Out of Focus: A Sort-Of Horror Story

Last night my parents and I went to the Carol Theatre in Chestertown, NY. None of us had seen Snow White and the Huntsman; although the film was officially released to theaters on June 1, many upstate New York theaters only show one movie per week and it apparently took Snow White nearly two months to reach Chestertown.

The theater itself is quite a nice venue. The screen is a terrific size, probably ideal for showing widescreen jewels like Lawrence of Arabia. The seats were also fairly comfortable. Unfortunately, there were certain downsides to our evening.

We knew things were going to start off weirdly when the theater’s proprietor, who sold us our tickets, informed us that there would be a brief intermission halfway through due to the old projector. There had been an incident in which the projector broke down, so to be on the safe side the theater would take a break to reload the reels (or whatever it was they had to do… I can’t remember exactly what was said).

The movie began – sans trailers, which I knew would happen because I asked beforehand – and right away I knew that the experience would turn sour. For most of that first half of the film the image was severly out of focus, so much so that the image was barely any better than if I had had my glasses off. (Believe me, I tested that theory out.) As beautiful as Charlize Theron is (especially in those great Colleen Atwood costumes, examples here and here), the effect is much diminished when viewing everything in fuzzy double vision. Chris Hemsworth’s face, which is such a strong, masculine visage, was one of the few things I thought would make the movie worth seeing; sadly, his face was obscured in a blurry haze.

Intermission time: my dutiful mother complained and after that brief two-minute interlude, the movie restarted and looked way better and clearer. The volume was also turned up on our request since the sound system is probably old too and – let’s face it – it was hard enough not being able to see the movie without having to worry about not hearing it too! (I also blame Chris Hemsworth’s terrible Scottish accent. Bad move.) Anyway, by the time the movie was over, I was ready to get out of there ASAP. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the film print itself had lines going down in several spots, besides black blurs at the top of the screen. I can’t wait to return to New York City and see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX, just to feel safe in the clutches of a great theater once more. (I shudder to think what will happen when Christopher Nolan’s latest masterwork arrives at the Carol Theatre.) Normally I would be all for supporting a tiny town landmark, but in this case I really feel strongly that digital projection – or at least a competent projectionist – makes all the difference in the world.

P.S. Kristen Stewart was OK.

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