We Belong Dead: Why FRANKENSTEIN Looked Horrific on the Big Screen

I saw James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) at the AMC 25 on 42nd Street in New York City on Wednesday night. And, while the experience of seeing two beloved classics with a room full of fans was ultimately a positive one, the screening was, at the same time, immensely frustrating.

Part of the TCM Events Series from Fathom Events, this double feature was presented in more than 500 theaters nationwide, the third in a series of four programs celebrating the 100th anniversary of Universal Studios. The series kicked off on September 19 with Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (1963), continued with Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) on October 3, and concludes with Robert Mulligan’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) on November 15.

This was my sixth experience with classic films presented on the big screen by Fathom Events. My first two were the the 70th anniversary screenings of CASABLANCA in March and in April, followed by SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN in July, THE BIRDS last month, and a screening of David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on October 4, which was not affiliated with TCM.

It seems I leave every TCM Fathom screening (including last night) with pretty much the same feeling: it’s great to see a classic film in a theater filled with enthusiastic fans, but why do the movies have to look so awful?

Last night, the capacity crowd at the AMC 25 was great: reverently silent during FRANKENSTEIN and loud and raucous during THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which is appropriate, considering the sequel’s subtly comic tone. My audience even cheered the first appearance of Una O’Connor in BRIDE. I didn’t know any of the 254 other people who were in theater 17 at the AMC 25, but that fact alone made me love all of them. They even applauded when Robert Osborne appeared on screen to kick off the TCM-produced, 15-minute introductory segment featuring Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff and Academy Award-winning makeup artist Rick Baker. And, in a theatrical presentation that lasted nearly three hours, nobody pulled out a cell phone. Clearly, these were my people.

But we weren’t there to hang out with each other (even though I got hit on by a friendly white-haired guy who offered to buy me a “pretzel or a slice of pizza,” which I graciously declined). We were there to see two iconic films that should look better than ever, thanks to restoration efforts by Universal, in honor of the studio’s centenary. The recently released Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (which was advertised during the pre-show) features the best versions of these two films that have ever been available to the public.

And yet, what we all paid $15 to see on the big screen Wednesday night at the AMC 25 didn’t even look as good at what we could have watched at home on our TV sets.

FRANKENSTEIN, in particular, looked horrendously murky. The opening sequence with Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and Fritz (Dwight Frye) grave-robbing by lamplight was almost impossible to see, as was anything shot in low light, including many key scenes in the castle. BRIDE had generally better image quality, but it was still disappointing. This has been my complaint at every screening I’ve seen in Fathom’s TCM Event Series: great crowd, poor image quality.

But LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was another matter entirely. Whereas the projection in the TCM Event Series screenings I’ve attended has generally looked dark, soft and noisy, David Lean’s epic looked bright, sharp and flawlessly stunning when I saw it at the AMC Village 7 on 3rd Avenue on October 4. I watched FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at AMC theaters using 4k projectors, just like LAWRENCE. So why did LAWRENCE look so much better than the other movies? What’s the difference?

The answer lies in the delivery method.

All the screenings in the TCM Event Series are delivered to theaters via satellite as High-Definition video, in roughly the quality of a movie you’d watch in HD on HBO. These satellite transmissions are likely compressed 1080i images (which means the signal is skipping every other field within a frame), unlike Blu-ray, which is full 1080p. In addition, the file transmitted by Fathom is likely compressed on the upload, uncompressed on the download by the local theater, and then re-compressed when it’s recorded to the venue’s Digital Video Recorder. Theaters that lack a DVR may broadcast a live satellite transmission from Fathom, which skips a few steps in the compression chain, but is still no better than broadcast TV quality – and possibly worse, if it’s projected on a 2K projector (as was the case when I saw CASABLANCA in New Jersey in March) on a giant screen.

Add in all manner of other variables like the quality of the source material, the file format and bit rate, and the technical specs of each individual theater, and you have a screening medium that completely lacks any true, empirical standard.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, however, was delivered to 630 individual theaters on physical hard drives, not via satellite. (This fact was confirmed on Twitter, to me by Fathom, on September 10.) In addition, according to Fathom’s website, “the original 65mm camera negative was first scanned at 8K” (8,000 lines of horizontal resolution) for the restoration by Sony Pictures, then “went through a 4K color grading and re-mastering process” before distribution as DCP (Digital Cinema Package) files for theatrical projection. As you probably know if you’re a movie fan, almost every current, major studio theatrical release is distributed in this manner – in DCP on hard drives.

