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Theater Viewing Question

Old 10-13-11, 12:55 AM
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Theater Viewing Question

I rarely go to the theater, i usually just watch dvd's at home.

Tonight, a local chain was showing Casablanca, & I thought it would be cool to see it on the big screen, so I went.

What I BELIEVE I saw was a poor quality 1st gen dvd (not film, not a restoration or Blu) projected on a screen with rear projection.

The dark scenes were washed out & gray rather than black, fine details looked slightly blurred, & there was a grain to the picture kind of like pre- digital compression analog cable tv.

My question to those who are familiar with the industry, what exactly did I likely see? Were classic films just shot that poorly, or is my suspicion correct? This was a large multiplex theater if that matters.

I have read that with many classics one can see detail on a real film shown in a theater that's not apparent on dvd. In this case, my restored dvd looks better on my 480i 36" Sony that it did in the theater.

I'm not saying the picture was awful, but it was significantly beneath my expectations.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:03 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by MooMooMooMoo View Post
My question to those who are familiar with the industry, what exactly did I likely see?
No one can really be sure, but I think you could be correct about it being a DVD. Most theaters don't have 16mm projectors and a 35mm print surely would have looked better.

Were classic films just shot that poorly, or is my suspicion correct?
No, classic films were shot on 35mm film just like most of today's movies are. They can look really jaw-dropping if the print is in good shape.

If you think your restored DVD of "Casablanca" looks good you should see the Blu-ray or HD DVD. The movie looks incredible.

You got gypped I'm afraid.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:24 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Are you sure it was rear projected? That would be impossible in most multiplexes. One way you could have been able to figure out if it was a 35mm print or a DVD is if there were reel changes. Film prints have reel changes and "cigarette burn" marks to signal the projectionist.

If you saw anything resembling digital noise it was a DVD.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:46 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

I BELIEVE it was a dvd. The reason I assumed it was rear projected is because there was no light between the back of the theater & the screen like in the old days. Again, I watch 99.9% of my films at home, which is why I asked! I'm sure there is much I don't know about today's theaters.

As our standard def cable gets more & more digitally compressed, I have become hyper sensitive to artifacts I would have ignored a few years back, even with my very crummy eyesight.
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Old 10-13-11, 02:03 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by MooMooMooMoo View Post
I BELIEVE it was a dvd. The reason I assumed it was rear projected is because there was no light between the back of the theater & the screen like in the old days. Again, I watch 99.9% of my films at home, which is why I asked! I'm sure there is much I don't know about today's theaters.

As our standard def cable gets more & more digitally compressed, I have become hyper sensitive to artifacts I would have ignored a few years back, even with my very crummy eyesight.
I have pretty good eyesight, but I've been noticing notably on bluray that compression or the lack of it, in regards to video - shimmering and digital grain - which I've been told to eliminate is by turning down the sharpness level on a monitor/tv to nearly off.

in terms of rear projection - I've only known of one DC movie theater that did that - the Janus (now closed) that was done because the rear wall did not have enough room for a projection booth. Can I ask - what theater did you see this at? I've never known newer theaters to have enough space behind the screen to project an image from the rear properly.
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Old 10-13-11, 02:31 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

The Galaxy Multiplex. It apparently either is or once was (not sure which) part of the AMC chain. It's certainly possible that they've now got a way to project from a booth without a visible beam of light; I just wouldn't know about it!
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Old 10-13-11, 02:33 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

As you should, Giles. Sharpness should be off on every TV.
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Old 10-13-11, 02:54 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Call the theater and ask. There's a theater in my area that makes "all 35mm prints!" part of their marketing for showing older films.
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Old 10-13-11, 03:13 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by MooMooMooMoo View Post
I rarely go to the theater, i usually just watch dvd's at home.

Tonight, a local chain was showing Casablanca, & I thought it would be cool to see it on the big screen, so I went.

What I BELIEVE I saw was a poor quality 1st gen dvd (not film, not a restoration or Blu) projected on a screen with rear projection.

The dark scenes were washed out & gray rather than black, fine details looked slightly blurred, & there was a grain to the picture kind of like pre- digital compression analog cable tv.

My question to those who are familiar with the industry, what exactly did I likely see? Were classic films just shot that poorly, or is my suspicion correct? This was a large multiplex theater if that matters.

I have read that with many classics one can see detail on a real film shown in a theater that's not apparent on dvd. In this case, my restored dvd looks better on my 480i 36" Sony that it did in the theater.

I'm not saying the picture was awful, but it was significantly beneath my expectations.
I've seen CASABLANCA in 35mm prints on the big screen many times over the years, from 1967 to 1993 (its 50th anniversary). It always looked absolutely gorgeous. There's nothing like seeing it on film in a theater. You got ripped off, pal. You should let Warner Bros. know. Did the theater even pay the studio a rental fee or did they just buy a DVD? The studio should definitely know, because this kind of thing could discourage future attendance at showings of classic movies.
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Old 10-13-11, 09:55 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

I noticed that the landmark E Street Cinema is going to start showing older classic movies
Oct 28, 29 & 30: The Fly (1958)
Nov 4, 5 & 6: Singin' in the Rain
Nov 11 & 12 at 11:30pm & Nov 13 at 10:30am: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nov 18, 19 & 20: Modern Times
Nov 25, 26 & 27: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Dec 2, 3 & 4: Citizen Kane
Dec 9, 10 & 11: King Kong (1933)
Dec 16, 17 & 18: Duck Soup

