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The Big Screen Experience

One of the big reasons people have been building home theatres with items like large 1080p televisions , Blu-ray players and high quality sound systems is because the experience of actually going to the movies is so terrible.

A movie ticket costs $12.50 where I live, and for your $12.50 (not to mention snack prices, babysitter costs, gas and time) you get an inconsistent experience with projectors that are in rough shape, screens that are torn or stained and seats that are broken.

My most recent experience with this type of shoddy maintenance was not at some second-run old theater, mind you, but at Cineplex Odeon's flagship Scotiabank theater at the largest shopping mall in the city.  The theater is a about 10 years old now, and is showing the wear and tear associated with a structure that has thousands of people flowing through it daily.  Still, Cineplex's bread and butter is the movie experience (without it, why would anyone go there?) and a poor experience there doesn't bode well for other theaters around the country.

The film we saw was The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and it was playing in cinema 6 (of 16 in the complex).  The screen had obvious tears in it, a massive stain through the middle of it, and prior to the movie starting, the audio bleed from films playing on the screen next door was intense (heaven forbid a movie would have a quiet scene, right?). 

The projector was obviously poorly maintained, with an obvious scratch right down the middle of the trailers and the film itself.  This was for a print that was at most a few days old, so odds are it was damaged being run through that particular projector (especially since the damage was evident on the trailers and the film itself, through all the reels).

The seats were visibly torn and stained, and the armrests were loose.  Not exactly a high grade entertainment experience.  And none of this takes into account patrons kicking your seat, texting or taking phone calls during the movie, or just being generally obnoxious human beings.

Screens that have been upgraded to digital projectors, and especially digital 3D, tend to fare better.  In order to properly project digital 3D, the theaters have to replace the screen with a higher grade silver screen.  This is in order to ensure the image will be bright enough to be viewed through what are essentially polarized sunglasses. 

The types of renovations that are being done for digital 3D should also be done on regular screens using good old fashioned film projectors (as long as those projectors are going to be around).  After all, when The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus comes out on Blu-ray, I can definitely say the experience I'll have in my living room will be better than the one we had at Scotiabank Chinook theaters. The experience on the big screen may have been "bigger", but it certainly wasn't better.

- Ken