Posts Tagged ‘digital projection


Don’t Let the Honoka’a People’s Theatre Go Dark!

The grand dame of Honoka'a.

The grand dame of Honoka’a.

Here on Oahu we’re fortunate enough to have a number of different theaters to choose from when we want to go to the movies. As the years have gone on, cinema and the movie going experience has changed and theaters have had to struggle to keep up or face going out of business. The biggest success story is probably our very own Consolidated Theatres which boasts nearly 100 years of “Entertaining Hawaii.” However, many of the small and community based movie houses that were quite prevalent 40-50 years ago have nearly all disappeared (more here).

On the Big Island, one of these small town movie houses is still in existence and to this very day and still provides an awesome cinema experience and public service for its community. The grand dame of Honoka’a, The Honoka’a People’s Theatre, was built in in 1930 and since then has been creating a unique cinema experience for the community for 84 years. On-going renovations since the 90s have diversified the theatre’s use and it has also become a renowned venue for live performances. Here’s a bit more info on the Honoka’a People’s Theatre from their website:

The People’s Theatre is the largest theatre on Hawaii Island, with 525 seating capacity and a large 50 foot screen. The theatre has a DTS surround sound system, 35 mm and digital film projectors, a 50 ft stage, dance floor, 30 stage lights, 4 roving scanner lights, two side balconies, dressing rooms, basic live PA, and a grand piano. The lobby hosts a concession stand, dining area, and ticket booth. Available upstairs for performers during large events is a greenroom area with a kitchen and lounge area.

The People's Theatre back in the day.

The People’s Theatre back in the day.

Though the Honoka’a People’s Theatre has managed to stay open, they are currently facing the same issue that many small mom and pop and single screen community theaters across the country have faced in recent years: digital conversion. With film prints almost entirely phased out by the big studios (Disney, Fox, Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount) theaters have had to convert to digital projectors or face shutting down. While the People’s Theatre may not shut down, they’ll definitely lose a big chunk of their history if they are unable to continue to show movies.

Currently the Honoka’a People’s Theatre is hosting a number of fund raising events in an effort to raise the $60,000 they need to secure a DCI-compliant digital projector. Along with these events, they have also created a campaign on Kickstarter to help those that want to donate. As of this posting they are about $22,000 away from reaching their goal with five weeks left to go.

Inside the theatre with a view of the screen, stage, and some of the 525 seats the theatre holds.

The interior of the theatre as it appears today with a view of the screen, stage, and some of its 525 seats.

The Red Band Project was fortunate enough to visit the Honoka’a People’s Theatre earlier this summer, and though we weren’t able to take in a show, we did get feel for how “grand” the grand dame of Honoka’a is. As lovers of movies and the cinema experience, the Red Band Project has already backed the Kickstarter campaign and now we put it out there for you to donate. Though you may never set foot in the Honoka’a People’s Theatre, please consider donating (even a small amount) as unique cinema experiences such as this are hard to come by these days, especially in Hawaii.

For more information about the Honoka’a People’s Theatre, check out their website or Facebook page. For more on the history and personal recollections of the theatre, see the piece written for Hana Hou magazine. If you’d like to donate to their fundraising efforts, head over to their Kickstarter page and leave a few bucks for a good cause!

See their Kickstarter video below:


Review: Side By Side

Keanu Reeves and Martin Scorsese invite you to have a conversation about the pressing matter of the death of film and the rise of digital.

A couple months ago I had the fortune of working with high school photography students; and when I say photography I’m not just talking about the process of taking photos, but the processing and developing negatives and film prints as well. Yes, that stuff that we used to put in our cameras up until about 10 years ago. This recent experience made me realize that kids today are growing up in a world where something as physical and as analog (and what to me seems like common knowledge) as film is becoming something of an antiquated notion and one of those things that we can now refer to as something we used “back in the day.”

With the advancement of consumer digital cameras, most people under the age of 20 have grown up in a world where photography is instantaneous and at your fingertips. Things weren’t always this way though. Maybe it was fortuitous then that I recently heard about Side By Side; a documentary that that looks at the way digital technology (and more specifically digital cameras and photography) has affected the movie industry. Narrated and produced in part by Keanu Reeves, the documentary is an interesting and candid look at how filmmaking has changed in the last 10-15 years with the advent of digital cameras and digital filmmaking techniques.

