i wound up with tickets to see two films in the festival that were advertised as newly restored. to me that implies that a major appeal of seeing these films is that the prints will look and sound as good as they possibly can.
well, the parting glances print was very grainy, which is probably because it was blown up from 16mm, and the sound was awful,far worse than it is on the dvd that's been available for years. so maybe whoever did the restoration was using the optical track from a 16mm print? or maybe the sound at the museum theater sucked. if it's the former, that's not the festival's fault, but the experience i had last night at planet of the apes makes me wonder...
showing at the union theater, which is a very nice if very old theater at the memorial union, i got to planet of the apes and decided to sit up front, until i sat down and realized there was absolutely no leg room, so then i moved to the first row of seats in the upper orchestra, behind the SOUND BOARD, where there was ample leg room. i started wondering about the presence of these elaborate sound boards and auxiliary speakers that seemed present at all the screenings i'd been to so far. were they there for the movies themselves or just for the introductions being made before the movies?
anyway after a brief and awkward intro by some festival worker, at which point i noticed a young woman with huge old style headset on working the sound board, the movie started. and with chuck heston's first speech aboard the spaceship, i noticed a startling half second to second delay echo effect, which rendered the dialoge almost impossible to decifer. the print itself looked pristine. after about ten minutes of this i decided maybe the sound was so bad because i was sitting under the balcony overhang, so leg room be damned i made my way back up front to the third row. up front the sound was just as bad and i was able to discern that indeed there was a decent size delay between the speakers underneath the center of the screen and the speakers onstage to the right of the screen.
at the half hour mark, the screen went black and the lights came up, and an announcement was made that they were only working with one projector and there would be reel change downtimes throughout the screening.
i took this opportunity to approach the young woman who was still sitting at the soundboard with her oversized headset/headphones.
i asked her if she was doing the sound for the movie or just the announcements and she said she was doing the movie. i told her that there was a delay between speaker channels that was making the movie sound like a muddled mess, and didn't she notice that?
she said she hadn't because she was wearing her big headphones, and she asked me a few questions about what i had heard and what i thought the issue was and she said she'd see what she could do.
so i went back up front and the movie kicked in again. i sat there for a good ten minutes while absolutely nothing changed.
she didn't seem to be trying to do anything. i never heard any of the speaker channels turn off or get louder or softer or anything. then i just gave up and went home.
now ok, maybe she's just a volunteer not getting paid, but if you're going to commit to manning a sound board, and you're gonna sit there til 130 in the morning doing it, don't you think that sometime in the first half hour of a movie you would check to see what it sounds like in the theater???