A big reason we have darker projection today is because of 3D. Here you’ll see exactly what to look for so you can avoid making the mistake of seeing a film that’s too dark.
Roger Ebert advises that if it happens you should ask for a refund.
This is in theory very strong advice. But in reality it’s much harder to do, especially when you are on a date. Date night films usually come on the heels of having a nice dinner somewhere. Then you lift up those arm rests, cozy up together, and try not to move too much for the next couple of hours.
Asking for a refund and leaving–which is a two part combination of raising your voice at the manager, then walking away–is more hassle than it’s worth. Even if your refund is in the same theater.
Your date will think you are inconsiderate, and a total a-hole.
So I waited until after the movie to complain. When I approached the manager, who I noticed looked too young to be managing anything, I asked him (calmly, respectfully) why the picture was a tad darker than usual. Knowing the answer ahead of time helps in these kinds of situations. It provides you with a tactical advantage, if he happens to give you a bullshit answer.
“Maybe that’s just the way they shot it,” he said.
My bullshit detection light turned on. I almost told him that it made perfect sense; the filmmakers spent $50-80 million dollars to make it look dark. Of course!
I had to check his badge again, just to verify that it was still the manager in front of me.
“I think it’s because of the 3D projector,” I replied.
“It’s not in 3D.”
“I know, but it’s still a Sony 3D projector you’re using. Haven’t you had any other complaints?”
“Nope. You’re the first one.”
Translation: I’m the crazy one.
I wanted to tell him this was the film’s opening day. It would be reasonable to assume I was the first to complain. But based on his reaction it seemed very clear he didn’t have a clue about my complaint. And what’s worse, he didn’t think it was interesting enough to check for himself. He just stood there, as if he had better things to be doing.
But I looked back at the exit doors, where my date was standing, and didn’t want to stretch her patience any further. I turned back to the manager and thanked him for his time and left.
The next day, I saw the film again, in a theater I knew had better projection. Instead of feeling vindicated, I was bummed out. Why of all movies did I go see this one again? I never see movies twice in theaters. All of the little flaws of the film seemed to grow bigger. I knew Abrams was no Spielberg but this confirmed it.
There are brighter days at the theater ahead, but at ones that boast about their look and sound. The costs of a ticket are too expensive to take any risks. If the drive is ten minutes longer so be it.