Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, November 18, 2021

So you pay your ten bucks to get into the movie theater, and you plop down all prepared to enjoy a cinematic thrill.

Then the movie starts, and it’s all out of focus. Wrong lens being used.

No problem, you think. People in the projectionist room are working to fix it, probably. It’ll be fine in a couple of minutes.

Or more. Or more. Or, more.

No, this didn’t happen to me. But it did happen to Steve Persall recently, and the lack of grace or competence at the multiplex says a lot about why people are opting for their home theaters instead.

Neither of the two AMC employees I spoke with - a surly young man who didn’t appreciate my complaining and a manager whose first words were “I’m not in charge of the screening” - knew what an aperture is. I’ve since learned that AMC employees go through a training program ironically called PicturePerfect to learn projector operation. Perhaps a remedial course is in order.

“We also have a program called GuestFirst that all associates must complete before working at an AMC theatre,” spokesperson Melanie Bell said in an apologetic e-mail. “The fundamentals of GuestFirst build the foundation for our company’s mission: To provide guests with the best possible moviegoing experience.”

Okay, maybe a remedial course in that, too.

Incorrect apertures aren’t the only problems moviegoers face in theaters, and not only AMC venues. Over the years I’ve heard numerous readers’ complaints about blurry focus, dim projection and blaring or inaudible sound systems. (We could add expensive snacks and a lack of supervision of talkers and cell phone users, but that’s another column.) Occasionally someone will wonder how movies costing millions can allow boom microphones to be seen hanging over actors’ heads, or subtitles to be obscured.

Granted, Persall’s column had a healthy dose of bitchiness in it. And this isn’t the first time he’s written basically this same screed; I have a feeling it’s reliable fallback material for him. (Then again, that he can amass so much material on the subject pretty well proves his point.)

The only thing movie theaters have going for them is timeliness and environment. Timeliness is being eroded more and more, as studios opt to release DVDs sooner and sooner; most people have no problem waiting four measly months to catch that iffy movie. That leaves the environment: The expected thrill of going out to to catch a flick. It needs to be presented as an experience, as pleasant as going to any entertainment venue (like an amusement park, or shopping mall, etc.). If it’s not, and in fact becomes an ordeal, it means you aren’t going to draw squat. There are only so many must-see-right-now blockbusters out there, and they aren’t enough to keep the projectors rolling all year.

I said this experience hadn’t happened to me. I hope it won’t: I’m going to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the film setting for Persall’s travails, tomorrow. Different theater, though. Crossing my fingers.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/18/2005 06:35:04 PM
Category: Movies, Business | Permalink | Feedback (5)

amped up
With all the hoopla about cracking down on steroids in baseball, Gary Shelton nails it when he notes that such focus on a “fasionable outrage” only deflects attention from a more serious Major League drug problem: The rampant and institutionalized use of amphetamines.

Two years ago, Gwynn suggested that as many as 50 percent of position players used amphetamines to get ready for games. Chad Curtis, the former Yankees outfielder, says the number is 85 percent. Caminiti said there were only one or two players per team who didn’t take them, who “played naked.”

Day games after night games. West Coast games after East Coast games. Stadium lights after hangovers. There are a lot of reasons players say they “bean up” before games for that three-hour burst of energy and focus. Some of them, the stories go, would rather play without pants.

“Guys feel like steroids are cheating and greenies aren’t,” Gwynn told the New York Times.

And there’s part of the problem. Even as steroid usage became rampant, the abusers knew enough to hide it. Rules or not, they knew they were cheating the game.

Even though amphetamines are illegal without a prescription, the situation is different. Players have openly joked about them for years. Back in 1969, Jim Bouton filled Ball Four with one-liners about greenies kicking in. Tug McGraw and Bill Lee wrote about them. Dwight Gooden and Wells, too. Rose admitted taking them. A court case showed the ‘79 Pirates used them heavily.

Amphetamines are often described as “baseball’s dirty secret,” but really, they haven’t been secret at all. They’ve merely been tolerated. There has been a general indifference as to their use, as if amphetamines are somewhere between taking two Advil and having a strong cup of coffee.

The NFL tests for amphetamines, as do the NBA and the NHL and the Olympics. Baseball never has. In baseball, it often has been a bigger disgrace for a player not to take amphetamines than to take them, and sometimes, it seems the key statistic might not be a batting average but a dosage. Turns out, this might be real Green Monster in the game.

It’s comical to try to divine distinctions between one illegal substance and another based on effect. Amps and steroids juice you up in different ways, but they still provide an “artificial” boost.

But then, the culture of athletic optimization is such that the line inches upward all the time. Hypercaffeinated energy drinks, and even coffees, are part of the crest of this wave. At some point, the classifications will be such that you’ll be able to buy the equivalent of “greenies” at a 7-11 (if you can’t already).

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/18/2005 06:17:31 PM
Category: Baseball, Society | Permalink | Feedback