This is the difference: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was professionally mastered from top-of-the-line source materials, hand-delivered to theaters in a predictable, industry standard format, and projected with consistently high quality at every theater – with only slight variations (2K projection in some lower-rent theaters vs 4K). The FRANKENSTEIN/BRIDE double feature was delivered via satellite in TV quality, using a model that heaps compression upon compression, and leaves way too many quality potholes on the road to your local screen.

My question is, why?

If Universal has restored FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (along with 6 other classics from the studio’s monster oeuvre) for the Blu-ray release, why were these films not provided to theaters in a format that would present them in the best available quality? Is LAWRENCE OF ARABIA somehow more worthy than FRANKENSTEIN? Is it more worthy than CASABLANCA, or SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, or THE BIRDS? And, if it is, why didn’t the admission price at my theater reflect the differences in the delivery method?

It cost Fathom and/or Sony a lot more to ship 630 professionally mastered hard drives to each theater and back than it cost Fathom and/or Universal and/or TCM to transmit FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN via satellite on Wednesday. Yet I paid $2 more to see the FRANKENSTEIN double feature than I paid to see LAWRENCE.

This makes absolutely no sense. And, while I have complained about this before, Fathom Events altering their normal delivery method for LAWRENCE is a tacit acknowledgment of the quality difference. If it isn’t, why not deliver LAWRENCE via satellite?

And, if the distributor tacitly acknowledges the unfortunate truth – that the distribution method for the TCM Events Series is sub-par – why do they and Turner Classic Movies insist on touting the image quality of these releases in their promos and on their websites? The promotional video on the Fathom website refers to FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE as “newly restored.” E.T. is described as a “newly remastered version made for the big screen.” SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is “fully remastered and more beautiful than it has ever been before.” And CASABLANCA‘s “stunning digital transfer” is described as “looking better than ever.”

To be clear: making any reference to superior or restored image quality in any promo or on any website promoting the TCM Events Series distributed via satellite by Fathom Events is, at best, misleading and inaccurate. At worst, it’s just plain dishonest.

Did I have a good time at the FRANKENSTEIN double feature? You bet, and so did everyone else in that theater, and probably everybody else in every theater around the country. Does that change my opinion on this topic? Not at all. Just because you don’t get caught doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

“To a new world of gods and monsters,” Pretorius toasts Dr. Frankenstein in one of the signature moments from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. The post-35 mm film paradigm is a new world too, and one in which movies presented digitally must be treated with the same reverence that celluloid was afforded in the first century of cinema. If not, this monster may end up destroying us all.

About willmckinley

Will McKinley is a New York City-based writer, producer and classic film and TV obsessive. He’s been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by host Robert Osborne), Sirius Satellite Radio and the official TCM podcast. Will has written for PBS and his byline has appeared more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News.
This entry was posted in Classic Film, Screening Report, TCM and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to We Belong Dead: Why FRANKENSTEIN Looked Horrific on the Big Screen

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks for this very interesting info. I’ve considered going to a TCM/Fathom event just to review it, but since you’re doing the hard work in that regard I think I’ll save my $ for seeing films in 35mm at the Egyptian or LA County Museum. :)

    When I went to see ARGO a few days ago at a Cinemark theater they were advertising a different “event” movie series including interesting titles like MARY POPPINS. But the pictures looked so bad in the trailer there’s no way I’d consider going; if they can’t make the clips look appealing in their advertising, what must the films look like when screened?! I’m assuming it’s probably the same satellite process being used for the TCM screenings.

    Thanks again for sharing this info. Let the buyer beware!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    I

    • Jim says:

      I went to the local Cinemark today to see 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in that program Laura mentions. It looked far better than the clip montage they used before the screening, as the clips looked horribly stretched. The film itself? In perfect CinemaScope on a curved screen, although I would bet they didn’t use the new 4K restoration Disney just put together.

      Didn’t think to ask the manager whether Cinemark was using satellite or had HDs shipped to their theatres for the program. I do plan on going again in a few weeks, I’l ask then.

      • willmckinley says:

        Thanks Jim. I’m going to look into the Cinemark series. It looks interesting, and they seem to be doing a lot of them. If you learn anything, please let me know.

