It's Hard Out There for a (Critic)

MovieBob

New member
Dec 31, 2008
11,495
0
0
It's Hard Out There for a (Critic)

Audiences and critics don't always get along, but this is one thing we should agree on: when you sit down to watch a movie, you want to see the best possible version of it.

Read Full Article
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
5,499
0
0
Bob, I will preface this by way of saying I don't always agree with your work, but that doesn't mean we can't share similar experiences.
I've worked the other side of film, what would be considered in magician's terms "the prestige." Yes, I worked for a movie theater. I was able to peek behind the curtain and see just how the Wizard truly looked and... well it was a huge letdown. There's a certain magic that does happen in the theater, and it has lessened with each year as budgets narrow and mortgages rise. Most theaters don't own the building and are so much closer to closing permanently than really making profit that one can actually understand the inflated concession prices. The bottom line, as it is with almost every company, in theaters is top dog. Employees are the last consideration, aside from management, when it comes to the income. Tickets for first-run movies, yeah those theaters don't seem much of those absurdly inflated prices for almost a month. Its like pennies on the dollar, nearly, and most of the ticket price goes straight to Hollywood, to whatever studios produced said movies.
So here's the thing: With a place that's basically functioning by the skin of its teeth, surviving on those hungry enough to pay outrageous prices for food, the one thing those places should pay dearly for, the employees, are underpaid and almost across the board horribly treated. And the caretakers of the film, the projectionists are basically hermits. I don't like to put people in a box, or stereotype them, but every projectionist I've met is at best an obsessive nerdy creature with very poor social skills. And they're just as underpaid as most of the rest of the little people. From what I've gathered, they sleep little, spend a lot of time up in the darkness of the projection booth (which is mostly a creepy corridor that feels like a laboratory) and condescend harshly upon any of the other lowly employees (despite making little more than minimum wage themselves). I can see why they're bitter, why they make mistakes. They get treated like crap, the equipment is poorly maintained due to budget constraints and managers who inexplicably drive fancy cars while profits are barely above the red.
This leads to poorly managed theaters in general. At least in my experience, but a lot of the folks I've talked to who have worked elsewhere both within the company I worked for and others nationwide, its largely similar. The American theater seems like its a few steps from failure, whether thats due to the operating costs and the profit margins being a peak and valley respectively, largely due to Hollywood's profit coming first, or that people are spending less at theater outings hoping to stretch a $20 limit which used to pay for tickets, popcorn, and sodas for two but now barely covers the price of tickets (for 3D.. IMAX is even more expensive).
It is hard as an employee to work to 100% capacity when there's a feeling as if the higher ups don't give a rats ass. They probably don't because they can always hire some young, eager high schooler who doesn't know their ass from a hole in the ground.
Its sad because people used to take pride in showing movies to the viewing public, it used to be a lot more flair. It used to be a spectacle. Now I honestly, having worked in the industry, don't go to the big screen except for the few movies I deem worth the ticket price.
Everything else is either Netflix or hell if I'm going to spend damn near $30 on a movie, I might as well wait for BluRay to be released.
 

DaWaffledude

New member
Apr 23, 2011
628
0
0
Reminds me of when I first went to see Captain America: TWS.

Somehow, they messed up the 3D so that even when wearing the glasses, the image still looked super-blurry. Had to watch the opening scene on the boat three times before they gave up and gave us refunds and tickets to the next 2D screening. And in that screening there was an annoying kid who wouldn't shut up sitting right across from me.

Still loved the film though, can only imagine what it'd be like to watch it for the first time without any of that.
 

Belaam

New member
Nov 27, 2009
617
0
0
What I have noticed, just as a film-goer and not a film critic is that there seems to be a huge drop is aligning the previews with the genre of the film.

Took my daughters to see Big Hero 6 and ads were for religious films, horror and drama. Nothing really teen related, nothing animated, not even anything else Disney. My kids were bored to tears and were far squirmier during the long, unrelated previews than at any point in the actual movie.

Oddly, we came home to a facebook comment by someone in another part of the country who had gone to a different theater chain and seen a different movie, but had the same disconnected preview experience.

