Movie Theaters Are Being Ruined Because Of One Awful Thing They Refuse To Get Right

Movie theaters are commonly skipping out on the proper screen maintenance it takes to show a good-quality film.

By Robert Scucci | Updated

movie of the year

An unfortunate reality in 2023 is that going to see a movie in theaters has become an expensive endeavor that isn’t as satisfying as it used to be. A recent Vulture article blames this lack of quality on how theaters are using projectors these days, stating that the quality of the picture is suffering because of budget constraints, lack of technical know-how, and overall negligence on the part of theater operators. This faulty projection issue is further compounded by the fact that a lot of newer films are following the trend of shooting much darker than they used to be.

One common issue that movie theaters are experiencing is that the projector technicians are forgetting to remove the 3-D filter from the projector on 2-D films, which darkens and distorts the picture for moviegoers. We don’t want to throw projector operators under the bus, however, as they are highly skilled technicians who know how to troubleshoot and make your movie-going experience satisfactory. A big part of this issue is that a lot of multiplexes are automating the process, leaving the projector duties to theater management, who are spread too thin in the form of running concessions, ripping tickets, and overseeing other movie theater operations.

It’s no mystery that movie theaters are trying to do things on the cheap. The COVID-19 pandemic severely hurt their bottom line; Regal’s parent company recently filed for bankruptcy, and AMC has experienced similar financial turmoil. Projection Specialist Jack Theakston weighed in on the cost of maintaining projector bulbs and said, “a xenon bulb will darken over time because it builds up soot on the inside of the glass. I’ll walk into a booth and see flashing red lights on the back of a projector, but they’ll just run it until it burns out.”

movie theater audience

While a single bulb costs around $1,500 to replace, one can’t help but wonder where their money is going. After all, a trip to the movie theater for just two people who want snacks and drinks will cost upwards of $50. If you want to take your family to a movie theater, you pretty much have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy a couple of hours of big-screen time.

As streaming at home is becoming more and more popular, we can’t help but wonder if this is the last death rattle of the movie theater. Films these days have shorter runs in theaters before being available at home, and AMC knows this. It’s no wonder that the theater giant is starting to sell movie theater popcorn for home consumption because it knows it’s losing money, in part by not properly maintaining its screens.

If you’re frustrated by the lack of picture quality in movie theaters, just know that projector technicians are with you on this. Projector technicians take great pride in their work, but they can only do so much if they’re not being provided with the proper equipment to do their job. Imagine clocking in for a busy shift as a food server only to find out that management threw out all the forks and plates and said, “figure it out.”

While we’re holding out hope for movie theaters to be revamped with the proper equipment and operating procedures, the big issue is the bottom line. Movie theaters took a massive hit during the pandemic and likely don’t have the funds to improve the quality of their pictures. Look on the bright side, though! If you’re an avid moviegoer and skip out on just a handful of showings, you’ll be able to afford a new 75-inch television for your home.