Bad Thing #1: Early this evening a young Latino couple was looking at the digital lobby board inside Hollywood’s Arclight plex. The guy walked forward, got into line and turned to the girl. “You wanna comedy? Or…what, action? A comedy?” The girl half-shrugged, seemed a bit bored. “I dunno…whatever,” she said. He shrugged also, turned back to the board. Those clayheads, I thought to myself. Forget glancing at Rotten Tomatoes. Forget wanting to see The Immortals or Breaking Dawn. They hadn’t even talked about the kind of film they might want to see. Empty Coke bottles.
Bad Thing #2: I couldn’t resist slipping into theatre #10 to see what was up with the projection of The Descendants. There’s always something a little bit wrong with the light levels or the sound at a commercial plex. (Moneyball looked like hell when I caught it at Manhattan’s Lincoln Square last September.) Sure enough, the center-channel sound was weak and the dialogue was soft and thin, almost whispery. The Hawaiian music from the right and left channel was louder.
I went out to the lobby and told the manager that I’d seen The Descendants three times before — in Telluride, Toronto and at the Academy theatre on Wilshire — and that the sound was perfect each time. The manager tried the old “tilting the head slightly to the left or right” routine but otherwise he listened and nodded. “And I’m going to tell Fox Searchlight and Alexander Payne about this,” I said. “You have to take responsibility for what you do or don’t do. People aren’t really hearing the film that Payne made.”