Seems like promoting other reasons for people to come back to your business is a poor place to cut corners.
 

Falseprophet

New member
Jan 13, 2009
1,381
0
0
Well, I guess one advantage of living in the suburbs of the Canadian heartland, where a single corporate conglomerate owns every multiplex for hours in each direction, is that I almost never encounter problems like this. When I do, it's almost always one-off special events, e.g. a live event being streamed from somewhere, or that one-night only screening of a big anime feature, and they're always quick to issue rebates without even being asked.

One quibble:

Imagine if that had happened, say, at the premiere of The Godfather during the restaurant scene!
Maybe it's been changed in later releases, but I don't remember that scene ever having subtitles. I think Coppolla wanted to make it clear Michael isn't there to talk, so he doesn't actually care what Solozzo is saying. He's resolved to come out of that washroom and kill those men.
 

JennAnge

New member
May 15, 2012
86
0
0
That's...really surprising. In a world where presentation, PR and image is getting more and more important, that treatment just seems so counter-intuitive. Why do the big film studios not incentivize the multiplexes to put on a better front? Make showing critic pre-releases a juicy monetary prize that'll help their bottom line. At least for critic only releases. I know there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of critic-only pre-releases for larger movies, but with the ludicrous sums some movies spend on marketing, shouldn't they be shilling out at least a portion of that to make sure that the people who generate, oh, I don't know, at least A THIRD of the movie's eventual customers, have a glorious experience in order to get them in as positive mood as possible...? Film quality may not be something they can change, since a pre-released movie might only really be available on DVD, but effort to make sure that DVD presentation is impecable surely can be made. And questionaires sent to regular critics - 'did you enjoy the experience, yes, no explain' - 'was the cinema up to the task of making you comfortable and showing you the best experience, yes, no, explain why we shouldn't offer this gig to another multiplex' - should also help overall quality over time.

This seems so obvious that it makes me wonder. Surely some Big Studio number cruncher has already gone to town on those stats to try to figure out where best to spend marketing money. Personally I know there's only two or three movies a year that I go into virtually sight-unseen (already made up my mind before hearing critics), while the other ten to twelve I'll see, I'll only see if they seem to have good reviews. But maybe I'm in the minority and regular movie goers are more influenced by advertisement than critic reviews, and thus that's where the money goes...?

Also, not to hurt MovieBob's feelings, but is there tier to critics...? The successor to Ebert gets the premium treatment, internet bloggers get the cattle-class showing. Though with metacritic, you'd think that'd be getting democratized by now.
 

Zontar

Mad Max 2019
Feb 18, 2013
4,931
0
0
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Well, that was a slightly depressing read. Here in Montreal the demand for screenings is so high we've opened several new megaplexes over the past few years. My brother is currently working at a theatre that's been around for about 30 years now and the only complaint he has is in regards to is a few individuals he takes exception to. Though it could be that we have a more "going to a show" type mindset since our theatre and comedy scene is also much more active then most major cities on this continent (what with the world class operas and being the comedy centre of the world).
 

ChroniclerC

New member
Oct 30, 2009
21
0
0
No, it makes perfect sense. Of course the theatre doesn't care about the critics' screening, the critics, quite likely, didn't pay. Given the option between spending time on the critics' screening or spending time on all the other paid movies going on at the same time, they're gonna spend their time on the people who can ask for their money back.

And honestly, unless you had to sign NDAs or something about where you saw it, you really need to directly call out the theatres giving you a crappy experience. They aren't going to improve their quality until a (real or perceived) lack of quality affects their bottom line.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
5,499
0
0
Zontar said:
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Well, that was a slightly depressing read. Here in Montreal the demand for screenings is so high we've opened several new megaplexes over the past few years. My brother is currently working at a theatre that's been around for about 30 years now and the only complaint he has is in regards to is a few individuals he takes exception to. Though it could be that we have a more "going to a show" type mindset since our theatre and comedy scene is also much more active then most major cities on this continent (what with the world class operas and being the comedy centre of the world).
It depends too on the location and general welfare of the patrons as well. There are really really upscale theaters that do dinner and a movie (you eat 1/2 an hour before the film and sit at your table on a balcony above the normal seating) and they're managed well, staffed well and I've never heard a complaint about them yet (except that one guy who shot the other guy on his cellphone there...) but overall its a nice theater, just expensive as hell.
But a lot of the theaters in low income areas (and middle income as well) are barely holding on because despite what spin the media puts on things, the American economy is not nearly as strong as it was before 2008 and our workforce is still lower than it should be. So people spend less money on movie outings which hurts the bottom line and that means the employees are the ones hurt most by layoffs, less hours and degenerating work conditions.
 

