Letters & bribes sent to projectionists to properly calibrate 3D movies

The staying power of 3D as a ticket selling technology has been under fire recently and many are pointing an accusatory finger at projection operators.  The contention is that 3D movies are not being shown with the extra brightness necessary.  It seems that Hollywood is taking this issue into their own hands and attempting to convince projection operators to give more attention to how they display these films.

Letters & bribes sent to projectionists to properly calibrate 3D movies

Just last week Michael Bay sent a letter out to projectionists imploring them to properly display his most recent film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  If you think this is a huge deal, the projectionists of the world are here to tell you differently.  A slew of these operators came out on Reddit claiming that letters like this were in fact very common in their industry.  One particular projectionist posted:

“Many directors actually send out letters with the film pleading the projectionists to display the film correctly. Want to know who actually cares, gives good incentive to the projectionists, and follows up on projection? PIXAR.

I was a projectionist during the release of UP and Walle, and both times PIXAR sent a letter directed at the projectionists. If I remember correctly, the letters were warm and somewhat personal, and showed a lot of pride in the directors work. I am desperately searching to find the letter from andrew stanton for Walle. Many directors plead for the projectionists to not cut up the film too badly, check the brightness on the digital houses, and turn the volume to the correct level.

Pixar, unlike Michael Bay however, not only sent me a letter with each print, but also sent tshirts, hats, trading cards, and a sweet contest. For every major release, pixar’s perfect projection contest sends out secret techs to the theaters, and does a drawing out of the best theaters and gives the entire booth staff a trip to pixar studios.

TL;DR: Bay sent a heartless letter, pixar sends warm friendly letter, clothing, trading cards, and awesome contest that actually makes me want to display it 100%. Give pixar some credit too.”

The thing is, Hollywood may well be in the right here.  You can either blame it on the projectionists themselves or take the angle that theater owners should be training these people better, but whatever way you go it’s clear that movies are not being shown the way they should.  Rodger Ebert addressed the topic himself, by saying that projectionists go so far as to not remove the 3D lenses when showing 2D films.  That actually means even 2D films will look dull and lifeless.

Another projectionist on Reddit addressed the issue saying it was only really a problem with Sony projectors.

“First off, this “dim screen” issue ONLY applies to theaters equipped with Sony projectors or any other “swappable lens projector”. Since Sony uses the whole “swap out” lenses shenanigans. They have two types of lenses. A single lens for 2D movies, and a “stacked” lens for 3D movies. When a projectionist doesn’t put the 2D lens in place and running a 2D flick thru the 3D lens, it causes the “dimness” to occur.”

The thing is, how is a consumer to know what technology a theater uses?  All film goers know is that movies don’t look great on a theater so why pay the ridiculously high price for a ticket to go see them.

The real truth of the matter is that Hollywood wants movies to be displayed properly because that will help maintain ticket sales.  Lazy projectionists and theater owners who don’t care about the quality of the picture on their screens are not only impacting 3D ticket sales but potentially 2D sales as well.  With the cost of two tickets coming in at close to the price of a movie on Blu-ray why bother going to the theater if the image is worse than what you’ll see on your HDTV at home?