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 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 1:10 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Yesterday’s big screening of Ben-Hur per other current thread started off rather inauspiciously. There was no audio accompanying TCM host Ben Mankiewicz’s introduction. After the customary 20-30 seconds wait to see who would scream first some guy below beat me to the punch. Didn’t work. Next, not even my 4-finger Sensurround whistle mattered, ol’ Ben kept lip synching to nada. Finally the screen went blank. Rewind-Play-Ah that’s better. And how! was it better with the volume turned up and the Overture blasting away. Rozsa and Howard L in cinematic glory. I was really into it when 1/3-1/2 way through the...sound...went...out.

Uh oh, is it going to be one of those afternoons? Minutes went by. Nada. House lights remained down. Young usherette or whatever enters approaching stage right. She’s reporting to whomever on some device. Lady in the audience hollers, “There was sound but no picture!” Guy seconds later hollers, “It’s the OVERTURE there’s not supposed to be any picture!”

You realize this is absolute cannon fodder for somebody like me, a transplant from the NY-NJ Metropolitan area with natural hidden wiseguy talents. So to quell those instincts I turn to the lady next to me who’s there with her teenage daughters and explained, “This is the OVERTURE. You will not see that displayed on the screen like on TCM because in the Roadshow days it was just music, like when the orchestra plays the overture on the Broadway stage before the curtain rises. I think the guy’s right, they’re spooked because of the sound issue with Ben’s intro.”

More minutes go by. It's still dark. Mysterious usherette continues invisible conversation. Finally, the dreaded announcement from what appears to be the manager who just stepped in:

“Folks, we apparently were given a corrupted hard drive. We’re sorry, please exit the theatre and we will issue refunds in the lobby.”

Ugh. Nobody is leaving, absorbed in the unfolded disaster. Well I’m not waiting so I march down there and end up 2nd in line. “We drove an hour for this!” exclaims one lady to her husband. Little old lady in front of me, while the manager who is clearly flustered and having trouble with the first refund, strikes up conversation and I go through the lecture that I don’t think they realize there is nothing wrong with the screen, that’s why they call it an OVERTURE even if you don’t see OVERTURE.

It was said friendly and loudly enough for manager to hear even if he gave no response but no matter, I’m next and ready to engage powers of persuasion. Couple more minutes, still having trouble with first refund, when youngish ticket taker and usherette burst in and announce, “Folks, if you would please head back into the theatre there is nothing wrong. We just found out the screen is blank for the first minutes of music and then the movie starts.”

It’s good if this were to happen that it happened in the laid back Tampa Bay area where it’s just plain too hot to argue and give ‘em the I-told-you-sos and besides that when we all got back to our seats the usherette came in with free passes as a token gesture for all the weirdness this day.

What was listed as 3 hrs 40 min became 4 hrs 40 min. For nothing!!
roll eyes

 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 6:25 PM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

Jeepers.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 7:01 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Wow, unbelievable. The youth working in that theater have probably never heard of an overture or intermission in a movie.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 7:13 PM   
 By:   jonathan_little   (Member)

I do not have good luck with these one-off screenings like this. I've had similar problems, no sound and they can't figure it out and cancel the show. Or it's a "live" show and it's five past and the screen is still dark. Often after they figure out the sound, it's either at an ear bleeding level or nearly inaudible, and I have to complain a second time.

It seems these theaters are so automated that when something goes wrong, it is difficult for them to figure out.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 7:21 PM   
 By:   cinemel1255   (Member)

Wow, unbelievable. The youth working in that theater have probably never heard of an overture or intermission in a movie.

I saw Ben-Hur at the Cinemark in Boca Raton, FL. The first couple of minutes of the Ben Mankiewicz intro were silent, but there was a notice on the screen announcing the 6 minute overture. Sound and picture were perfect after that. The clarity of the picture was remarkable. There was also a card on the screen announcing that the film would be shown in its original aspect ratio. I heard audience members chattering asking each other what that meant. Because Ben-Hur’s aspect ratio in Camera 65 is extra wide the film was slightly letter boxed. The audience applauded when the film concluded. Rozsa’s Score sounded amazing, the orchestra spread right across the front of the theater.

 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 8:01 PM   
 By:   Ed   (Member)

You’re asking a lot of the teenagers that run these theaters with little or no supervision from experienced adults. It’s just cheaper that way. And that’s why the theatrical experience has diminished so rapidly in recent years.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 15, 2019 - 8:13 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Frank DeWald in Michigan and I in Connecticut had perfect screenings. The screen legend advising of "a six-minute musical overture" was a smart move. Much better than staring at a title card for all that time. In one respect the absence of a (sound-absorbing) curtain actually improved the experience.

