5.1 can sound very harsh and in your face sometimes, while the same film in DTS 6.1 can sound more natural and more spread out. Then throw into the mix SDDS and things get clearer again. This isn't scientific in anyway because it depends on the audio track, how it was mixed and what equipment the track is run through. For example most Dolby Digital equipment is realtively cheap in the cinema world, while DTS is more expensive and again getting in SDDS equipment is not going to be cheap. I've seen cineams which do crazy stuff like put all the input throught a normaliser before going out to the speakers!

In totally agreement about relative screen size, you can't have a 132 inch screen in your living room (well one of my friends actually tried this). I feel the Odeon Leicester Square screen is good but the empire is nicer for general action movies. The old skool (spelt that way for a reason) cinemas which are more like theatres are actually pretty good. If you've never experienced one, imagine Empire but you walk down instead of up. The best cinema I've seen for this is screen one in Odeon, Streatham. The modern multiplexs tend to use the staduim seating which leads me to a new frustration. Bad Seats, when I was growing up all cinemas went for the gentle slope and tiny seats which flipped up when you stand up. Then Showcase Cinemas came to town and brought stadium like seating and adjustable seats. So the seats flipped up but the back would also go back. These were “the lick” (best you can get) at the time but if you actually sat in them for a while it would push on your back not be very comfitable. The best seats i've ever sat in are the gallery seats at the Filmworks/Odeon Greenwich. There like a car seat which don't flip up but also have depth so my legs are comfitable. If your smaller, I guess the depth will mean you will have a gap between your back and the seat. Sofa style is a welcome additon too (aka the ability to flip the arm rest up). And with these seats theres even enough room to put my motorcycle jacket on the back of the seat in front or my bag next to my feet. On Seat Selection, its got to be closer to the front, enough to almost fill your vision. Odeon have/had standard measurement ratios for cinemas seats to the screen, so I would usually aim for row H or I. I'm sure others do too. When I worked at the Odeon Leicester Square, if I was unhappy with the customer I would put them in Row AA which is near the back of the lower circle. Generally all cinemas should give you a good seat where ever you are. For example theres a legal limit on Row A, its just a matter if you like the intense feeling (almost IMAX like actually)

Actually about the IMAX experience… Its great, I've been to the IMAX in Bristol, Berlin, Minneapolis, San Francisco and London. But I have a problem with them being used for films like the Dark Knight. For me its mind blowing but its too much. Its just like sitting in Row A. When I watched Matrix revolution on the IMAX it just didnt work. The Matrix was not shot for the IMAX and it showed, maybe Dark Knight will be different due to all the action sequences shot on IMAX cameras. 1.33:1 works well for those scenes of atmosphere and depth but not for story telling I feel. The first thing I ever bought online was the Twister DVD from Amazon.com. It comes in 4:3 (fullscreen) on one side and 2.35:1 (letterbox) on the other. Trust me I never want to see that movie in 4:3 ever again. Maybe if it was a 132 inch screen in my living room it would be something special.

Air Con is a must for cinemas, I was actually sweating in the Dark Knight after 3hours. This is wrong! I like it cranked up because I want to feel like a ice lolly (popsicle) and make my ice cream last longer. Decent waiting areas is a good point, see I prefer the big lobby solutions to the corridor solutions of multiplexs. Going back to Odeon Streatham, Screen One has a upstairs lobby where you wait and downstairs is where the food and drinks are. So you can wait away from the hustle and bussle. Another thing this cinema screen has for it (new point inserted) small toilets in the screen! There's nothing worst that having to run the length of the cinema to pop to the loo. Having them in the screen also means you can hear whats happening while just going for a quick one. Another problem is the lighting. The lights should be on at the start, dim during the adverts and again at taiilers and at showtime they should be off. The light of the screen should be enough. Oh and at the end, the house lights should never come on till everyone has left the screen or the credits have finished.

At the Odeon, as a usher. If we turned the house lights on before everyone had left, those people were entitled to a complete refund of somekind. Actually thats something most people don't know, you can legally ask for your money back up to 15mins into a film. So if somethings not right, walk out and ask. Don't settle for they will fix it, remember your missing the film. The last time I ever had to do this was when me and Sarah went to the Odeon Leicester Square to watch Red Dragon and there were rats or mice running around the cinema. Yeah it was nasty and wrong on so many levels. But one thing Miss Geeky also missed is people! Certain people won't frankly shut the fuck up when the film is on. And there seems to be a trend towards not having a usher (blame the multiplexs) in the screen to keep people quiet. So now you have to decide yourself if your going to boldly tell them to quit or just live with it. Thats not right, the cinema ushers should be there to keep the volume level almost slient, stop people wondering in and out with there phones and generally make sure everything goes smoothly. So finally the cinema experience will be worth the money there charging.

I made reference a while back to how much I go to the cinema (almost once a week!). And I got to say I do like cinema and have really high hopes for digital cinema which may flatten the field and cause a longer tail effect. So maybe we'll get the pe
rfect cinema experience in the future, but I got to say home cinema is hot on its tail and rightly so.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.