Movie Theaters Are Leaving 3D Lenses on for 2D Movies, and It’s Making Them Worse
Believe it or not, it’s possible for the mere presence of 3D movies in theaters to make the more numerous 2D offerings look worse. According to a very good investigative report from The Boston Globe, it’s relatively common practice for theaters that use Sony’s 4K digital projectors, which need an additional 3D lens in front of the regular lens when 3D movies are playing to allow for the polarization effect that makes the 3D image possible, to simply leave the 3D lenses in place when playing 2D fare through the same projector.The result, which the article says affects Regal, AMC, and National Amusements theaters: A dramatically darker picture, sapped of color.
So why aren’t theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.’’ The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.’’
Even more insidiously, some movie theater employees say that this isn’t just a matter of oppressive DRM stumping projectionists, but that it’s official, albeit unspoken, policy to leave the dimming 3D lenses in place for 2D films: Said one, “If we knew a house would be opening ‘Harry Potter’ and it wasn’t going to be 3-D … I would ask them to swap the lens out and it would either go nowhere or come back with a negative from the regional technician, usually with the impression that it came from above.’’