Archive for the 'Thought Process' Category


TDKR Prep – Part I: Rewatching Batman Begins

This is the first part in a three part series gearing up for The Dark Knight Rises. In this post we take a look at Batman Begins, the first film in director Christopher Nolan’s (above) Batman trilogy, in order to rediscover the the film, see how it fits into the new Batman mythos, and think about how it might influence The Dark Knight Rises.

On the verge of The Dark Knight Rises coming out, I thought it might be a good idea to catch up with Batman Begins again. Will The Dark Knight Rises live up to the hype and expectations we put on Nolan after the increasing success of the first two films in the franchise? Only time will tell. For now we take a look at what got this thing started with Batman Begins. Here are some of the things that I noticed or now appreciate after not having seen Begins for so long . . .

Batman’s Origin

Batman Begins has to start somewhere; and it begins with the death of the parents of Bruce Wayne.

Most of what I know of Batman and his world comes from Batman TAS, the previous (Tim Burton) Batman franchise, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. Batman’s origin is barely touched on in those or only seen in flashback (mainly to support some aspect of an episode-and never as a beginning for the mythos). In Batman Begins we get a really great sense of Bruce pre-Batman. We are shown his family life, what drove him to anger and revenge, and how he was trained. All of this setup gives us a reason to buy into the character of Bruce Wayne before he ever puts the cowl on. This makes us invested in a character that is not as exciting as Batman–which then makes Bruce’s transition into him all that more meaningful when he does.

Liam Neeson as the Antagonist

Liam Neeson as Bruce/Batman’s nemesis in Begins + Ra’s al Ghul from the Batman comics.

Something I didn’t fully appreciate upon seeing the movie the first few times in theaters or on DVD after its immediate release is the fact that Liam Neeson is just so good as the villain of the film. I think what makes him great is that in the beginning he uses his natural “father like” or “mentor like” persona to great effect in training Bruce. Then at the point when he and Bruce disagree on ideologies, he makes for more of a formidable opponent–not only because he trained Bruce and is potentially better than him, but also because there is a relationship there between protagonist and antagonist. Because of their prior history together, it’s this relationship that is key to making him a great villain and foil for Bruce/Batman. Not to mention, Neeson is a great actor and brings his worldliness to the role.

Something else that I thought of after the rewatch is that, based on what I know of Ra’s al Ghul, his character is seemingly immortal and always pops up from time to time throughout Batman’s career. Now I know Neeson was listed as Ducard in the Batman Begins credits, but he WAS Ra’s in the movie (despite the fact that Ken Watanabe portrays and is listed as Ra’s al Ghul). The scene in Bruce’s mansion where Ducard/Ra’s makes his return is evidence of that. Fast forward to the end of Begins…we never see Ducard/Ra’s dead body. We only see the monorail go off the tracks, crash, and then blow up. We assume Ducard/Ra’s died but we never get confirmation. Could Ducard/Ra’s be pulling the strings behind Bane (Tom Hardy) or Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman played by Anne Hathaway) in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises? Though we know who the main antagonists are I wouldn’t put it past Nolan to keep Neeson’s involvement under wraps to surprise the audience. Though highly unlikely I admit, it is still plausible.


Yeah sure it’s kinda like tank version of Knight Rider, but at least there was some plausible reasoning for the existence of the Batmobile.

From the beginning Nolan said he wanted to make a more realistic version of Batman–and I think he does it brilliantly. From Bruce’s role in Wayne Enterprises, to the development of his Bat-gear; everything feels somewhat grounded, seemingly has a real reason for being there, or has the chance of realistically happening. It’s definitely something we take for granted in The Dark Knight. With the setup is already in place from Begins, we just go full bore into Bat-mode in The Dark Knight since the grounding of the character is pretty well done and previously established.

Great Actors

Zihuatanejo . . . I’m Michael Caine . . . instead of a pitfall, Batman Begins is buoyed by its big name cast.

