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I haven't noticed any problems at the Cinemark up here in Greeley. I'll pay more attention next time to make sure. I guess if I haven't noticed the black bars, nothing took away from my viewing experience. Most recent watches: Avengers 2 and Fury Road.
At these theatres, at least, it's a VERY recent phenomenon. When I saw Avengers 2, it was fine. For Fury Road, they had changed things. Also possible it varies based on the auditorium and overall screen dimensions - I haven't checked all of them, of course.
Maybe 3D partially hides the phenomenon as key scenes are popping off the screen anyway. Maybe theaters figure that enough people will see the more expensive 3D showings during the all-important first couple of weeks of a blockbuster movie's run that they don't need to put in the extra effort towards their 2D shows.
I noticed this yesterday and thought they had run out of screens that were 2.39:1 and didn't think anyone would notice. This is terrible!
Its happening in California too- the Century 13 in Monterey started this BS with "Tomorowland "and its just getting worse.
FYI No changes to date
This is happening in Ohio. The Tinseltown in Canton ohio is ripping out all their scope screens to install tall 1.85:1 screesn but don't mask. So frustrating.
An Ex (made redundant) projectionist here. This letter boxing of scope films is happening in the UK as well. A lot of new multiplexes are just building 185 ratio screens so there's actually no option to go wider for scope. You then add the fact that they're touting 4K projectors (Sony are the worst offenders I've found) in these same theatres and it just adds insult to injury. Yes you've got a 4K image but it's now smaller in overall size. Utter nonsense.
That's unfortunate - but thanks for the insight! It sounds like this is getting to be a problem all around the world...
Yes this is true the local multiplex in the U.K. As well , the ( Cineworld ) I go to has just been refurbushied After 20 years or so in service To all stadium seating & new seats in all auditoria ,before only 7 0f the 16 screens had this ,new 1.85 screens almost 2x original size all masking has been taken out! A big step backwards! All screens suffer from light leakage onto the screen from new exit signs & new led lighting no new projectors or sound systems yet, also a 4dx screen has been installed ,the Imax screen has only had a refresh of paint carpet etc ,it is a digital Imax not film not a patch on the one I have visited in Florida which had a big screen & was film based at the time of visit
Also, and this relates to Sony as well, their 4K Cine Alta projectors require constant lens changing if you want to correctly show 2 and 3D content. This is a pain but perfectly doable if you employ projectionist. And there's the rub. Cinema chains have simultaneously installed this type of projector that requires a trained person to operate and change lenses correctly while at the same getting rid of all those capable of doing so.The results are multiplexes that can't change the lenses and don't really see any point in doing so. After all, the customer has now become the primary point of quality control for checking a print/DCP. If there are no complaints on a first Friday of release then hey, it's all perfectly fine isn't it? DCP's rarely get checked anymore at most multiplexes. They are downloaded overnight, sometimes the night before release and the KDM's are only opened at midnight or a few hours prior to release. In a multiplex with multiple releases on a Friday, it's a literal impossibility to be checked by eye. The DCP is just dragged into a playlist and an average volume setting is applied to it. And that's about all that's done to it before it goes on front of a paying audience. The sound level may get adjusted of a customer says something but it'll likely only be adjust for that performance, reverting back to the preset level for the next automated show.Going back to the lenses for a second, because they need changing they also need precise alignment with each change as the image is thrown into slightly different areas of the screen, due to things like angle, throw and auditorium geometry etc. So it's a lot easier form an operational standpoint to just not bother changing the lenses on a Sony and just have the two 3D lenses in place all the time showing two dim overlaid 2D images for 2D content. That's a side issue but it's all inextricably linked. Keep the lens fixed and don't bother moving the image position or showing scope films wider than 1.85:1.It's all really depressing that the people least capable of correct presentation are left in charge of cinemas and the truth if it is that they couldn't care less. And neither it seems do the majority of cinema goers. I say that not in a derogatory way but how else can you explain the fact that these shoddy practices continue? When you point this out to a cinema staff, be they a supervisor or a manager, they look at you as if you're nuts when you ask why they're not showing there films correctly. You can even show them what's wrong in the auditorium but they've got no idea what you're talking about.So sad to see.
