Codex: I Can See Clearly Now
Ever wonder why, after shelling out nine dollars at the local multiplex, you find yourself squinting at the screen and feeling vaguely cheated by the quality of the image? Every time I've complained about this, I've been told, basically, that SukEmIn Theaters International uses state-of-the-art technology - and, as a not so subtle afterthought, "Maybe you need new glasses, lady."
So whom should I believe, the local popcorn merchants or my own damn eyes?
My eyes, as it happens. "The Big Picture," Edward Jay Epstein's fascinating new book about the movie industry, explains how multiplexes cut costs by employing only one projectionist, causing the occasional neglected machine to jam, and the projection lamp to burn a hole in the film.
The one time I saw this happen was during the closing sequence of "Troy," when the tall towers were aflame anyway. For this moment of poetic justice I received a full refund.
But as Epstein shows, there's a connection between this occasional meltdown and my chronic sense that films look better on my home DVD player: "To prevent such costly mishaps [burnt films], multiplexes frequently have their projectionists slightly expand the gap between the gate that supports the film and the lamp. As a result ... films are often shown slightly out of focus."
Apparently the skateboard set don't care about this, since their eyesight is already shot from all those computer games... But if you care, tell the manager - right after you butter your popcorn.