Like everyone else I was knocked flat when I saw Joel and Ethan Coen‘s No Country For Old Men on 5.19.07 at the Cannes Film Festival, and I think the venue — the cavernous Grand Lumiere — was part of the reason. The screen is huge, the projection perfect, the sound crisp and clear (if sometimes overly bassy). Plus I was in the company of a few hundred whip-smart journalists who were absorbing every line and scene like world-class connoisseurs. I was on a cloud when it ended.

Welcome to the Fairbanks screening room and stretch out.

Then I saw it again a few months later inside one of the shoebox rooms at Raleigh Studios — the absolute worst way to see a film outside of watching it with a crowd of sandal-wearing, popcorn-munching mooks at that shitty Regal plex just south of Union Square. It was still No Country For Old Men, of course, but it was like listening to Beethoven’s ninth on a tinny, ’60s-era Japanese radio. If you want to severely reduce if not nullify the impact of your movie, by all means screen it for critics inside one of the Raleigh shoeboxes — the 36-seat Douglas Fairbanks or 38-seat Mary Pickford room. (The 161-seat Chaplin theatre is, on the other hand, a generally okay facility.)

I was therefore crestfallen when I saw that the first four Los Angeles critics screenings for Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea are happening at the not-great-but-acceptable Rodeo Screening Room (10.10 and 11.3) and the deplorable Fairbanks at Raleigh (10.25 and 11.10). I’ve seen it at the Park City Eccles, the Telluride Galaxy and the Toronto Princess of Wales — big-screen venues that invite viewers to feel a film as opposed to just watching it. If I ran a p.r. company I wouldn’t dream of showing one of my client’s films at the Fairbanks, but that’s me.