People ask me all the time why I don’t go to movie theatres anymore. As in, I hear it at least once every few days. So allow me to answer the question in a detailed manner.
To be more accurate, I don’t go to movie theatres in Canada anymore. I still go to theatres like Mann’s Chinese Theatre and El Capitan (amongst many others) in Hollywood, Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco, AMC Disney Springs in Downtown Disney in Florida, and several others in India, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia whenever my trips may take me to one of these fine destinations. I have even flown to Hollywood for the sole purpose of enjoying a weekend of movies with family. So why do I exclusively avoid Canadian movie theatres?
First: the lack of projection quality. More than 90% of my movie-going experience in Canada has been plagued with Blurry-Vision and Duller-Rama “technologies” that seems to have been carefully honed by Canadian movie theatres. Out of focus projection is quite the norm, and even when I’ve complained about it to the theatre managers, none of them seemed to care. They were, in most cases, relatively quick to give me a refund, although sadly, in the form of movie vouchers.
Dull projection is a different story. The lack of brightness is simply caused by not changing the projector bulbs as often as they’re supposed to be changed. Having brought my Minolta meter to several movie theatres in Canada, many of them only have the brightness of a paltry 12 ftL; some even as low as 9 ftL. I’ve heard from some theatre managers who proudly claim that they change the bulb twice a year. That is far from enough. Four times a year should be the norm. Anything less than that, and there’s no way any bulb-based projection system can maintain the industry minimum requirement of 14 ftL brightness level for six months (16 ftL minimum for a THX Certified theatres).
Thankfully, as more and more theatres are installing laser-based projectors, this Duller-Rama “feature” will be a thing of a past. Nothing, however, can solve the Blurry-Vision problem. The theatres just need to re-calibrate more often.
Second is the lack of sound quality. Try asking what sound format is being offered in the VIP/UltraAVX theatres. The most common response is a blank stare. If I’m lucky enough, I receive the comically entertaining “I don’t know, but it’s loud” being uttered with pride as if “loud” is the barometer of quality.
Compare that to the theatres I’ve been in in Australia, the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and India. The staff knows which theatre is in Atmos, Auro or IMAX, they also know which theatres are THX-certified. No theatre is THX-certified in Canada, by the way, and only a handful of theatres are offering Dolby Atmos sound, which is sad considering there are more Dolby Atmos and THX theatres in a micro country of Singapore than all Canada.
Third: theatre seating. While numbered and “stadium” seating has been the norm for literally all of my life in Indonesia, in Canada, these concepts were deemed “groundbreaking,” while UltraAVX theatres considered them premium “features” that garnered a good enough excuse to sell tickets at a higher price. Yes I know, UltraAVX also tout “bigger picture and bigger sound” as the feature-set, too. But as previously mentioned, a bigger picture that’s dim and blurry is not a good thing. Further, loud is not a gauge in quality. Loudness is a sound property not a sound quality.
This leads me to ask: why would I go to a theatre when I have my own home theatre with quality projection that can hit 21 ftL of brightness very easily, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X at my disposal, D-Box seating, and “reserved” seating? I don’t need to deal with someone else’s phone chirping, the back of my seat being kicked, other movie-goers chatting, or sometimes even the aroma of fried chicken (I love fried chicken, but come on!) All I need to do is cough up $35 for a UHD movie or $25 for a regular HD movie. After inviting a few people over, it’s essentially equivalent to $10 per person for the “admission fee.” Popcorn? A couple cents per bag.
At $16 per person for a regular showing (I consider UltraAVX to be no more than regular run-of-the-mill theatre quality) and a whopping $25 per person for VIP (which essentially gives you better quality seats but not necessarily better picture and sound), it is insane for Canadian theatre owners to ask why people don’t go to the theatres more often. And before theatre owners start to talk about not making enough money, consider that every home theatre owner I’ve spoken to says the same thing: it’s not the ticket price, it’s the lack of quality.
Photos courtesy of Vista Cinemas Philippines