At the Movies, It's Not Just the Plots That Aren't Very Bright

Posted on by Doug Sinclair (dsinclair)
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A common complaint among detractors of 3D (i.e., nearly everybody) is that the image is too dim. That's a natural side effect of projecting the movie through what is essentially a piece of shaded glass, and then watching it with sunglasses on. Dim is gonna happen. But now you've got another reason to complain about 3D: it's ruining your 2D movies too.

The thing is, in order to make digital projectors throw 3D images on the screen, the projectionist has to affix a special lens that alternates the image on every second frame to create the 3D effect. It also cuts the brightness down. But the problem is, on some projectors (specifically Sony), attaching and removing it is a difficult technical process that often requires bringing in an outside technician. Now, since theater owners are naturally as lazy and expense-averse as the rest of us, they don't bother to remove it even when they're showing a 2D movie. So your old-timey 2D movies are sometimes having their brightness reduced by as much as half, for no good reason.

Add onto that a practice that was already in place even before digital projectors came along: theaters turning their bulbs down to make them last longer. Projector bulbs are expensive to replace, and reducing their brightness can extend their life. When you combine this with the effect of the fancy 3D thingamajig mounted on the front, the brightness of your 2D movies is sometimes as much as 85% lower than it's supposed to be. Eighty-five percent! That's practically the difference between a Christmas tree light and the Bat Signal.

The issue was uncovered in Boston, but is reported to affect AMC, National Amusement, and Regal Theaters across the country. However, theater owners are denying that there's an issue at all. They say the response to their projection is overwhelmingly positive. So if you think the next movie you see is too dim, make sure to talk to the manager and be something other than positive. And please, for me, complain about the price of nachos while you're at it.

Which way would you rather see a movie?

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