Fascinating. Thank you so much for the explanation! I have heard about the 2D/3D lens issue before, but not in this much depth. And I've definitely had the experience of talking to a manager and being met like I'm speaking a foreign language. Definitely a depressing situation.
Also here in Anaheim, CA at the Century Stadium theatre. Also thought it was a mistake. Spoke to a rude, arrogant, condescending manager named Ian who provide little info. Finally spoke to the General Manager who told me that this is a corporate mandate.Presentation quality is AWFUL. I do NOT get this at all. Why do this? Makes no sense.Luckily there is AMC Downtown Disney, AMC at The Block in Orange, AMC in Tustin, and many Regal Cinemas around here. I will NOT be returning to Cinemark.Thanks for the great article.
Had a chance to go to a Regal Cinema in Fresno and the same problem, it looks like AMC is the only chain properly projecting and masking at all anymore and its probably just a matter of time before they screw it up too. Saw "Hateful 8" in 70MM hoping for a great experience at AMC but the audio was patched in wrong- Center was swapped for Left Surround, complained but was told that it could not be fixed becuase they have to use a special projectionist who only starts the show and then goes on break. Was at least refunded. Cinema is a lost art. I think Ill be spending more and more time with my 4K TV.
There's no excuse for even installing screens that are masked from the top for scope, rather than proper ones that are natively 2.35 and have side masking for 1.85 movies. The problem is with the digital system, the frame IS natively 1.85 and scope movies are letterboxed. On proper side-masked screens, the picture is then zoomed to fill the screen and you then lose resolution as a result. The digital frame should have either been natively 2.35 and masked 1.85 movies on the sides, or it should have used an anamorphic system as 35mm film did (where the picture is squeezed and a lens stretches it back out to the right proportions.)I actually left my job as booth manager at a Regal theater back in 2001, because most of the screens were top-masked and they wanted me to have the masking go up in between showings so their ugly advertising slides (which shouldn't be shown at all) could be shown on the "bigger" screen, then have the masking come down when the film started and then go up when it ended. I simply refused to do that, as I believe the masking should never move when customers are in the auditorium to see it, especially on backwards top-masked screens! This only got worse as more theaters added video-projected ad programs before the movie.Cinemark is truly an awful company and they are killing the moviegoing experience. They bought out the Century chain which had many large, historical theaters dating from the 1960s- that company had a policy of not showing commercials before the movie, but the first change Cinemark made was to start showing them! Now they have closed and torn down many of the old theaters, replacing them with small, bland, generic cracker-box cinemas.Cinemark is not the only chain that is now letterboxing movies however, Regal and a smaller local company have been doing it also and I will not return to any theaters I see this at. I've just about given up on theaters altogether at this point. I had hoped to work in the theater business my entire life, but there was simply so much idiocy in the later years that I simply could not be a part of it- the higher-ups usually saw me as a pain for wanting to put on the best show possible. The bottom line is that the theater-going "experience" keeps getting worse and higher-priced, while home equipment keeps getting better and more affordable. If there were a single, really GOOD theater in my area I would make a point of patronizing it on a weekly basis no matter what was being shown, but none of the area's theaters meet that standard.
I'm a former projectionist. I hate digital, it usually looks garbage compared to 35mm. I work for Cinemark, and the reason given for the lack of scope masking is that the masking was rubbing on the screen every time it moved. This was never deemed a problem throughout the 35mm years, so not sure why it is now. But yeah, it looks lousy. Like Tarantino calls digital projection, "television in public."
Went to Cinemark's new theater in Sacramento today for the first time, and for the reasons given in this article it was also my LAST time there. I've really had it with theaters at this point.