I will probably be at most of those, as Singin in the Rain in 35 would be jaw dropping
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Old 10-14-11, 04:53 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum View Post
I've seen CASABLANCA in 35mm prints on the big screen many times over the years, from 1967 to 1993 (its 50th anniversary). It always looked absolutely gorgeous. There's nothing like seeing it on film in a theater. You got ripped off, pal. You should let Warner Bros. know. Did the theater even pay the studio a rental fee or did they just buy a DVD? The studio should definitely know, because this kind of thing could discourage future attendance at showings of classic movies.
The theater not only claimed they paid a rental fee, but I overheard the cashier complaining about the amount of the fee to another customer. Apparently they lost their shirt on the 25 or so of us who showed up.
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Old 10-14-11, 04:54 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

I'd love to see someone in my area do a Silent fest. There is 1 2x yearly in Seattle, but with my eyesite, it's just far away enough to be a dangerous drive for me at night.
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Old 10-14-11, 01:08 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Even with a DVD or Blu-ray presentation, the theatre still has to pay for the license to show it to the public.

Moo x4, would you mind telling us what city the Galaxy you attended was in? I'd like to know if they did project a DVD, and if so, how. If they just used the preshow advertising projector (which is rarely HD or bright enough to be pleasing) to show a DVD, then I feel that's dishonest to the customer.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:17 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Tacoma, Washington State. It did seem bright enough; as far as brightness went my only complaint was the slightly washed out blacks.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:25 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by DonnachaOne View Post
Even with a DVD or Blu-ray presentation, the theatre still has to pay for the license to show it to the public.

Moo x4, would you mind telling us what city the Galaxy you attended was in? I'd like to know if they did project a DVD, and if so, how. If they just used the preshow advertising projector (which is rarely HD or bright enough to be pleasing) to show a DVD, then I feel that's dishonest to the customer.
Fathom Events features it's content this way and 9 times out 10 it looks horrible.
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Old 10-14-11, 10:51 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Fathom Events rarely use the shoddy little preshow projectors. At my place Fathom used a 6000 lumen projector, which didn't look at all bad on a large screen. Now, it's plugged directly into a Sony 4K in a smaller theatre, but I actually think it looks worse.
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Old 10-14-11, 10:53 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

a local theater i go to plays classic films in the summer. In the past years they've shown the actual film. But this year they switched to all dvd presentations

They showed Silence of the lambs with the full screen dvd!
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Old 10-14-11, 10:57 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by mhg83 View Post
They showed Silence of the lambs with the full screen dvd!
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Old 10-14-11, 11:22 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by DonnachaOne View Post
Fathom Events rarely use the shoddy little preshow projectors. At my place Fathom used a 6000 lumen projector, which didn't look at all bad on a large screen. Now, it's plugged directly into a Sony 4K in a smaller theatre, but I actually think it looks worse.
they used to, but I guess with 2k/4k digital projectors becoming more common place, I guess it's changing over. My local AMC theater still uses the shoddy preshow projector for the operas and most recently the 'Phantom of the Opera live show' - ugh (even though four other auditoriums in the same complex have Sony systems - go figure? - they plan on adding Christie systems on the two largest screens - but are vague on when that will actually happen)

you really have a beef with Sony don't you?
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Old 10-14-11, 11:42 PM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Not too much of one. I just think they're inferior projectors for multiplexes - too dim. I'm sure they're fine in households that want sizable home theatres.

It could very well be the signal with the Fathom events, too. Even if they're prerecorded and played from a DVR, they've been recorded from a satellite feed. They looked fine on the Akai; on the Sony, the colors look washed out and "black" means "darkish gray".
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Old 10-15-11, 03:32 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by mhg83 View Post
a local theater i go to plays classic films in the summer. In the past years they've shown the actual film. But this year they switched to all dvd presentations

They showed Silence of the lambs with the full screen dvd!
i would ask how you knew it was the full screen version but i take it it said "this film has been modified..." before the movie started
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Old 10-15-11, 07:29 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Casablanca was also FS, but I'm pretty sure it was shot that way!
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Old 10-15-11, 08:19 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by MooMooMooMoo View Post
Casablanca was also FS, but I'm pretty sure it was shot that way!
Just like 99.99% of ALL films shot before 1954.
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Old 10-15-11, 08:23 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

If you're near NYC, Film Forum is a theater that always shows whatever film has recently been restored with new 35mm prints.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:55 AM
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Re: Theater Viewing Question

Originally Posted by MooMooMooMoo View Post
The reason I assumed it was rear projected is because there was no light between the back of the theater & the screen like in the old days.
Unless you're in the path of the beam (in which case your shadow would show up on the screen), you shouldn't see the beam of light as it passed from the back to the front. This is because the vast majority of light is going to the screen.

In the old days, people smoked in theaters, which put particles in the air that caused the light to scatter, making the beam visible. Unless the theater air is particularly dusty or smokey (aka full of particles), you won't see the beam. Instead, you should look for the light coming out of the projection booth.

You can try this at home. In a darkened room, hold a flashlight out in front of your face and aim it so that the beam passes right to left in front of you. You can see the lit bulb in the flashlight, and you can see the walls and items it lights up on the left, but you can't see the beam of light passing in front of you.
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