    • Roy says:

      I’ve heard bad things about the Fathom screenings. But the Cinemark “Classic Series” showing that I saw, Jaws, looked great. It was clearly a new print (or hard drive with a digital print I should say) and not a satellite projection. Don’t know how their other films fared but that one looked and sounded about as good as it could.

      • Laura says:

        Jim and Roy, that’s fascinating that the actual Cinemark screenings looked really good. I wonder why they’re using such ghastly clips/trailers to promote the films? Thank you for sharing that info, I’m now much more open to trying that series. Would love to know what type of technology they’re using and how it compares to TCM/Fathom.

        Best wishes,
        Laura

      • willmckinley says:

        Thanks Roy. I’ve never really noticed issues with the sound at the TCM Fathom screenings. Sometimes (but not always) classics that are re-mastered for digital theatrical release also have their soundtracks prepped for surround sound theater sound systems, sometimes they don’t. I saw JAWS in DCP recently in NYC and, in addition to looking great, it also sounded great. BUt somebody (Universal?) clearly prepped that for distribution to multiple theaters, not just a one-time screening like the Fathom/TCM events. Either way, I point to a film like JAWS, or GOLDFINGER, or LAWRENCE or THE SHINING, all of which I’ve seen recently in DCP, as examples of how DCP can (and often does) look better than 35mm film. I know some people find that blasphemous, but I don’t miss the obvious reel changes, the shifts in color that often come with a reel change, or the wear and tear to the film in the scene just before and just after the reel change. Those are artifacts of 35 mm projection of classics that I won’t miss. SOmetimes theaters will promote a classic screening in 35 mm, implying that it’s somehow better or more “pure,” and then the 35 mm print they screen is beaten-up and ragged. Bad 35 mm is not better than DCP. In fact, DCP, mastered and screened properly, can provide a better theatrical viewing experience for classic film fans than 35 mm. I’ve seen it happen.

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks for the comment, Laura. The Cinemark Classic Series is pretty eclectic: GONE WITH THE WIND, MARY POPPINS, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE GREAT ESCAPE and THE STING are just the most recent selections. Since I don’t have a Cinemark location here in NYC, I’ve never delved into their delivery method. But that would be worth doing. Here’s the uRL for that series: http://www.cinemark.com/cinemark-classic-series

      As for promos, I’d never trust them to accurately represent print quality. TCM sometimes uses theatrical trailer content in their on-air promos, sometimes they’re beaten up or faded, sometimes even in incorrect aspect ratio (e.g. a 16:9 film cropped for a 4:3 trailer). Also, it’s likely that the promo material at Cinemark is living on a DVR that sources their pre-show program in each individual auditorium, so it will be lower-res, regardless of the format in which they are projecting the feature.

      But yes, you and I (and most classic film fans in major cities) are spoiled. We see classic films, flawlessly presented on a regular basis. That’s what makes this frustrating for me. I know what a good job TCM does when they’re in charge. And I know they can’t manage 500+ screenings on the same day. I’m not even saying I won’t continue to support the TCM Event Series, despite my issues with the image quality.

      I think what bothers me most, is the fact that they are selling these screenings as something they are not: “restorations” that look “better” than you can get elsewhere. That’s not true, and they need to stop saying it. Promote the communal experience – “see beloved classics with your fellow fans” – but don’t tout the image quality, because it’s not accurate.

    • willmckinley says:

      Ha. Thanks. I’m definitely spoiled by all the great classics I’ve seen on the big screen. I think that’s part of why I scrutinize these screenings more than others. I know how good they CAN look.

  2. Jeff Fleischmann says:

    Hi Will. I saw the the two Frankenstein films at the Regal Elmwood Center here in Buffalo, and I was quite pleased — make that astounded — by the excellent condition of the prints, saying to myself that it must have been at least as good as that of those shown in the 1930’s. I had the same experience when I saw Casablanca at the Regal Transit. And the resolution, in particular, was as high as I — or anyone, I imagine — could have wanted or expected. I’ll leave the technical and business “whys and wherefores” of this to you, but I can’t help but wonder how and why we have been seeing higher quality Fathom Production films in upstate Buffalo than in New York City. — Jeff F.

    • willmckinley says:

      Jeff – As I said, there are tons of variables in this deliver model that can affect your individual venue’s presentation. I’m glad to hear that you were happy with yours. I still feel that TCM and Fathom owe it to the fans to present these films in their best available forms, and, if they’re not going to do that, they need to stop saying they are.