Sometimes when you have big actors in a film, it’s hard not to associate an actor’s previous role or acting style with what you’re watching on screen. The problem can then be compounded when you have a large ensemble supporting cast. To Nolan’s credit, that is not the case in Batman Begins. Nolan chooses the right actors and puts them in the perfect roles. A lot of the main characters are played by well establish or even “big name” actors and it doesn’t work against the film, it actually helps it. Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Sgt. Gordon, the aforementioned Liam Neeson as Ducard, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox . . . the personal characteristics of each actor fit perfectly with the role they play in the film.


So after rewatching Batman Begins, what does this do as far as framing or setting up for watching The Dark Knight Rises?

Probably the main takeaway from rewatching Begins is going back to see where Batman originated from. It definitely sets the table very well and provides perspective on the evolution of the character across all three films. There are some really great moments of wisdom that Bruce is given in the film that help him not just to become Batman, but to help define who Batman is and what Batman stands for. Seeing this again and knowing where the character started from–I think will give a better appreciation and understanding of things Bruce and Batman have to go through in the next two films.

When was the last time you watched Batman Begins? If you remember anything notable from Batman Begins that would be relevant to the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises let us know in the comments.


Movie Ratings, the MPAA, and Bully(ing)

This blog post has been rated R for strong language.

Playing just once at last year’s Hawaii International Film Festival; Bully-a documentary that focuses on the problem faced by 13 million kids a year, is starting its theatrical run on Oahu this weekend. Documentary films don’t usually make it on too many moviegoers’ radars, but this one is notable for a few reasons. First, it deals with subject matter that’s quite relevant to anyone that works with or has children–bullying. The second reason, and perhaps the most publicized one, is the controversy surrounding the film’s initial “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.

So a bit of backstory . . . in order for most films to be played in theaters nationwide, films must first be submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to rate a film’s thematic and content suitability for certain audiences. Though submission for rating is voluntary, most theaters refuse to play films that are “unrated.”

As I mentioned earlier, Bully was initially given an R rating–due to the F-word being used too many times in the film. The film’s distributor Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company (TWC) and director Lee Hirsch appealed the MPAA’s decision of the R rating on the basis that the theme of the film is important for families with children to see, especially in light suicides that have been attributed to bullying in the past few years.

Long story short, TWC and the MPAA went to battle over the movie rating with celebrities, lawmakers, theater companies, and the public at large all having their say in the matter. When the dust finally settled earlier this month, both sides came to a compromiseBully would get a PG-13 rating, but did have to edit out or mute the use of the F-word in certain scenes. The PG-13 rating will allow anyone under the age of 17 to see the film without an adult present.

MPAA poster explaining film ratings.

With all of the controversy surrounding the film’s R rating it made me stop and think about just how important movie ratings are to me and the average moviegoer.

Does the spirit of a movie trump its content? Does the message a movie tries to convey make it more than the sum of its parts? Does the use of swearing, violence, sex, or things that some find offensive get in the way of communicating that message? In the case of Bully and its MPAA rating, I think the answer is no. A film like Bully shouldn’t be given an R just because it uses the F-word a certain amount of times. Now I’m not saying that the MPAA shouldn’t be any less strict or lenient when it comes to rating movies. However, what I think we do need is a better way for rating films that fits with today’s culture. Something that will take into account the theme of a film such as Bully.

Before we can change the system, we need to look at some of the problems that face it:

Clearer Context for Movie Ratings–Sure we all hear or see what the rating for a film is at the end of a commercial, but often times we don’t know why a film was given that particular rating. We don’t need a lengthy explanation about it, but we should have clear cut explanations that say why it did get that rating. What is it about this film that determined this? Having a rating without context for why it was given can give people the wrong message about a movie.

Sex vs Violence, Unevenly Weighted–Though no official criteria on how exactly films are rated is available, many filmmakers and film critics have noted that films that feature sex or even use profanity in a sexual connotation tend to receive a harsher rating than films that feature heavy violence.

