Watched Distant Thunder at Lincoln Center. Digital projection, digital print contained French subtitles so English subtitles were layered nearly halfway up the frame and were largely out of sync. French subs were better also so I was distracted by trying to half read those. The film was okay, but who knows considering the terrible viewing experience.
Moving forward, we’d love to include details on projection specs: digital versus celluloid, 16mm versus 35, restored versus archival. But it’s actually a lot more cumbersome than it may sound. We currently compile our listings from press releases and program calendars wherein that info is indicated only when it’s a selling point: New 35mm Restoration! The Most Complete Reconstruction Since Its Original Premiere! We could blanket-email publicists with our queries, but there are a lot of problems there:
- (1) It means tons of additional work for us and, uhh, we have day jobs.
- (2) Publicists aren’t necessarily appraised of the technical specs on any given series and likely won’t enjoy the headache of emailing their programmer about every projection. As there are limited amounts of goodwill in this world, we’d like to spend ours wisely.
- (3) Alt Screen has a week-plus lead time for compiling the showtimes for any given calendar day. But theaters often discover that prints can’t be projected (because of missing or non-English subtitles, deterioration of color stock or soundtrack, excessive scratches, frame jumps and jitters, etc) within a few days of the first projection–very often during the first projection. And since announcing a last-minute DVD substitution isn’t going to help any venue lure in an audience, theaters would have no vested interest in keeping us appraised. So it seems to me that no information is better than unreliable information.
The most likely possibility is that we’ll limit future inquiries to the daily Editor’s Picks. That wouldn’t be too hard. We could also indicate that information wherever it’s publicly available, but that would mean the listings weren’t formatted consistently. There may well be some radically efficient way to gather this information online, some wiki-wonder to be engineered…or maybe not.
In any case, you should totally contact us about any sublimely beautiful or unwatchably bad prints you’re exposed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We love getting emails from you. Seriously.
[Frame enlargement from Bruce Conner’s A MOVIE, 1958]