Many Theaters Ripping Off Moviegoers With Dark Projection

This Sunday's Boston Globe had an illuminating piece of investigative journalism about a lack of illumination. Ty Burr, a well-respected reporter and film critic, did a story on several Boston area movie theaters who are projecting 2D digital movies with an unneeded, special 3D lenses still on the projector. This makes the 2D film look up to 85% darker than the projector is capable of simply because it takes time and effort to remove the 3D lenses for a 2D show and theaters won't do it. It's a fascinating and infuriating study, which we'll give you the highlights of after the break.

While we'll highlight many of the main points and arguments here, you have to head over to and read Burr's full article. It's simultaneously interesting and maddening.

Here's the deal. As you all know, most theaters are beginning to convert from film projectors to digital projectors, largely because of the recent boom in 3D and it helps save the studios money in print costs. Sony is one of the leading makers of these digital projectors and several theaters, instead of buying new projectors, simply took free ones from Sony in exchange for running some ads. The Sony digital projectors play movies in both 2D and 3D, the only difference being a special lens goes on the projector to create polarization for 3D. However, the report states that many theaters do not remove the lens from the projector when showing a 2D movie because it's a difficult, time consuming process. So, when you see a digital screening of a 2D movie through one of these projectors with the 3D lens fitted, the film is significantly darker than the filmmaker intended and you are not seeing a proper projection of the film.

Burr spoke to several theater owners and executives and no one would give much of a comment on the issue. Several projectionists, though, anonymously commented, saying that the theaters simply don't care.

Is this happening in your theater? Burr offers a simple test to find out:

If you're in a theater playing a digital print (the marquee at the ticket booth should have a "D” next to the film's name), look back at the projection booth. If you see two beams of light, one stacked on top of the other, that's a Sony with the 3-D lens still in place. If there's a single beam, it's either a Sony with the 3-D lens removed or a different brand of digital projector, such as Christie or Barco.

As digital technology continues to grow, this is going to become an increasing problem unless the moviegoer starts to complain.

For more quotes, stories, examples and details on this story, again, we highly recommend reading the original piece which you can see here.

When you head to the movies in the future, do this test and report back here. Is your theater ripping you off with an inferior product?