To illustrate this point, the way the F-word is used in this sentence: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.” (Die Hard, 1998)

Does not equal the usage in this sentence:
 “Don’t ever stop fucking me!” (Jerry Maguire, 1996)

The first instance is used in an explicative manner where as the second usage is used in a sexual manner. Is one really harsher than the other? Perhaps the best to way todrive this point home is with a line from the critically acclaimed movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut when one of the characters in the film says, “Remember what the MPAA says; Horrific, Deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words!”

Rating Basis on Profanity Word Count–It’s become common knowledge that PG-13 films can only have one instance of the F-word in it. Anything more than that will most likely jeopardize a film’s PG-13 rating. What is the difference between using the F-word one time and two times? Between using it two times and three times? Between three times and four times? Giving a film a higher rating due to excessive amount of profanity use makes sense, but how can you have a rule about a specific number of times profanity is used in determining a rating? At the point that you reach your limit will having one more profanity really make a film that much more harsher? If I had to say, probably not.

So how can we fix this? What could we do better? Mark Harris from Entertainment Weekly has some pretty good ideas in his article “5 Ways to Fix Movie Ratings” that answers some of these questions. His solutions are:

  1. Focus on content advisories, not ratings
  2. Abolish the supervisory role for theaters
  3. End R ratings for the use of one word
  4. Depoliticize the ratings
  5. Reform the board itself

Definitely check out the article to find out why each of the points listed above are valid.

When it comes right down to it, why do movie ratings matter? In the strictest sense movie ratings matter because they determine who can and cannot see certain films. It also matters because it advises moviegoers on whether or not films are appropriate for certain audiences. Most of all, movie ratings are important because sometimes the decision to see a movie, and maybe even the success of a movie, depends on its rating.

A film like Bully illustrates the importance of a film’s rating and also brings up questions of the system that is currently in place to rate them. I think we can all agree that bullying is a serious issue and because of that I feel that the theme of a documentary about bullying should definitely have some weight in determining who the right audience is for a film like this. Is the system for rating movies that the MPAA currently has in place the best we have? Or should it better reflect the life and times we live in?

The PG-13 rated Bully begins its theatrical run this week Friday at the Consolidated Kahala 8 Theatres.


[Commentary] Old Movies in 3D

I've lost that lovin' feeling . . . for seeing any movie in 3D.

It was reported today that Top Gun would be getting the 3D treatment and could potentially be released back into theaters sometime early next year. Add it to the list of ‘old’ films that will be getting 3D treatment and will be released next year (Star Wars: Episode I and Titanic are also on the list). Hollywood recycling old films is nothing new, the 3D converting of older films however, somewhat is.

Now, I don’t want to rehash my stance on what I think of 3D (for that, see this blog post). However, just when it seems that 3D might be quieting down and we may get a break from it, it’s thrust right back in our faces. The difference this time being that these aren’t new movies that are coming out in 3D . . . they’re old ones.

As you can imagine, converting older films for 3D presentation raises a number of questions with the top one being, “Is this a money grab?” I think we’re all familiar with the Hollywood MO of taking existing properties, turning them into movies, and then bringing them out in 3D to help bump up its box office take. Could that be what’s going on with Star Wars, Top Gun, and Titanic? To answer this question, you really have to look at who’s behind these releases.

James Cameron is reportedly spending $18 million on the 3D conversion of Titanic. Can the 'King of the World' be king with 3D again?

Take for example the Titanic release in 3D. According to the linked article, James Cameron (the guy that brought 3D to the masses with Avatar) is the driving force behind that conversion:

“There’s a whole generation that’s never seen Titanic as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen . . . and this will be Titanic as you’ve never seen it before, digitally remastered at 4K and painstakingly converted to 3D. With the emotional power intact and the images more powerful than ever, this will be an epic experience for fans and newcomers alike.”

The film is slated to come out on April 6, 2012–coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic setting sail. We this much thought and effort being put into this conversion, it seems to me that this is something that Cameron wanted to do and seems to be doing it from an artistic perspective. Will people go out and see it? I’m sure some will, especially those that are big fans of the film.

