Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Of Focus and Fidelity

As I mentioned, I went to see Cats and Dogs last night. It was in a new theater (about three months old... The "Short Pump Regal 14." LOL.), with pristine chairs, cathedral seating and that lovely "new car" smell throughout the place. The screen was new, the aisles were spotless, the chrome still gleamed.

Ahhh, I thought, the Theater Experience as it was meant to be.

Imagine my chagrin - I wound up liking movies better in the privacy of my own home, on my mid-grade home theater setup.

Don't get me wrong. The place was nearly deserted -- one mom and her group of four kids or so were the only people sharing the theater with me (9:20 PM at a kids' movie - best timeslot IMO). They were even fairly quiet.

But the projector was ever so slightly out of focus. The sound, despite emerging in glorious Dolby Surround from all sides, was poorly balanced and amplified to the point of distortion, just shy of ear pain. No one thing was enough to complain to the projectionist, but for $7.50 (roughly half the price of the DVD when it eventually comes out, or double the price of a rental), I would just as soon have spun a DVD at home with my puppies in the room, munched out on Pringles and a Yuengling Black & Tan or Killian's Red, and have had a much better picture, perfectly tuned Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (to the way I like it), and the ability to pause if a phone call came through or nature called or my beer ran dry.

Previews? I can grab pretty much any trailer I'm interested in from promotional websites and view it on the same setup. I've been meaning to grab the Harry Potter teaser for a while now, but happened to see it first last night.

Big-screen experience? I've already mentioned sound, and decent bigscreen TVs can be had by focusing pretty much any middle-class income for a few months and shopping around for bargains. With a widescreen DVD and the lights down, it's like sitting in the very back row of a theater. Heck, just watching the widescreen VHS versions of the original Star Wars trilogy was enough to moisten the eye - I was surprised how well it all worked, considering the modest budget I had to work with.

And they wonder why theaters are shutting down all over the country. When the best they can reasonably offer can be beaten at home, the industry's in trouble.


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