I went to see The Ides of March. I am visiting Los Angeles, we went to the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. I listen to KCRW on the internet, I hear references to Laemmle theaters, they sound great. Or, maybe that is an unfortunate way to put it. The sound was a problem.
There was a 60Hz hum throughout the entire film, and for about half the film there was a twittering, like a bad, theremin-inspired, jazz improvisation on a crappy electronic piccolo.
My mother-in-law didn’t notice, but her hearing is not up-to-snuff. My wife, however, leaned over and whispered “What’s that noise?”, I muttered a short expletived-phrase.
When it was over I exited through the lobby so I could complain. I looked for the most senior-looking/manager-looking person available. I chose the salt-and-peppered guy at the ticket-taking podium.
I told him the problem and he listened. And he took it. And he responded “Okay.” (I think it was) and there was a pause, and I said something like “That’s not right.”, for emphasis. And he took it. More silence. I stared sincerely for a moment, and I left.
It was not surprise to him: the customer was complaining, and he didn’t talk back. He has heard it before.
Then I figured it out: I am in LA, Movie Capital of the World. On a regular basis some jerk in The Business goes to a retail movie house and complains bitterly that it isn’t as good as the screening room back at the studio or posthouse or the jerk’s house. (Or so I figure.)
And these jerks complain that their eight-dollar ticket doesn’t buy the same quality. And they complain righteously. (Or so I figure.)
I’m not in The Business (I don’t even have a home theater back in Boston) but complain is what I did.
And I felt like I had kicked a dog. And he took it. And that I kicked him again. For emphasis. And he took it.
Postscript: Across the street and a couple blocks down, for roughly twice the price, is an Arclight theater: and they do sound right. A couple days earlier we saw the narrow-screen, black-and-white, foreign-made, Oscar-rumored, silent film The Artist, and for a silent (that actually has plenty of sound, just very, very little dialog), Arclight did a better job.
I suspect the jerks in the business, when they go slumming, go to the Arclight.
Movie theaters are in a pickle, they need to compete with not just each other but with home.
-kb, the Kent who, if he is going to be a jerk, feels a bit proud to momentarily feel like a Hollywood insider version of jerk.
P.S. I complain in Boston-area theaters, too, when projectors are out of focus or flicker and go dark or the sound can’t be heard right. I have discovered that, for some reason, theaters in Montreal are much better.