The case of converting and bring back Top Gun though, doesn’t appear to be from an artistic standpoint, but from an economic one. To quote from the article:

“We think there is great potential for catalog titles in 3D, but studios have had trouble justifying the expense,” Hummel said [CEO of Legend 3D], explaining that Legend 3D is funding and doing the conversion for Paramount.

In this case the company behind the conversion seems to be spearheading the effort to convert Top Gun–not the studio or not director Tony Scott. “How nice of them,” you might say for footing the bill and doing the work. Well, just remember, nothing in life is ever free. If you continue reading the piece this quote was drawn from, it says Legend 3D has a revenue sharing partnership with Paramount so they will see some return on their work. However, I suspect that the real reason for doing it is because if they can show what a great job they’ve done on Top Gun,  who’s to say other studios or even Paramount might come to them to convert other older films into 3D. I guarantee you they won’t be doing those for free.

In the grand scheme of things I can’t get excited for these 3D releases at all. I just dislike 3D too much. I don’t like the glasses and I don’t like the darkened picture you get while watching 3D movies. Be it for artistic reasons or economic reasons, I’ll probably be staying away from these 3D releases next year.


Don’t You (Forget About The Breakfast Club)

That's right . . . the Red Band Project is calling out all you voters of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

*Disclaimer: This post contains potential spoilers for both The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Since these two films register pretty high on the pop culture meter it would be pretty hard to talk about either of them without giving away some plot details from either film. Though major spoilers will not be given, certain plot details will be mentioned and possibly discussed. You have been warned.

Yes, we are here today to throw the gauntlet down to Ferris Bueller fans and say that The Breakfast Club is the better John Hughes movie and should be the CLEAR CHOICE for Consolidated’s September Hana Hou Picture Show (HHPS). Though it is the clear choice, we still need your help. The goal of this post is to persuade potential voters (you, dear reader) into voting for The Breakfast Club on Consolidated’s Facebook page–or if you’ve already voted , to change your vote. Court is now in session.

Argument: Numbers Don’t Lie

Evidence: The Breakfast Club is a more critically acclaimed and fan loved than Ferris Bueller’s Day of and Grease. Take a look at these stats:

The Breakfast Club :: Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, MetaCritic: 62, Flixster: 90%, IMDB Score: 7.9

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off :: Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, MetaCritic: 60, Flixster: 89%, IMDB Score: 7.9

Grease :: Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, MetaCritic: 70, Flixster: 85%, IMDB Score: 7.0

Now I know what some of you might be saying . . . “well, critic ratings and reviews by other people don’t mean anything to me.” And you know what, you’re right. Just like box office receipts, in the grand scheme of things reviews and similar ratings don’t mean much if you don’t agree with those results. Now yes, Grease’s Metacritic score is higher than The Breakfast Club’s, even still though, Breakfast Club beats it in all other categories. Now, I’m not one to torpedo my own argument just as we’re getting started here. My inclusion of these scores is mainly to serve as anecdotal/circumstantial evidence that is just part of my larger case. So please, bear with me.

Argument: It’s a more relatable movie

Who doesn't know someone like Brian? Or any of the other cast of characters from The Breakfast Club who just wanted to belong.

Evidence: Don’t get me wrong, at some point in our lives any of us would have loved to have been Sloane or Cameron and spent a crazy day playing hookie from work or school with Ferris Bueller. The fact of the matter is, I think few of us (if any) ever took in a Cubs game, stole lunch reservations from the sausage king of Chicago, or became part of a parade on any of our days off.

The Breakfast Club could be anyone of us and finds its humor with the relatable plight of our five protagonists: the nerd, the popular girl, the jock, the badboy, and that weird girl. Yes, these are high school stereotypes, but stereotypes are generally based on some type of truth. I think that any of us that have gone through high school will be able to identify people we know in this film if not see ourselves in it. Now it may not be an exact match, hell it may even be a combination of personalities from in the film, but the fact of the matter is those protagonists represent the audience.