 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 3:22 AM   
 By:   Uhtred   (Member)

The problem is, with the change to digital projection, projectionists are no longer needed so all projection is undertaken by duty managers as part of all day to day operations, who have (understandably) taken that job as paying employment in a customer service job but without the love and knowledge of cinema that drew people to being projectionists.

At my cinema a few years ago, the same thing happened. We had an important showing for a film festival, music but no picture. The managers in the screen starting panicking, and had to have an overture explained to them by the chief projectionist.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 4:06 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Sounds like a terrible experience, Howard. I'm guessing Florida is not the place to go for proper cineastes (nor would I have expected it to) -- at least not compared to places like New York and Los Angeles.

Here in Oslo, at the Cinemateque, they pay proper respect to everything 'surrounding' such film screenings, as evidenced in their annual 70mm festival, for example. Not to be all 'boasting' about it, but this would never happened here.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 4:27 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

At a showing of that newlyweds story with Saorise Ronan -- I forget the title -- we were treated to Spanish subtitles. Given that the movie was set in Ireland, these were highly distracting. We complained and they started over. In fairness, there were lots of foul-ups in the old days too. The film could break, bulbs could burn out, sloppy reel changes could obtrude . . . And every now and then a reel could be shown out of order!

 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 5:32 AM   
 By:   Uhtred   (Member)

At a showing of that newlyweds story with Saorise Ronan -- I forget the title -- we were treated to Spanish subtitles. Given that the movie was set in Ireland, these were highly distracting. We complained and they started over. In fairness, there were lots of foul-ups in the old days too. The film could break, bulbs could burn out, sloppy reel changes could obtrude . . . And every now and then a reel could be shown out of order!

This is very true. There's a lot less technically to go wrong these days, unless a speaker blows or a media block fails. I remember the days when a film could be laced up through the projector head incorrectly and scratched to buggery, or wrap round the platter and end up all over the floor. I don't miss that!

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 12:32 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Hey cinemel, scoot on over to the BH thread and cut and paste, edit, add to, revise or whatever your day's viewing.

The screen legend advising of "a six-minute musical overture" was a smart move.

Yeah that sure would have come in handy at my theatre. It's only a 5-10 min. trip for me so it was easier to be patient vs. the stoning that would have gone on up north.

At my cinema a few years ago, the same thing happened. We had an important showing for a film festival, music but no picture. The managers in the screen starting panicking, and had to have an overture explained to them by the chief projectionist.

It really is a different world all right. But I wasn't buying the "corrupted hard drive" from the getgo. You can get used to the digitalization of everything, that's progress and all, but my patience ends with not knowing the shot even if it's from a bygone era. And to think I could have been the day's "chief projectionist" and set 'em all straight! smile

--Sheesh, "bygone era." You now how painful it is to say that?

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 12:46 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Sounds like a terrible experience, Howard. I'm guessing Florida is not the place to go for proper cineastes (nor would I have expected it to) -- at least not compared to places like New York and Los Angeles.

I can't recall if the Overture, etc. accompanied the screening back in '98 but they are much more savvy about these things at the historic Tampa Theatre. This day I was at a huge modern multiplex. TOO modern I guess. But boy, per other thread once things settled down it was magnificent.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 12:52 PM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

Slightly off topic...

Last week the TCM Classic Film Festival screened CINERAMA'S RUSSIAN ADVENTURE at the Cinerama Dome. It was the full roadshow presentation. The overture (Gliere's Russian Sailor's Dance) began with the curtain closed. Many patrons who, as classic film buffs should have known better, began to complain! I had to turn around and tell them that it was an overture and that the curtains would open during the main titles. Sheesh!

 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2019 - 5:55 PM   
 By:   Ray Worley   (Member)

I managed a theater in Florida back when STAR TREK:THE MOTION PICTURE came out. That was the last film I can remember working with that had an actual overture with blank film at the beginning. We actually got a letter from the home office (of the theater chain) suggesting we remove said footage to avoid problems (Philistines!). Naturally, there was no way in hell I was going to allow that. I carefully instructed all my employees, most of whom were all ignorant of what an overture was, to be ready to explain to anyone who came out of the theater complaining, that it was supposed to be like that and to please go sit back down and enjoy the lovely music. The picture will be there when the credits start. There was pretty much always at least one boob who came out red-faced and irritable and had to be schooled at every showing...40 years ago.
I guess I could have put a sign in the Box Office window but no one would have read it.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 17, 2019 - 5:31 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Many patrons who, as classic film buffs should have known better, began to complain! I had to turn around and tell them that it was an overture and that the curtains would open during the main titles. Sheesh!

