HBO airplane edit

When you watch a movie on an airplane, you’re not going to get the best quality version of the film. Airplane edits tend to remove scenes and squish the frame down into a letterbox-like format. This might all make sense for a flight, but when you sit down to watch a movie at home, you’d expect a higher level of quality. Yet HBO appears to be airing airplane edits of certain films for some inexplicable reason, and directors Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Peter Atencio aren’t happy about it.

No one wants an in-flight movie experience from the comfort of their own home, but that’s apparently what HBO is committed to giving their subscribers. Despite having the money to acquire top-tier entertainment, HBO has been airing airplane edits of certain films, and Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts would like it to stop.

Vogt-Roberts called out HBO for playing Skull Island in this compromised format, and questioned the premium cable channel as to why they would make such a decision. And if you were thinking this was a simple goof on HBO’s part, it wasn’t: they’ve done it before. After Vogt-Roberts voiced his concerns online, Keanu director joined in and said the same thing had happened when HBO aired his Key and Peele cat comedy.

Vogt-Roberts went on to ask if Atencio managed to have HBO rectify the problem, to which Atencio replied in the negative.

Vogt-Roberts was understandably frustrated about all of this, since HBO was presenting his film in the least-desirable way possible.

Again, the question is: why? Why would HBO willingly play an inferior variant of a film when they could easily play the director-approved version? It seems to boil down to sheer laziness, or perhaps indifference, on HBO’s part. HBO has a history with aspect ratio issues: the channel decided to remaster their series The Wire, which was originally shot in standard definition and a 4:3 ratio, with less-than-desirable results.

On his siteThe Wire creator David Simon said that HBO approached him about remastering the show to fit “new industry standards.” Simon was open to the idea, but he assumed he would have some sort of creative input in the process. Instead, HBO went ahead and reformatted the series without his advice. The problem: since the show was originally filmed to fit a 4:3 ratio, the remaster to 16:9 changed many shots and scenes for the worse. As Simon put it, “[T]he new aspect ratio’s ability to acquire more of the world actually detracts from the intention of the scene and the composition of the shot.”

Perhaps the lesson here is that HBO either doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care. Feel free to catch the airplane edit of Kong: Skull Island as it airs on HBO this month. You can pretend you’re on a plane as you watch it!

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