High school struggle is something that Hollywood has mined for years, but The Breakfast Club was one of the ones that got it so right. Saturday detention, five students who all walk in different social circles, the über hardass principal . . . how situations in the film are dealt with are all things that are illustrated perfectly both humorously and seriously. I believe that when you can relate to something that is going on in a film, it’s that much better because it almost seems true to life, and true to you.

Argument: Less is More

Like our five protagonists stuck in detention, the film also sticks to a single venue. That doesn't stop it from being totally awesome though.

Evidence: While it’s easy to enjoy the fanciful jaunt that Ferris and company take on their day off, I think that if a film can give you a good time AND stick to a singular setting, then that’s when you know you have some really great filmmaking. Setting wise, The Breakfast Club does more with less. Since The Breakfast Club takes place at a high school (a majority of which is in the school’s library) it doesn’t have the benefit of putting characters in unique environments and situations that arise from being in those environments like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off does. It has to work within the confines of Saturday detention.

When you’re restricted to just a few locations in a film, it’s easy for things to get boring and stale since your characters don’t have anywhere to go. They mainly have to interact with one another. What makes The Breakfast Club so great is that the film doesn’t fall into this trap due to great writing and great filmmaking. It’s a better film because it focuses on the characters and tells a really great story about them. It also finds ways to be entertaining and engrossing that work within the confines of a small setting.

Argument: Breakfast Club has the better [bad] principal

Ed Rooney & Richard Vernon . . . just imagine a trip to the principal's office.

Evidence: Great villains usually make for a great story and The Breakfast Club is no exception with Principal Vernon. Oh sure Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has Principal Rooney who tries to hunt down Ferris, but the fact of the matter is, Rooney is a doofus. We pretty much laugh at him during the entire film, then at the end, you just kind of feel sorry for him during that final scene during the credits.

With The Breakfast Club, you hate Principal Vernon the entire time. “Show Dick some respect!” No thank you. He despises his job, the school, and even the students (and takes his agression out on them too) . . . the perfect villain for our five protagonists to go up against. He’s someone you love to hate and someone that makes you cheer for our characters all that much more.

Argument: Better Quotes

Is that all you got?

“Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

“Eat my shorts.”


“Two hits. Me hitting you. You hitting the floor.”

. . . and these are just to name a few. Yeah, yeah . . . I know Ferris has “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Aside from that, and Ferris talking to the audience, what does it really have? Bueller Bueller Bueller? Ben Stein made that line.

Also, The Breakfast Club has one of the best songs to ever close out a film . . . Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds.

Argument: The Breakfast Club is an underdog

Evidence: Let’s face it, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the most well known John Hughes movie. How can The Breakfast Club compete against that kind of popularity? By being the underdog that’s how! David vs Goliath, Average Joe’s vs Globo-Gym, hell even UH vs BYU . . . history, America, and Hawaii all love underdog stories. Isn’t it about time we had one for Consolidated’s Hana Hou Picture Show?

A vote for The Breakfast Club (scroll down) is a vote for underdogs everywhere!


For the record, I do not hate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I love that movie just as much as anyone else. I just like The Breakfast Club just that much more. So having said my piece, I welcome any and all friendly debate on the subject. In the end, I know a lot of this is pretty subjective and we all have personal preferences that no one will be able to assuage. This is just a friendly call to action for local film lovers who enjoy seeing their favorite films on the big screen again.

However, the Red Band Project will GUARANTEE that you will have a good time if The Breakfast Club is shown at the next Hana Hou Picture Show!


(5) Days of Summer

Name the movie that this view appears in . . .

LOS ANGELES, CA. We knew we had made the right choice for our hotel stay when shortly after we checked in we discovered Tom’s park from the film (500) Days of Summer. It was such an unexpected discovery that we had to check it out before we left. The name of the park is Angels Knoll and if you’ve ever seen the film, the bench is right were you’d expect it to be.

What’s pretty cool is that there’s a plaque on the exact bench that they filmed at indicating that this was in fact the spot:

For movie geeks such as ourselves, stumbling upon the location from one of our favorite films definitely was a happy accident that make our vacation to LA that much more fun.

