A Hard Day's Night
“Do you think it will be a 35mm nitrate print?” five-year-old Winnie Lickona joked while en route to Reading Cinemas Grossmont Theatre for last Sunday morning’s presentation of A Hard Day’s Night.
“Oh, Winnie,” laughed her seven-year-old sister, Therese. “They stopped using nitrate film in 1948. I’d be happy for a fine grain print on Kodak stock.”
Do these kids know their emulsion or what?
“Now, now, girls,” my voice of reason chimed in while hanging a left into the parking lot. “35mm film is deader than the split-reel. What awaits us is a sparkling 4K restoration to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary.”
The friendly ticket-taker pointed us in the direction of theatre 5. “I thought you said it was going to be in the big house, on the 60-foot screen,” snapped Winnie.
“Don’t cry, honey,” Therese said wiping away her younger sister’s tears. “This is opening weekend for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and the theater is contractually obligated to run it in the two biggest houses. Do you understand?”
“I guess so,” sniffled Winnie, as the alligator tears quickly ceased to flow. “Can we have popcorn and root beer?” she asked by way of consolation.
Concessions all around! After a brief pre-show pit stop at the little girl’s room, we took the hike to the back end of the complex in search of #5. Once settled, the girls began surveying the surroundings. “Good crowd,” Therese noted after taking a cursory headcount. “Betcha there are 200 people here. Not bad for an old movie at 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning. The Ken should try it.”
“Stop the music,” Winnie glowered from behind tightly folded arms, her eyes staring a hole through the screen. “The masking is set for 1.85:1, not 1.77:1, the way Mr. Morris shot it.”
“Calm down, Winifred,” I whispered. “There’s sure to be a little black on the sides once the feature starts.”
There wasn’t. Nor was it a 4K presentation. It didn’t take more than a second after the single most recognizable opening chord ever filled the theater for Winnie to notice something was off. “It’s a....” Her jaw froze.
Therese, queen of the obvious, screamed, “It’s a Blu-ray! A stupid Blu-ray!”
She was right. I don’t know what angered me more: the inferior format or that a seven-year-old beat me to the punch.
“Do something!” demanded Winnie, as though there were a state-of-the-art DCP copy tucked in my back pocket. “For the money you spent on concessions,” she continued, “you could have bought the Blu-ray! Look how grainy that looks — like it was shot through sandpaper!”
“Let’s get outta here,” Therese said.
And go where? There was nothing else playing that was suitable for kids, and this child sure wasn’t going to sit through How to Train Your Dragon 2.
“Look,” I offered, “we either tough it out for 87 minutes or go home and be forced to converse with one another.”
The Beatles: A Hard Days Night Original Film Trailers
Therese voted to sit tight. Winnie asked if there were free refills on the concessions. “Affirmative,” I nodded, while rising to fetch another silo of corn and two 700 oz. root beers.
I arrived home and hit the MacBook with fingers flying to alert the Reading rep of this grossly unacceptable lapse in purity. The rep asked that her name not be used. Let’s call her Moella.
The phone rang first thing Monday morning. It was Moella with some news. In Reading’s defense, they had assumed that since it was getting a theatrical re-release, their theaters would be showing a state-of-the-art 4K, not home video writ large. My email comments were passed on to Reading Cinema’s Grand High Exalted Mystic Leader. My kvetching, combined with solid numbers at the box office, were enough to buy the film an additional one-week run, this time of the restored DCP, at the Gaslamp starting Friday, July 18.
If Therese and Winnie’s approbative chatter on the car ride home is any indication, it’s a terrific film to bring kids to. And if what I hear about the restoration is true, this time it’s going to look better than ever before. See you there!