Yesterday, I went to see Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix at a local theater chain and to my delight the soundtrack defaulted down to the stereo mix from the third reel on. I was obviously a little annoyed so I decided to talk to the manager and let them know that the film in their biggest theater was playing back in not so optimum conditions. They nodded and awarded my effort with lip-service about how they would “look into it.” I always get empathy but no action. They want to make me feel like they care about how the film is presented, but unless a majority of patrons file out of the theater to complain I don’t think anything will change. So, what do we do as a community? Is there anyway to champion a campaign to remedy this plague of bad sound? I mean I am sure if the picture looked crappy audiences would be up in arms. I asked Randy Thom about this epidemic recently and he had this to say:
“The two weakest links in film sound have always been the script and the exhibition. Neither of them has ever taken sound seriously except for occasional isolated cases. The picture and sound quality in most movie theaters sucks. In an era when exhibitors should be more worried than ever about competing with home theaters they have shown very little awareness of how important it is to exhibit the film accurately. The popcorn machine is almost always better maintained than the projector and sound system. True, the profit center of most theaters is the concession stand, but if people stop coming there won’t be anyone to buy the soft drinks and popcorn. For a huge number of movie lovers going to a well maintained and beautiful theater to see and hear a film with others who share their admiration for great film storytelling is a secular form of going to church. It’s an experience that isn’t duplicated at home, no matter how wonderful a home theater system you have. The fact that most theater owners are too lazy, ignorant, and/or greedy to make sure the movies sound and look first class is a shameful thing. Filmmakers everywhere have to demand better performance from exhibitors, and we need to set up mechanisms to make that happen.”
I agree that if the filmmakers knew that this kind of disregard for their films was going on regularly and everywhere, that something might happen. I would love to walk into a theater and not worry about how my craft will be presented.