Also around our hotel in the downtown area were recognizable locations from Inception (the train scene through the street) and other notable landmarks such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Los Angeles Times Building, and the Los Angeles City Hall.


No Texting During the Movie Please!

So there’s been a video going around the internets this week and I find its popularity pretty interesting. Here’s the setup . . . the folks over at the Alama Drafthouse Cinemas had a disgruntled patron call and leave a voicemail complaining that she was kicked out of the theater for texting during the movie. I know, imagine that. Now for those that don’t know, the Drafthouse is considered one of the best theater chains in the country and they have a very, very strict policy on talking and using cellphones during shows.

Well, what did our good friends over at the Alamo do? They turned the voicemail into a PSA that will run in front of all their R-rated films THIS weekend. Here, take a look:

So like I said, this thing blew up, got posted all over the internets, and was even on TV in a few places. I can attest to the popularity of it all as it showed up a lot in my Twitterstream as well as on Facebook as well. Why I want to bring this up though, and the thing I find interesting, is that there must be something in this video that people identify with in order for it to be this popular. Granted the video is funny in and of itself, but I think the video’s popularity speaks to a bigger issue . . . people want a movie experience where they’re not bothered by people who are texting, using their cellphone, and talking loudly during the film.

I think the reason why so many people identify with this video (myself included) and find it funny is that to us, this seems like justice being served. I’m sure a number of us have experienced this problem in the theater at some point and have always secretly dreamed for the person to have been kicked out. Whatever the case may be though, common sense or theater etiquette (call it what you will) has precipitously gone down since the prominence of cell phones.

What are us moviegoers to do? Not all of us live in Texas and have the luxury of going to the Alamo Drafthouse. While I do think that theaters themselves should be the primary instigators of stricter policies (similar to the Drafthouse), as moviegoers I don’t think we should wait for them to make the first move. Hell, if they haven’t done anything by now, who’s to say they will in the foreseeable future? No, we ourselves have to take initiative to resolve some of these issues. Now I’m not condoning getting into fights or using threats. All I’m saying is that at the very least we have to stand up and say something . . . whether it be to that particular individual (politely and in a non-confrontational way) or to theater management, something needs to be done.

One good thing that has come out from this video/PSA is that it hopefully can bring more light to the inappropriateness of texting in theaters. As a follow up, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League had this to say about the notoriety of their video going viral:

So what say you? Are you a movie cell phone user? Or do you want your movie experience to be a good one.


Dim Bulbs: 3D, Digital Projection, and the Movie Experience

A slew of articles and blog posts came out last week reigniting the hot button topic of movies shown in the third dimension.

So last week a story ran in the Boston Globe blog about area theaters running dark showings of digitally projected 2D films, with the main problem stemming from a 3D lens on Sony digital projectors not being removed for 2D films:

A description of the problem comes from one of several Boston-area projectionists who spoke anonymously due to concerns about his job . . . He explains that for 3-D showings a special lens is installed in front of a Sony digital projector that rapidly alternates the two polarized images needed for the 3-D effect to work.

“When you’re running a 2-D film, that polarization device has to be taken out of the image path. If they’re not doing that, it’s crazy, because you’ve got a big polarizer that absorbs 50 percent of the light.’’

-Excerpt from A movie lover’s plea: Let there be light by Ty Burr, Boston Globe

What makes this story so poignant is that it piles on to the ever growing battle between moviegoers and studios/theater owners. More specifically, it gives us moviegoers even more of a reason to hate putting on those glasses.

My stance on 3D has been this: I hate it. Ok well, I don’t hate it, but I definitely do not prefer paying a higher ticket price for glasses that I don’t want to put on my face. This mainly stems from the fact that I’ve had to wear glasses/contacts since I was in the 7th grade; and let me tell you something . . . you do not wear glasses if you can help it (which is why I pretty much wear my contacts from when I get up till I go to sleep.) So yes, if I can help it, I try not to see films projected in 3D. And I’m sure I’m not the only moviegoer that feels this way.

