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Summer about Victoria 2011 At the digital cinema · 12.08.11 by colin newell

We visited Cineplex Odeon Westshore cinemas 900 2945 Jacklin Rd in Langford for “Cowboys and Aliens” featuring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.
It’s a Western. And it’s a Science fiction story – two of my favorite genres.

But this is not a movie review.

It is a technology review.

I have not spent a lot of time rambling on the subject of the transition from film projection to digital – there are a lot of people in the industry and in consumer World that bark like otters about this evolution.

My opinion differs slightly.
Starters, modern theaters are too freaking loud. I am clearly middle aged and I pack ear plugs with me to Silver City (and to a lesser extent the other theaters) – because the sound is too loud and it gives me a sonic headache in short order.

It astounds me the number of people that bring children to these noisy shows who have ears that are significantly more sensitive than mine.
Bottom line: Go to any of these shows and you are permanently degrading your hearing and the future of your ability to hear quiet sounds in the future.
But don’t take me word for it.

Digital projection. Cineplex Odeon raves about their ability to download and project digital movies – the savings over film are staggering – and guess what? The savings are passed directly on to the stakeholders at Cineplex Odeon – not the consumers.
There was a time, when film was king, that the only way a theater could make any money was with the concession goods; the absurd lake-sized drinks and waste barrel capacity popcorn selections could set you back a mortgage payment if you were treating the entire family.

The food prices are still stupid but now there is money to be made with the technology. Because it is simpler. And being a person who designs and builds labs and classrooms at a University and actually helps maintain a movie theater (UVic’s venerable Cinecenta [I have worked on the digital and film cinema side of the house]), I know how much stuff costs. And Cineplex Odeon is making a killing on the savings as it were.

And as much as “industry” would like us to believe that digital cinema is “awesome” and sparkles like a jewel – it doesn’t. It is not capable of it. My home Sony blu-ray and LED back-lit Bravia flat screen TV is as capable of showing spectacular video, with breathtaking surround audio. Digital projection onto giant screens has some fundamental flaws – lack of contrast and muted, often dreary color – and jittery scene transitions.

I know this sounds like a bit of a whine. I do come from an old-school movie viewing population where 35MM and 70MM film (and IMAX) was king. My feeling is, the technology is moving forward at a good clip – but it is simply not there yet.

But don’t take me word for it.

Today we drove from Victoria East (Rockland area) to the West Shore cinemas for a Friday matinee – taking surface roads would have made much more sense – The Island highway was inching forward from Tillicum to the Millstream exit – pretty sad. But it was Friday at 3:30 in the afternoon. We made it to the theater with 9 minutes to spare. Would we go again? I would still like to have the “AVX” experience… whatever that is – if the right movie comes along.

Today’s movie was in Cinema 4 – 200 seats maybe… there were, perhaps, 12 people in attendance. Matinee after all.
Final thought. I love the movie going experience. I think it is important for people to get out to movies – to support the economy, develop some social skills as well, eat out and such – especially important for young people and children.

Anyway – enough from me… and enjoy the show!


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