  3. Melissa says:

    West Side Story, which I’ve always felt ho-hum about on the small screen, looked AMAZING at the TCM/Fathom Events screening. It came alive for me in a way it never has, and I was able to really emotionally connect with it for the first time. I left the cinema in tears.

    • willmckinley says:

      Melissa, there’s no doubt that watching a classic with other people who love it can be a nearly religious experience. It certainly has been for me, especially at the three TCM Classic Film Festivals I’ve attended. Even these films, in what I believe to be an imperfect form, have been good experiences – mostly because of the audiences. But they could be better. They could satisfy the buffs that are there for superior image quality, as well as the fans who are there for a memorable, communal experience. TCM promotes itself as a destination for film buffs, for people who want to see movies the way they were meant to be seen. If you ask any filmmaker, “Would you like your film to look as good as it possibly can?” 100% of them will say yes. These films are great to see on the big screen but, from a purely technical standpoint, they can and SHOULD look better. I believe TCM owes that to the fans.

  4. Thanks for the great insight on the technical details on how these films are delivered. I never realized that digital theaters often get movies delivered on hard disk. The thought of the actually distribution method just never occurred to me.

    I’m sure (like you say) that this is a bottom-line-thing and it’s much cheaper to beam a movie vs. write to disks and ship the physical medium. (Though why you paid *more* for the lesser quality screening…we may never know.) I’m wondering if Fathom is applying the 80/20 rule here: figuring only 20% of the audience will notice and/or care that the quality isn’t that great.

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks Joel. In my mind TCM EXISTS for that 20%, for the weirdos who REALLY care how things look. If they’re going to forsake those film buffs for these theatrical screenings, why even bother doing them? I can’t imagine a reality where I would actively avoid a TCM-branded screening at my local movie theater but, if they continue with this delivery method, that day will come. I have too many opportunities to see classic films properly presented to accept something imperfect, even with the TCM name attached.

      I remember the first year at the TCM Film Festival. I heard lots of people balk about DCP projection, implying it was somehow disrespectful to these great classics. Guess what? Some of the best looking screenings I’ve seen at TCMFF have been in DCP. What if TCM tried to use this sub-TV-quality delivery method at their Film Fest? People would RIOT, and rightfully so. The quality of the image is paramount, even if only 20% of the people truly understand the technology behind it, or care. The “nobody cares” theory is why pan-and-scan VHS’s and TV broadcasts existed for so long. I’d hate to see sub-par “digital” screenings become this generation’s equivalent of pan-and-scan – just because “most” people don’t notice.

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  6. Will – while my eyesight isn’t what it used to be (and what is?) when I saw the two films at the Cinemark in Boca Raton, I remarked to my companion what great resolution was being projected. I did not detect any graininess or blurriness – in fact, every individual strand of Elsa Lanchester’s “Bride” fright wig was easily discernable.

    I appreciate the details you provided here – and would for sure be in favor of direct hard-disk exhibition of all the TCM events (going to the Film Festival each year does tend to spoil one).

    Is it possible that the quality of the projection from an identical medium varies from theater to theater based on (among other things) the competency of the exhibitor? For example – I attend the Fathom/Metropolitan Opera Live HD matineés on Saturdays during the opera season, and have experienced dramatic differences in image and sound quality between theaters – sometimes between auditoriums in the same deca-plex.

    • willmckinley says:

      Alan, the presentation does vary from theater to theater, even from auditorium to auditorium. And that’s kind of my point. The experienced, professional projectionist is going the way of the Ice Man. Theaters nowadays are designed to be run by robots, they’re automated and often don’t have a dedicated projectionist in the booth. That’s why these things need to distributed in the best available form, with as little margin for error (human or technical) as possible.

      I saw CASABLANCA twice. The first time it started late and we missed half the pre-show, because nobody was paying attention. The second time it started without sound, and people starting yelling and banging on the projection booth. But nobody was in there. They probably had one guy running 10 different screenings. We finally found the technician, and he ran in, rewound the DVR and started it from the beginning. That’s a horrendous way to represent the TCM brand.

      In my mind, this is a brand management issue. If TCM attached its name to a series of poor quality DVD releases – because they might reach a larger audience, or make more money – I would feel the same way. THese films are sacred and should be treated as such.

  7. That’s too bad – the screenings I attended all looked great. The only exception was A Clockwork Orange, which was not a restored version. Frankenstein looked just as good as it does on the Universal blu-ray set.