The Truth of the Matter

Well then the question becomes, “Why do we have these godforsaken glasses to begin with?” Apparently it’s a money thing:

But there is also a deeper problem: 3-D has provided an enormous boost to the strongest films, including “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but has actually undercut middling movies that are trying to milk the format for extra dollars.

“Audiences are very smart,” said Greg Foster, the president of Imax Filmed Entertainment. “When they smell something aspiring to be more than it is, they catch on very quickly.”

After a disappointing first half of the year, Hollywood is counting on a parade of 3-D films to dig itself out of a hole. From May to September, the typical summer season, studios will unleash 16 movies in the format, more than double the number last year. . . . . The need is urgent. The box-office performance in the first six months of 2011 was soft — revenue fell about 9 percent compared with last year, while attendance was down 10 percent — and that comes amid decay in home-entertainment sales.

-Excerpt from 3-D Starts to Fizzle, and Hollywood Frets by Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, NYTimes

Basically, Hollywood is looking to recoup lost revenue from other areas and they’re making 3D films to offset these losses. Theater owners are being obligated to show 3D and digital films because that’s what Hollywood is impressing upon them.

Local Implications?

So how does any of this affect us here in Hawaii (more specifically Oahu)? Well the cost of seeing 3D films is generally the same nationwide . . . moviegoers here along with our mainland counterparts pay a surcharge (ranging anywhere from $3-$5) to see movies in 3D. After the higher ticket price though, one can only wonder if local theaters here on Oahu may be falling prey to what’s happening in Boston with dim digital projection on 2D movies. This even sparked a small discussion on Twitter last week on whether or not the practice was being applied here:

Conversation begins on the bottom and works its way up.

While as of right now no one can really be certain, I’d like to think that our local cinemas aren’t following this practice. I’ve patroned both Consolidated and Regal Cinemas and haven’t found this to be a problem as described in the Boston Globe piece. As I note in my Twiiter conversation, this may only be an issue with our local Regal cinemas as they use Sony projectors with RealD 3D technology (which are the projectors that the Boston Globe piece calls into question). In the end, though it may be Sony’s design flaw in their projectors and Hollywood’s insistence on producing 3D films that are driving factors, it’s ultimately in the hands of theater operators that us moviegoers have to put our faith and trust in to deliver us movie magic . . .

Their [Ty Burr & Roger Ebert] general concern is correct.  A theater should NEVER be underlit.  There are industry standards for acceptable light levels for both 3D and 2D presentations.  Cinemas should always operate within this range.  Alamo owns a light meter and we check light levels on all of our screens monthly at a minimum, sometimes as much as weekly.  It is a very easy tool to operate, all cinemas should own one, despite the reasonably high price.

-Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, Agreeing and Disagreeing with Roger Ebert on Dim Projection

I think that in the long run what it comes down to is moviegoers standing up for ourselves. One way that we are already showing it is by seeing 2D viewings in lieu of 3D ones. Data has already shown that this past weekend, the highest grossing weekend at the box office so far this year, was skewed towards 2D rather than 3D. Hopefully if trends like this continue, it will send a clear message that moviegoers don’t want 3D.

However, this may not be enough and we may need to be more proactive by bringing attention to bad theater experiences to theater management. Yes, sometimes the “one person can make a difference” mentality can seem a bit cliche’d, but if we don’t do it, who will?

I began by asking if you notice, really notice, what a movie looks like. I have a feeling many people don’t. They buy their ticket, they get their popcorn and they obediently watch what is shown to them. But at some level there is a difference. They feel it in their guts. The film should have a brightness, a crispness and sparkle that makes an impact. It should look like a movie! — not a mediocre big-screen television . . . A movie should leap out and zap you, not recede into itself and get lost in dimness.

-Excerpt from The dying of the light by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Next time you go to the theater, think about what that $10+ ticket you’re paying for is getting you. Then decide if it’s worth it to take a stand or not. What’s the value of the movie experience to you?

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