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20 March, 2005

Poor show

I enjoy going to the cinema – the non- 'popcorn-and-hollywood-movies' Dukes cinema, anyway – but sometimes it goes wrong, in a way TV or DVDs don't.  The massive screen and surround sound are great, but a DVD is manufactured to work perfectly every time, whereas cinema involves fallible human intervention.

Last night I saw 'Alexander' at The Dukes (more about the film itself in a separate posting). As often happens, the first few seconds were slightly out-of-focus. No problem; the projectionist usually corrects that immediately. This time, he/she didn't – the entire film remained out-of-focus. It was okay for close-ups, where objects and faces were so large that the blurred proportion was minimal, but for wider shots, especially crowd scenes, faces were unrecognisable. In overviews of thousands of tiny figures in battle scenes, it was difficult to even follow the action.

This issue was compounded by another. A couple of minutes in, the surround sound failed, leaving only the central (front) channel playing. Again, this was just about adequate to convey events occuring directly in front of the audience, but ambient noise was lost, and anything off to one side, normally covered by lateral channels with a little fill-in from the centre, was very quiet – we only heard that fill-in. After a while, became accustomed to hearing the film rather quieter than is normal, and in mono, but towards the middle of the film it fluctuated, tantalising the audience with 5-10 seconds of full sound every few minutes.

It was substandard, and I ought to have left. However, there was always the thought that 'the staff must be just about to notice and fix it, any moment now', and the terribly British audience sat through the full 175 minutes without a single person leaving. As I cycled home afterwards, I was writing-off the experience as 'it happens', but in retrospect, I think the cinema could have done better.
To be fair, if the audio equipment failed, I doubt it could have been repaired immediately, even if the management took the drastic step of stopping the film. However, the film simply shouldn't have been out-of-focus. It would have taken seconds to correct, but it seems the projectionist wasn't paying attention. That's cause for criticism in itself, but there were cinema staff in the auditorium, watching the film with the paying audience – they ought to have alerted the projectionist.


Sounds a bit like Barclay James Harvest on Friday night.

OK, so BJH weren't quite as bad as the your Cinema Show - you had good grounds for asking for your money back after the show.

Posted by Tim Hall at March 20, 2005 03:40 PM
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