CaitSeith

Formely Gone Gonzo
Legacy
Apr 14, 2020
5,180
168
68
ChroniclerC said:
No, it makes perfect sense. Of course the theatre doesn't care about the critics' screening, the critics, quite likely, didn't pay. Given the option between spending time on the critics' screening or spending time on all the other paid movies going on at the same time, they're gonna spend their time on the people who can ask for their money back.

And honestly, unless you had to sign NDAs or something about where you saw it, you really need to directly call out the theatres giving you a crappy experience. They aren't going to improve their quality until a (real or perceived) lack of quality affects their bottom line.
If it happens to you (in a movie you payed for) will you complain?
 

Zontar

Mad Max 2019
Feb 18, 2013
4,931
0
0
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Zontar said:
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Well, that was a slightly depressing read. Here in Montreal the demand for screenings is so high we've opened several new megaplexes over the past few years. My brother is currently working at a theatre that's been around for about 30 years now and the only complaint he has is in regards to is a few individuals he takes exception to. Though it could be that we have a more "going to a show" type mindset since our theatre and comedy scene is also much more active then most major cities on this continent (what with the world class operas and being the comedy centre of the world).
It depends too on the location and general welfare of the patrons as well. There are really really upscale theaters that do dinner and a movie (you eat 1/2 an hour before the film and sit at your table on a balcony above the normal seating) and they're managed well, staffed well and I've never heard a complaint about them yet (except that one guy who shot the other guy on his cellphone there...) but overall its a nice theater, just expensive as hell.
But a lot of the theaters in low income areas (and middle income as well) are barely holding on because despite what spin the media puts on things, the American economy is not nearly as strong as it was before 2008 and our workforce is still lower than it should be. So people spend less money on movie outings which hurts the bottom line and that means the employees are the ones hurt most by layoffs, less hours and degenerating work conditions.
Yes economics does play a large part in it all. Here in Quebec, at least in the Greater Montreal Area and the South Shore outside of it we're pretty well off. Sure there's more poverty then we'd like and we aren't as well off as Alberta, but overall we handled the 2008 crisis well and we're definitely in good economic times now. It's saddening to hear about how things are south of the boarder though, but I'm also not as surprised as I feel I should be. Don't take this the wrong way but in my travels around the US I've always felt like the economic disparity between regions was like that of the EU, where some whole countries make as much as one fifth as much per person as other places.
 

RandV80

New member
Oct 1, 2009
1,507
0
0
I think there's a major logistics issue here. For the food critic example it's literally a 1:1 relationship between the restaurant/cook and the critic. With a movie theater you need to stage a critic viewing in every major city across the continent. I've been to screenings in two different cities, the big budget movie was in a big theater while the lower budget was in a smaller out of the way theater. Didn't have any significant problems, but I guess it varies from city to city. Also considering they give out tons of comp tickets to the public it means there usually aren't enough critics to fill a theater, unless you're somewhere like New York Or LA.

I do know what you mean by the mistakes though, as I've been to a number of indy screenings where it just takes some time for them to get things to work.
 

o_d

New member
Mar 27, 2011
46
0
0
It's one of the most depressing developments of digital projection that films no longer have a projectionist to actually check that the film starts properly.
 

