Open email to Mayo & Kermode’s Film Review (BBC Radio 5 Live)

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On the 11th of May, we found ourselves in Screen 20 of our local Odeon, where I got a bee in my bonnet about the lack of black borders on-screen. I complained and was very politely responded to and was mostly happy with the way my complaint was dealt with.

But, the response to the complaint itself was less satisfying. I was informed that it wasn’t an error and that with the introduction of Digital Cinema, the black borders and the adjustment of the screen ratio has gone and will no longer take place. In the case of the film that we watched, Something Borrowed, it was presented in 1.85:1, but was projected onto a unrectified screen ratio of 2:35:1.

At this rate they will just end up projecting films onto a white wall, with zero interest in presenting a film properly.

Below is the email which I have sent to Radio 5:

“I would just like to bring this issue to your attention, though I must warn you that it is a bit geeky. But this is kind of issue that Mark may well appreciate as it involves the Digital revolution and the further erosion of traditional cinema values. First it was the removal of the velvet curtain, than actual film from the projectors, now, the screen masking.

As you know, the screen ratio is adjusted for each film by moving black curtains on the side of the screen, reducing the width from 2:35:1 (Cinemascope) to 1.85:1, etc… The black masking curtains were also used to conceal the blurring around the edge of the image as this was a problem with projecting film.

This is not a problem when projecting a digital image though and the masking qualities of the black border are now null and void. This would seem to be the basis for a major cinema chain’s decision to scrap the border all together and now they are projecting any sized image on to the full width screen which looks shoddy in my opinion.

It just seems to me that a television screen is more faithful in the recreation of the image that a cinema screen and when they’re charging just short of a tenner for the privilege of seeing a film on the big screen, this just seems to be taking the Michael! I would just like to see just a little effort given to the presentation of a film, but since it’s now just become a bums of seats exercise, I feel that it’s all down hill for the future of cinema. I can see many advantages to digital, but it seems that I can present a film to same standard if not better at home, so why spend at the cinema…? Shame…”

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