Is there no hope?!

The audience applauded when the film concluded. Rozsa’s Score sounded amazing, the orchestra spread right across the front of the theater.

I carefully instructed all my employees, most of whom were all ignorant of what an overture was, to be ready to explain to anyone who came out of the theater complaining, that it was supposed to be like that and to please go sit back down and enjoy the lovely music.

Hope, even for Flori-Duh!

 
 Posted:   Apr 17, 2019 - 7:04 AM   
 By:   Last Child   (Member)

Sounds like a terrible experience, Howard. I'm guessing Florida is not the place to go for proper cineastes (nor would I have expected it to) -- at least not compared to places like New York and Los Angeles.

I can't recall if the Overture, etc. accompanied the screening back in '98 but they are much more savvy about these things at the historic Tampa Theatre. This day I was at a huge modern multiplex. TOO modern I guess. But boy, per other thread once things settled down it was magnificent.


Reminds me of a recent news blip about a car jacker who left the car he jumped into because he didn't know how to drive a manual transmission.
Similarly, this seems like a predictable, understandable problem, given the lack of overtures in the majority of movies and lack of training multiplex employees. It's not like the old days when people made a living working as an usher at a movie theater.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 18, 2019 - 8:52 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

I like your conclusion, it illustrates "bygone" along with calling what I went to last night the "picture show." Happy to say all went without a hitch. Same 57-seat capacity but I counted less than a dozen attendees. Still, went in conscious of this thread. The ticket guy behind counter couldn't have been more than 20, the ticket taker could have passed for 80 and I'm not talking a young 80. No other personnel in sight and it ain't no small multiplex by any stretch. All the charm of a trip to a dental clinic.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 18, 2019 - 11:05 AM   
 By:   riotengine   (Member)

I managed a theater in Florida back when STAR TREK:THE MOTION PICTURE came out. That was the last film I can remember working with that had an actual overture with blank film at the beginning. We actually got a letter from the home office (of the theater chain) suggesting we remove said footage to avoid problems (Philistines!). Naturally, there was no way in hell I was going to allow that. I carefully instructed all my employees, most of whom were all ignorant of what an overture was, to be ready to explain to anyone who came out of the theater complaining, that it was supposed to be like that and to please go sit back down and enjoy the lovely music. The picture will be there when the credits start. There was pretty much always at least one boob who came out red-faced and irritable and had to be schooled at every showing...40 years ago.
I guess I could have put a sign in the Box Office window but no one would have read it.


I hear your pain, Ray. I was a theater manager for 21 years at a theater in Oakland (The Grand Lake) and had to deal with stuff like that. We had union projectionists who knew their stuff, (very well trained on digital projection) and managers knowledgeable enough to try to anticipate these problems, but there will always be boobs/customers who haven't got a clue. I have so many stories. I'm working for Landmark now, glad I don't have the thankless task of being a manager.

Greg Espinoza

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 19, 2019 - 11:47 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Did they have an actual intermission during this showing of BEN-HUR? A few years ago, when I went to a Fathom Events showing of OKLAHOMA!, when the Intermission card came up, they blew right through it and proceeded directly into Act 2. (Hell, the last time I saw HELLO, DOLLY! at the American Film Institute, they did the same thing.)

On another point, everyone should know at this stage in the multiplex game that if something goes wrong in the projection booth, you can yell yourself hoarse in the theater, but nothing is going to happen. There is no one in that booth. Someone has to physically get up, leave the theater, and find a ticket taker or concession worker with a walkie-talkie who can get the on-duty manager. That is usually the only person who can get the problem resolved. Because no one seems to know this, I'm usually the person that has to get up and go out.

I believe that the reason for those skipped intermissions is that--wait for it--there is no one in that projection booth to stop the film. The first two times I saw HELLO, DOLLY! at the AFI--on 70mm film--the intermission was honored, since someone had to be in that booth with the film. That third time at the AFI, the film was shown in 4K projection. Once the film was started, no one remained in that booth, and no one remembered to return for the intermission.

 
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