Fox12

AccursedT- see you space cowboy
Jun 6, 2013
4,828
0
0
I don't know, besides the subtitle complaint, which legitimately affects your understanding of the movie, I don't necessarily understand what the issue is. I don't really expect it to be a trip to the Ritz, I'd expect a person to study the quality of the movie. If the dialogue is good, the music is well orchestrated, an the acting is top notch, then you should be able to form a valid opinion. This was an interesting look into the business, though, I'll give you that.

Some of these statements have merit, but I would hardly say it's "hard" out there for a critic.
 

Grace_Omega

New member
Dec 7, 2013
120
0
0
I think a lot of the reason for this is that the movie critic is reviewing the movie, whereas the food critic is reviewing the restaurant.

Although now that I think about it, given how expensive a trip to the cinema is and how wildly variable my experience as far as sound/image/popcorn quality has been reviews for cinemas doesn't sound like a bad idea.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
5,499
0
0
Zontar said:
Yes economics does play a large part in it all. Here in Quebec, at least in the Greater Montreal Area and the South Shore outside of it we're pretty well off. Sure there's more poverty then we'd like and we aren't as well off as Alberta, but overall we handled the 2008 crisis well and we're definitely in good economic times now. It's saddening to hear about how things are south of the boarder though, but I'm also not as surprised as I feel I should be. Don't take this the wrong way but in my travels around the US I've always felt like the economic disparity between regions was like that of the EU, where some whole countries make as much as one fifth as much per person as other places.
I've traveled the states myself and seen a lot of the same issues. Hell in my home state of Florida it really depends on what county you live in, or city you're most near (and even the bigger cities are full of rot somewhere). I still love the country, just am not happy with the way its been run for years now. Too much focus on promising handouts, but no attempt to stem the ebbing tide of jobs being shipped out of the country.
Can't sustain ourselves on ideas alone, we do have to produce things here to keep up. I don't have an answer, but I feel sometimes the US needs to "close for renovations" for a bit just to let the dust settle and rebuild.
 

TheAmazingTGIF

Friday Only Superhero
Aug 5, 2009
532
0
0
I work at a theater, and not in any way that will affect you dedicated movie critic (I sling alcohol). But I often get complaints of movie quality/I complain about movie sound quality [protip: if I can hear the movie from behind closed doors some forty feet from the theater itself, it might be too loud].
The sad state of affairs is that, at least for me in a theater that is on neather coast but in a city bigger than any other in the breadbasket, the management tries to care but there is often too many other problems going on/too much change over of the management staff in any given month, to even notice anything is wrong instead of business as usual.
Also we only have 1 projectionist (for 21 screens) who works 5 days a week (also who is leaving the company for greener pastures and sweet baby Ra do I not blame him even a little) they pay him the same as everyone else (not enough). But let me tell you, the days he isn't there, the movie problems always somehow seem to double or even triple.
Somehow I doubt things will change. I get everything for more-or-less free since I work there and can very easily con my fellow employees into giving me things for free, but there isn't enough caring to go around.
I can only speak for myself, a bartender and lover of all things cinema, and I try my damnedest, but the minimum wage employees who actually contribute to your movie going experience, they might not be inclined to try to so hard, and I can't really blame them.
The movie-going experience should be better than it is, but as long as the company can get away with paying me $4 bucks and hour and charging $11 a beer, then somehow I doubt things will change at all.
 

Moeez

New member
May 28, 2009
603
0
0
Mark Kermode (UK film critic) has often talked about the death of the projectionist for years as a skill to respect.

With DVD screeners being more of a thing for critics, it makes sense for all those issues when seeing review screenings at a cinema. So I empathise.

The only time I've seen a movie outside of final cinema releases is film festivals but for some reason, every single film I've seen was on top form for presentation. I guess that makes sense as lots of critics and people will be coming over to see it, versus just review screenings for critics in smaller numbers.

Much like videogame critics, do film critics ever put a disclaimer about the state of the review copy with the bugs they encountered?
 

Darth_Payn

New member
Aug 5, 2009
2,868
0
0
o_d said:
It's one of the most depressing developments of digital projection that films no longer have a projectionist to actually check that the film starts properly.
When the deuce did that start happening?! What are movie theaters coming to when they can't even be arced to make sure the movie's running properly?