  8. I saw these at my local AMC theater in Arlington, TX…..in fact, attended both the matinee and the evening showing because I felt this may be my only chance to ever see these movies on the big screen, so….went to both.

    I think that we saw digital presentations via a hard drive, and not by satellite. I saw no distinct difference between what I saw/heard at the matinee from same during the evening showing.

    Having watched these via TV/VHS/DVD too many times to count, I was amazed at seeing it on the big screen. I saw and heard things that were new to me, even with my extreme knowledge of the films. Naturally due to the vast size of the screen, I saw details not fully detectable on the home HDTV.

    • ….must add that there was some type of artifact that I can only describe as columns of dash marks running through many of the scenes that I forced myself to ignore and concentrate on the action.. but wondered why it was even present.
      Truthfully there were some soft, slightly outbid focus shots….example being in Bride, where the monster holds and gently pats the wrapped hand of his bride….but this is simply the original film, as it has always been a bit blurry, be it VHS, DVD, or on tv.

    • willmckinley says:

      John, I don’t believe Fathom offers the option for hard drive delivery of films in the TCM Event Series, as an alternative to satellite distribution. I’ve never asked, but I certainly can. When I encouraged Fathom (on Twitter) to use the LAWRENCE delivery method for the TCM screenings, they didn’t respond. And for the record, I’m not scrutinizing the imperfections of a 1931 film, such as out-of-focus shots. I’m talking about an overall lack of image quality in a delivery method that delivers a less-crisp picture than any other movie playing in that multiplex at the same time. I don’t think it’s okay, or good enough, even if most people don’t notice or perceive the difference.

      And I don’t doubt that you saw things on a 50-foot screen that you might not have seen on your 50-inch TV, I’m just saying that you could have seen it even more clearly, sharply and brightly than you did.

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  10. Justin says:

    If you saw a DCP, it was certainly shown on the main 2K or 4K cinema projector. If you saw a sattelite broadcast or DVR recording, they likely used the advertising projector (1080p or less). Which window was the light coming from in the projection booth? Was it the main (centered) window… or the other window off to the side?

    • willmckinley says:

      Justin, that’s a great question. I don’t know. When I’ve asked before (at other venues) they told me that the projection of the satellite feed (or the DVR recording of the feed) was using the “main projector” (in one case it was a 2K and in another it was a 4K).

  11. Phibbus says:

    I saw the Frankenstein double feature at a Rave Cinemas theater in PA. While the restorations themselves looked terrific in terms of picture quality—I definitely did not notice any of the murkiness that you remarked upon at the beginning of the first film—both features along with the extras suffered terribly from tearing and judder as a result of the signal not being properly synched to the refresh rate of the projector. For any that are unfamiliar with the problems, any time the projector must render changes to large portions of the image—mainly when the camera is panning or figures are moving in the foreground across screen—the motion breaks down miserably and becomes jumpy (judder) or portions of two different frames are flicked simultaneously on the top and bottom of the screen with a noticeable horizontal break between them (tearing.) While I have not yet inquired as to the distribution means, the projector was definitely the main one (which looked to me to be a 2K) and not the 1080p commercial projector.

    What bothered me the most is that almost none of the 100+ people in the audience seemed to take notice, and most were commenting positively on how good everything looked.

  12. Aurora says:

    Thought and compelling.

    Aurora

  13. Steve In Chicago says:

    Wasn’t TCM the same folks who, a few years back, had a series of outdoor screenings in certain cities? They hired some sort of truck with an LED screen that unfolded atop the roof. Yes, an LED screen–like watching a movie on one of those new style billboards.

    It’s bad enough that these are not being shown on film but so few places are even able to run film anymore. The least they can do is send out a DCP.

    Now then, DCP (digital cinema package) technically refers to the set of files however they are delivered (some theatres get them by satellite but that’s still full quality, not the compressed HD you are decribing here) but most people use the term to refer to the hard drives sent to theatres.

    They are not expensive. It’s just an ordinary drive like you might buy at a computer store (computer geeks will want to know that they are 3.5″ SATA, size suitable to hold all the files—500GB is a typical drive size—and formatted using the EXT3 system that Linux prefers).

    The drive is inside a metal box made by a company called CRU-Dataport. A connector adapter is the only other thing present. There is also an optional endcap which enables the drive to be connected via other means such as USB and then cables and a power adapter to do that. One of the companies that handles deliveries for major studios recently dropped the extras and just sends the drive in its CRU brand metal box. The rules of digital cinema do not require CRU’s box but everyone seems to have agreed to make it standard.

