Yesterday I posted an 11.8.23 complaint letter that I sent to Caroline Ross, general manager of Westport’s AMC Royale 6.

I explained that Martin Scorcese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon looked professionally illuminated when I saw it last May during the Cannes Film Festival, but when I saw it at the Westport Royale 6 a couple of weeks ago the images were “noticably subdued, a bit muddy, murky…like the sun was behind the clouds.”

I stated that the SMPTE requires that foot lamberts levels be between 14 and 16, and asked whether proper SMPTE-recommended illumination was represented upon her theatre’s screens.

Ross responded last night, and here’s the the heart of her letter: “I have talked to my head of projectors who does checks on our projectors every quarter to make sure lighting and sound is up to par. He has said that all lighting levels are set to each movie.

“The other issue might be just that our projectors are so old, but when he does his [assessments and tune-ups] everything is set correctly. I have never had a complaint or issue about our lighting levels since we do have them looked at every quarter.”

I wrote back immediately. After greeting Caroline and thanking her for replying, I got down to it:

“So let me get this straight — your head of projectors checks your ‘old’ projectors every quarter, or every three months? Right away I wondered why the projectors are allowed to collect dust for 90 days between check-ups. A monthly or bi-monthly check-up seems like a more appropriate regimen given that they’re ‘old’ and possibly in need of more upkeep or fine-tuning…no?

Evan Roberts and Jack Guild settle in at the AMC Royale 6 on Westport Avenue in Norwalk, Conn. (Norwalk Hour photo taken six years ago.)

“Your projector guy also told you that ‘all lighting levels are set to each movie.’ But how could he possibly do that if he only checks the projection standards every three months? Movies arrive and depart all the time. Some last a couple of weeks; others for a month or so.

“What you seem to be saying is that your head of projectors drops in four times a year to check things, but that he doesn’t really focus on light levels. Are you saying that he wings it or improvises to some extent? My general impression, according to what you’re telling me, is that SMPTE foot lambert standards are not really a standard that the AMC Westport Royale plex adheres to.

“Trying again and with all due respect — do you guys have any interest in adhering to SMPTE light standards? Do you generally project at levels of 14 or 16 or…what, 10 or 12 or something lower? What are your exact foot lambert standards? Where are you coming from as exhibition professionals?

“You also haven’t told me if you or your head of projectors use the kind of standard light meter that measures foot lambert levels. Do you?

“You’ve said that when your head of projectors ‘does his checks everything is set correctly.’ But what does ‘correctly’ mean in this regard? I’m sorry but you’re not being specific.

“May I please speak to your head of projectors? Would you ask him to please call or write?

“You’ve said that you’ve ‘never had a complaint or issue about our lighting levels since we do have them looked at every quarter.’ Well, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean very much as no ticket buyer ever seems to complain about anything in terms of projection. I’ve been a devoted movie fan and an occasional complainer about light and sound for decades, and I’ve found that people are generally sheep when it comes to issues of this kind.

“Only film-industry professionals and hardcore tough nuts like myself complain about sound and light levels.

Repeating: I saw the world premiere of Killers of the Flower Moon in Cannes last May, and I am telling you straight and true that the AMC Westport version of Killers doesn’t look anywhere near as good as it did at the Salle Debussy on the Cote d’Azur.

“What would you imagine the response would be from Killers of the Flower Moon director Martin Scorsese, or the film’s director of cinematography, Rodrigo Prieto…what would you imagine they would think or say if they were told that the people showing their film at a Westport/Norwalk plex don’t really address projecting issues in terms of foot lamberts? And that an AMC tech guy only tunes up the projectors once every three months?

“Please ask your head of projectors to get in touch. Thanks for responding.”

Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere

Note to AMC management: Please don’t penalize poor Caroline for sending me an honest reply. She’s a very polite and considerate professional, and is a credit to your theatre chain outside of the technical stuff.

Posted on 11.8.23:

DATE: 11.8.23
FROM: Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
TO: Caroline Ross, general manager, AMC Royale 6 in Westport, CT.
RE: Screen illumination levels


I’m Jeffrey Wells of, and I’m writing to convey concern about the screen light levels (or foot lambert levels) at the AMC Westport Royale plex, which, I’ve been told, you’re the general manager of.

I’ve been attending the Cannes Film Festival for 23 years, and when I saw Killers of the Flower Moon at the Sally Debussy last May the images were fully rendered and totally satisfactory.

When I saw Killers at the Westport Royale 6 a couple of weeks ago the images were noticably subdued, a bit muddy, murky…clearly being presented at lower-than-intended light levels. Like the sun was behind the clouds.

I had the exact same impression when I watched Priscilla there a few days ago. It was as if the story was happening inside a barely illiuminated closet or a shadowy shoebox of some kind. The images made me feel trapped. Depressed even. No one’s life has ever been this dark, not even Priscilla Presley‘s during her perverse marriage to Elvis.

I’m sure you understand that it’s part of your job to maintain proper (i.e., SMPTE-recommended) foot-lambert levels on all of your screens. SMPTE requires that foot lamberts levels be between 14 and 16.

In order to check this you need to own a light meter, and with this device you have to check the light levels without a movie playingyou have to check with just pure light being thrown on to a blank screen.

Do you own a proper light meter? Have you checked the light levels on all your screens? If so, what are the foot lambert readings? Do they meet SMPTE’s recommendations? I’d be greatly surprised if they’re between 14 and 16. As noted, the Westport Royale images are definitely subdued.

I say this knowing that AMC hasn’t employed projectionists for many years — it’s all done through some kind of soul-less computerized system.

I look forward to your reply.


Jeffrey Wells, HE