Film synopsis from the Side By Side website:

Join Keanu Reeves on a tour of the past and the future of filmmaking in SIDE BY SIDE. Since the invention of cinema, the standard format for recording moving images has been film. Over the past two decades, a new form of digital filmmaking has emerged, creating a groundbreaking evolution in the medium. Reeves explores the development of cinema and the impact of digital filmmaking via in-depth interviews with Hollywood masters, such as James Cameron, David Fincher, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, and many more.

Directors James Cameron and David Fincher give their thoughts on shooting on film and digital.

The doc takes viewers through the entire filmmaking process, from the building of sets and capturing performances, through the post production process, to exhibition in theaters, to the final step of archiving a film. At each step of the way the film looks into how the process was done traditionally with film and how digital has changed process today. The film as a whole is very accessible and is not bogged down by technical jargon and interviews with filmmakers are done in a very conversational manner.

Some of the more interesting tidbits from the film . . .

  • Danny Boyle was excited to shoot with digital cameras on Slumdog Millionaire because there are things you can do with digital that you couldn’t with film. For him, digital allows for more unconventional use of the camera, greater portability, and is cheaper to use.
  • Slumdog Millionaire helped to further the advancement of digital filmmaking as it was the first all digital film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • George Lucas pushed digital filmmaking technology when he decided to shoot Star Wars – Episode II using only digital cameras–the first film ever to do so.
  • The changing nature of shooting movies on film mirrors the way consumers are viewing film/movies . . . at home on HD TVs, computers, and portable electronic devices.

At the heart of the film is the question of “film vs digital” and the filmmakers involved basically state their cases for using film or shooting digital depending on what they prefer. While there is no clear answer to this central question in the film, the issue is definitely divided with valid reasons on both sides for using a particular format. However, throughout the documentary you definitely get the sense that the days of filmmakers shooting on film are numbered. Take for example Christopher Nolan, director of the The Dark Knight trilogy, who prefers to shoot his films on film. He can make (and get) this request since he’s made tons of money for Warner Bros. However, with the continued development and evolution of digital, that option may soon not be available to him.

Filmmaking has always pushed the technology that filmmakers use to create their films. From the doc you get the sense that in our ever growing digital world, digital cameras and tools that filmmakers have today will be honed, refined, and will continue to evolve so that the quality of digital cinema is equal to the quality of cinema as seen on film.

For the average moviegoer though, many of this stuff may not matter all that much. As long as you get that large image projected on screen and as long as the sound is loud and doesn’t cut out . . . that’s what most people will look at. This debate of film vs digital for the most part is something that the film industry itself is dealing with. With that in mind, I can’t recommend this film to everyone. It’s definitely a must watch for film geeks or cinephiles; or anyone even remotely interested in the art of film or filmmaking. While casual moviegoers would be able to understand the topics discussed in the film, much of it might not mean all that much if you’re not already interested in what’s going on.

He may not know Kung Fu, but he sure does know how to interview filmmakers.

The film as a whole is pretty well done and very well put together. Keanu and company interview a wide range of directors, each of whom has his or her own take on the art of filmmaking. In fact, this is the area where the film probably shines the most: in the filmmaker interviews. Each one gives candid and honest remarks about their craft and definitely chooses a side in the ongoing debate of the film.

For me personally though, do I have a preference of one or the other (film or digital)? In the end, no I don’t. I’m neither pro-film nor pro-digital. I’m pro-theatrical experience. As long as filmmakers have the tools that they need (whether it’s film or digital) to tell the stories that they want to tell . . . all I’m concerned with is how that is presented to me. Side by side, film and digital are like two different roads that ultimately lead to the same destination. At the end of the day that’s what it really comes down to; the movies . . . and how we enjoy them.

Side By Side will be presented this Friday, November 16 at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art as part of the their Friends of Film Friday program. The film will be introduced by Dr. Peter Britos, Director of Media and Cinematic Arts at Hawai‘i Pacific University who will also lead a Q&A after the screening. Side By Side is also currently available on video-on-demand services such as Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.

Star rating-3.5/5 // NR // 1hr 39min


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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