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Make no mistake about it: when you see a film at an AMC Theatre, chances are you are not getting the full picture.

Case in point, auditorium #9 at AMC Mission Valley. The masking was set to 1.85:1 when I arrived for last week’s screening, an odd ratio for a big summer blockbuster, most of which are filmed in widescreen 2.35:1.

It’s no secret that AMC has a nasty habit of blowing out the image so patrons will never witness so much as a trace of black at the top and bottom of the image. To make matters worse, the Sony projectors they’ve installed have fixed focus and aspect ratios, making it impossible to adjust the picture from show to show.

How can you tell? If there are subtitled sequences in a film, you will never see the second row of dialogue. In the case of last week’s film, the opening sequence was a mockup of television news footage. Only a hint of the crawl at the bottom of the frame one associates with most TV news providers was visible.

Danny Baldwin, film writer and San Diego’s patron saint of digital projection, actually put in a call to AMC Fashion Valley a few years back when they held a press screening of the subtitled Iranian film, A Separation. They brought in a technician to rectify the problem for the presentation, successfully avoiding what would have been a farce in Farsi.

There was more bleeding off the borders during last week’s presentation than you’d find during the opening scene from Carrie, and God only knows what aspect ratio it was presented in. Before the show, the top masking dropped slightly, but the image ratio remained fixed at 2.2:1, not the prescribed 2.35:1, meaning that a lot of visual information was relegated to the nether regions of the frame.

This isn’t HBO where you pay for the privilege of watching HD prints of ’Scope films presented in a fixed 1.85:1 ratio. Hire a technician to spend a day at AMC Mission Valley removing the cropping on the digital projectors and put the entire film on screen. Start with auditorium #9 and work your way up.

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Comments

Javajoe25 June 2, 2014 @ 7:45 p.m.

Ha! You must be dreaming, Scott. You actually think those dip-stick half-wits at AMC give a flying puck what the customers see on the screen? That's like going to McDonald's and telling them how you would like your hamburger cooked. Keep dreamin', Baby. Half the time, they don't even know if the film has actually started, or if the sound is even on. It's A-M-C, Scott -- "Always Messed-up Cinema." 18 or 20 possibilities. What a choice.

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Javajoe25 June 4, 2014 @ 1:42 a.m.

No law against dreaming, Brother. That's what cinema is anyway, isn't it? Celluloid dreams? (Yea, I know--digital dreams, now) It would be nice if AMC became more aware.

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Charles_Edmund June 24, 2014 @ 11:40 p.m.

Both AMC MV and FV are probably the worse offenders when it comes to cropping. I remember a long time ago... back when MV was doing a weekly showing of classic films.. going to see Citizen Kane. Oh boy, there were more decapitations on screen than an episode of The Walking Dead. I immediately complained and the response I received was "Yea, it's supposed to be like that. We cropped it to fit." Supposed to be like that?? I was going to respond, but with a response so asinine I thought why bother trying to explain. Got a refund and haven't returned to AMC MV since.

The one and only good memory I have of AMC MV is it's grand opening 1995 when they had Charlton Heston on 20 screens and in person signing his book "In The Arena". It was an honor meeting the man and having him introduce "Planet of the Apes".

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