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Report: Solo's murky look the fault of projectionists, not cinematography

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Jun 1, 2018

Solo, while not living up to its main Star Wars story competitors at the box office, still didn’t get bad reviews. But something that was consistent among most reviewers was complaining about how dark the film was. But, by doing a little theatrical shopping around, it’s possible to find a theater where Solo looks incredible. How? Differences in projection.

Bradford Young’s cinematography has the potential to make Solo the realistic, dark-and-slimy appreciation of lowlifes that the smuggler’s tale deserves. But when that low-light gamble is put into the hands of projectionists accustomed to automation at large movie theater chains, things can go wrong fast.

That’s why a bevy of film critics complained about the differences in projection on Twitter:

Bilge Ebiri, who saw the film at Cannes Film Festival and a stateside Regal, was stunned by the difference. Saying Solo is a “great-looking movie if you can see it properly,” the critic bemoaned the “flat, dim projection” he got at a New York theater -- one that’s likely representative of the audience experience across the country.

Why? If the projector is even a tiny percentage too dim, the movie becomes a world of shadow without detail or nuance. Everything is lost in a fog. And, since most theater projectionists deal with automated projectors (sometimes projecting 2D movies with 3D optics, which can lead to enormous light loss), the know-how is missing, so these tweaks aren’t made.

This likely won’t scare off other cinematographers from shooting blockbusters in more ambitious ways, but it should serve as a warning for film fans to seek out these films from theaters that pride themselves on their quality.