My local cinema (1 year old) has 1.85 screens. While they don't go wider for scoped films, they do at least have proper masking (that descends), so you get a proper black mask round the rectangle of the scoped movie. I think this is an acceptable compromise. I don't understand why more don't do this. Cineworld (a major multiplex chain in the UK) has completely abandoned screen masking, even at the Premier West End cinemas in London).
I was happy to find this post via the Vox article on the history of projection.I work for a major studio in California. I was on a work trip to Miami, where we were doing screenings and presentations at the Regal South Beach 18 for ShowEast. I spent a lot of time up in the booth over the course of 3 days.On my first day, walking to the various projectors and seeing what they were showing, I noticed that none of the Scope movies had proper masking. I asked the booth technician if this was on purpose, and she said yes, it was.The next day, I was saying to the head tech manager for the theater what a horrible thing it was to not be masking the movies correctly, and that be a money-back situation for me. He told me that it was simply a cost decision, made chain-wide. When the masking mechanisms break, it costs money to fix them.I asked him if he was aware whether or not the studios—not just mine, but all of them—knew about this. I told him we should be rightfully furious at the practice. My studio is strong with animation, sci-fi, and super hero films (any guesses?), and I told him that if any of the filmmakers of any of these blockbusters knew this was happening, they'd have a fit.He did not know if the studios knew about the practice. But he said customers don't care. He has never received a complaint, he said. And the premium theaters like IMAX and RPX don't mask, so it's okay to do that for all screens.One of the reasons I don't like going to see movies in IMAX is, most of the time, a majority of the movie I'm seeing is not in IMAX format, and you get the image letterboxed within the frame of the screen. I hate it. Only when the movie pops into true IMAX does it look good to me. But still... this manager's reasoning was eye-popping to me.It was not his fault, of course. It was a "typical" corporate decision. He then went on to tell me a story about how the Regal head office decided to not repair an elevator that was used to get to the projection booth in another multiplex. It was only for employees, so it was not worth fixing. Being someone who often hauls cases of gear into projection booths, I told him carting all that up and down stairs in such a place would be a huge inconvenience.The one Regal theater I've been to in L.A. is downtown, and I have not seen the masking issue here. I'm guessing that, since this multiplex is in L.A. and many people from the movie industry see films there, they probably mask things to pretend they care.Hope this long-winded addition to the record adds some light. If I ever go to a theater that does not mask, I've vowed to demand my money back. One drop of complaint may not get noticed, but it's worth doing!
Thanks Steve! Love getting more perspective on this, even if the situation is increasingly depressing. We're down to just a few theatres here in Denver that show movies right. It's a real shame - I have to go out of my way to see a film masked, which has had the net affect of making me go to the movies a lot less. Theatre chains can call these things business decisions all they want, but the amount of customer hostility inherent in these and other practices is going to collapse in on them eventually, and I think it will be sooner rather than later.
"Cost decision"??? Give me a break- in all the theaters I worked at, I NEVER saw a masking motor break. Aside from the few times you have a flat and scope movie share an auditorium, they only need to move once per week at most (having them change for the pre-show garbage is NOT acceptable, especially on common-width screens.) Do those idiots realize that part of why I no longer GO to theaters is also a cost decision? They simply charge too much for tickets these days, so it takes a LOT of nerve for them to say that it costs too much to maintain such a basic thing!
I am a retired projectionist with over 30 years experience, and I am appalled at the lack of masking use. The Regal 16 theatre in my city used to use it to mask letterboxed scope films on 1.85 screens, but they no longer do. They still use side masking on their scope screens when running flat pictures. I visit Los Angeles a lot, and I visit theatres that still use masking, most of them being single-screeners. They include the El Capitan, Aero, Egyptian, New Beverly, Billy Wilder, Regent, Bruin, Village, Cinerama Dome, Arclight, and Chinese Multiplex. Also, the Plaza in El Paso masks their pictures correctly. during the Plaza Classic Film Festival.