    Remember, this is all reusable.

    If TCM or Universal don’t want to spring for this there is another way. One may use an ordinary portable USB harddrive. Again, just like you buy at the computer store. Theatres will not be too happy since it takes much longer to transfer to their server (ingesting it’s called) via USB but for the occasional special screening it’s not big deal.

    My point is that there is really no excuse to take people’s money and deliver an inferior screening. It’s shameful.

    • willmckinley says:

      Steve, thanks for the most thorough explanation I’ve heard yet about the DCP distro process. I get that the drives, themselves, may not be expensive, but I wonder if the mastering and shipping costs to 500+ locations are prohibitive? Certainly it’s more expensive than one sat feed, not that that is an excuse for poor quality.

      • Steve In Chicago says:

        Yes, definitely. The logistics companies (usually Technicolor or Deluxe) are going to charge for their services. The studio owns the data and can use whatever means they want to get it to theatres. Maybe once the mastering is done they should just turn it over to a couple of kids…oops I mean low wage workers… with a few PC’s to crank them out. Given that these are movies that anyone can go and buy on DVD or BD, the sort of high security that new movies require is absent. Crank them out, box & ship them, call the theatres to verify they loaded okay.

  14. Joe says:

    Why do articles like this ramble on and on before finally getting to the point? I came to read about why, specifically, this movie looked bad on the big screen, hence the title of the article. The first two paragraphs were setups for what was actually going on. That’s fine. The fourth paragraph makes a hint about the reason I came to read this article but then the 5th paragraph starts rambling about some other unrelated stuff that really isn’t interesting to read at all. It’s like you’re trying to fill a word quota or something. I don’t have a lot of time to waste so please get to the point. I’m sure others that like sitting around and collecting dust love reading all of the diatribe because they don’t have much else to do. But when an article raises a question, I want the answer without having to sift through it. Please be more efficient and less boring. Thanks.

    • willmckinley says:

      Joe – Thanks for the comment, and for slogging though my chaff to get to the literary wheat. To answer your question, I felt it was important to establish a few points before I got to my main thesis. First, I attempted to explain that this is an ongoing series, and that I’ve attended nearly all the screenings in the series. This will hopefully establish me as a credible source of commentary. Second, I hoped to establish the positives of this particular screening experience, because there were many, and there have been at every TCM Event Series screening I’ve attended. I came not to bash, but rather to share my dilemma as a loyal and ardent supporter of Turner Classic Movies: I love the experience of seeing these films with like-minded fans, but I don’t love how they look. I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment.

  15. A couple months ago I won free tickets to see “Singin’ in the Rain” as part of one of these TCM / Fathom Events things. The picture quality was so bad that I wanted to cry. LITERALLY. And, unfortunately, I am one of those weirdos for whom the ‘shared experience’ does NOT make up for crappy picture quality. I’d rather watch the pristine picture quality of my 17″ computer screen than the grainy, fuzzy picture quality on a 50′ movie screen, no matter HOW many other people are in the room. Le sigh. For my money, I will not go to one of these events again unless it’s one like “Lawrence” which was delivered on actual hard drives, not transmitted via satellite.

  16. Cinemark says:

    Hi, Will! To answer your question, no, our Cinemark Classic Series does NOT use the Fathom satellite network. We work directly with the studios to bring our customers the best quality experience at the best value. We hope you will consider seeing some of the remaining films, and think you’ll be very pleased with the results! We also just announced our upcoming Holiday Series! http://www.cinemark.com/blog

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  18. Thank you so much for this. I worked the event and I couldn’t say it myself. You’re absolutely right. The problem is in the shadow detail. It looked horrible. I’ve seen Universal’s 35mm elements on these films and they look WONDERFUL. These had no detail in the shadows at all, rolled off to black waaay too fast, which is a real problem for something that is supposed to have lots of dark photography.

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks Dr. I’ve seen these films projected properly in theaters and they don’t look like this. I fear that newbies will see these screenings and think, “Oh it’s dark because it’s old.” Poor presentation only confirms the prejudices that black & white is somehow flawed. It’s not. It only is when it’s not projected properly.

  19. Dave says:

    All the Cinemark classic series are on hard drives. Most are 2k but could be 4k if the studio sent those versions. Almost all digital Cinenarks are 4k enabled.

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