- Hey there everyone,
I came across this recent article from Box Office Magazine about Ebert and
Roeper's appearance at ShoWest 2002, and since the topic was about
exhibitor performance, I thought all of us here who love movie palaces might
appreciate some of their sentiments (Roger's on OUR side, guys!).
Hope you all enjoy it!
Day 3: EBERT AND ROEPER
Chicago Film Critics Ebert and Roeper Review Exhibitor Performance at
ShoWest. Uh Oh.
By Francesca Dinglasan
"Originally we came here to criticize trailers," renowned film critic Roger Ebert
told delegates attending the Wednesday afternoon event at ShoWest, "but
the studios wouldn't give us [any] trailers."
A safe decision, it would seem, on the part of Hollywood. After all, while the
trademark thumbs-up from the pair can mean extra box-office bucks for a
given film, a much dreaded thumbs-down from the reviewers, most famous for
their television program "At the Movies With Roger Ebert and Richard
Roeper," can equally result in a notable downturn in interest for a particular
What Ebert and Roeper said they would offer instead to convention
attendees were their opinions and suggestions as to the elements necessary
to create the ideal moviegoing experience, or as Roeper phrased it, what
would go into the "Ebert and Roeper multiplex."
"Sometimes it's disheartening that the worse thing about the experience is
the [actual] movie," said Ebert.
Ironically, though the afternoon's proceedings had been dubbed "Ten Things
We Love About the Movie Theatre," Ebert and Roeper's sharp wit and cutting
remarks were more appropriate to a list of "Things We Hate About the
Cinema." However, that same criticism that had been so feared by the
studios was so engagingly and humorously delivered that many exhibitors in
the audience felt the event to be the highlight of the entire convention.
Roeper's first targets were the lighting and climate control of theatre
auditoriums. He noted that sometimes auditorium lighting had not been
dimmed enough, interfering with the audience's ability to see the onscreen
picture, while the air conditioning always seemed to be cranked to its coldest
setting. "We're not slabs of meat," he joked.
For Ebert, the disappearance of the nation's movie palaces and glorious
single-screeners is one of the major tragedies of today's exhibition business.
"Save the really big screen," he urged ShoWest delegates. Noting that he
understood that the lack of business driven to a theatre with just one
auditorium was a major factor in their demise, he underscored the true
pleasure of viewing a film on an immense screen. "Around the country, really
big screens are being lost," he remarked.
Also on the two critics' list of changes to be made in an ideal world was the
idea of senior staff members always being present at a theatre. "I would like
to see a higher level of staff, in terms of managers that are there," said
Roeper. "On a serious note, if someone in a theatre's acting up, it would be
nice if someone [with a level of authority] was there...so that you don't have
to act as your own cop."
Ebert added that an experienced or senior-level employee would also be
more likely to understand problems that sometimes arise regarding the
quality of screen presentation. "I get letters complaining about the boom mic
[being visible during a film screening]," he said. "It would be nice if [staff
members] who know what 'framing' means are onsite."
A dditionally, Ebert took the very unique stance of advising theatre operators,
"I'm going to ask you not to rush headlong into digital cinema." As the first
voice in a long time at any exhibition convention to come out supporting
celluloid over digital projection, he stated, "Hollywood has not spent one dime
studying...how digital images enter the human mind."
"There's a theory that people enter a hypnotic state when watching video,"
he explained. "It gives a different experience [than watching film]....When you
replace celluloid, you may be giving [movie patrons] an experience that they
didn't know they'd be getting."
Quite passionate about the issue, Ebert said that when the inevitable
conversion to digital took place, people were "going to lose celluloid magic."
What people would get instead, he insisted, were images that would be
"cold, but technically perfect."
Other suggestions proposed by the two critics included ensuring that the
projection bulb is turned up, as "diminishing it does not preserve the life of
the bulb"; bringing back Saturday morning "kiddie shows," which Ebert
believes "will get kids into a moviegoing habit in a good way"; and dedicating
a few auditoriums in a multiscreener to art or specialty fare, or as Roeper
described it, to put "the word 'multi' into multiplex." "The same [major
Hollywood release] plays over and over again [on different screens in the
same theatre]," he observed. "We envisioned and hoped that there would be
space for films like 'Memento.'"
Additional recommendations were implementing a "no kids policy" because,
noted Roeper, "Sometimes parents can't be trusted not to bring kids" to films
inappropriate for them to watch, and offering a healthier variety of
concessions. "Is it possible to sell anything at the refreshment stand that
won't kill?" asked Ebert.
Widely applauded by ShoWest delegates was Ebert's vocal abhorrence of
cellular phones and his plea for "cell phone blocking" in theatre auditoriums.
Conventioneer enthusiasm for Ebert's suggestion, however, seems more
theoretical than practical, as evinced by the countless Nokia and Motorola
chimes that continue to ring at ShoWest events.