I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Continental Theatre on 01/14/09 at 9pm.
With one notable exception, the entire experience was awesome.
After Regal's horrible pre-show commercials, general manager Mike Allen introduced the FlashBack series. He discussed the challenges of showing flashbacks in the large auditorium.
Studios sometimes balk at the idea of moving current releases from the large screen, even for one showing a week. Hopefully, Regal and the studios will continue to work together on this issue. The great movie-going experiences provided by the flashback series are good for the industry as a whole, and someday those current releases may find their own place in the flashback series. To Mike's credit, he vowed to keep the series on the giant screen whenever possible.
Mr. Allen also mentioned the growing scarcity of 35mm prints as more and more theatres move to digital, which doesn't have enough resolution to hold up on such a large screen.
After giving away a few free passes, Raiders began. The print was excellent. It wasn't perfect - there was a faint green scratch left of center from time to time, and a small bit of dirt at the reel changes. It was also a tad dark. But these quibbles are minor. The 35mm image on the Continental's 78' wide screen was transportingly beautiful.
Sound was terrific as well. Volume was perfect and the wide front soundstage created an immersive experience. Surround presence was limited, due largely to the original mix. No outside noise was heard.
The crowd of 250 was respectfully quiet.
Projection was excellent - the film was perfectly focused and framed on the giant screen... until the reel change just after the flying wing fight.
Suddenly the top quarter of the image was at the bottom of the screen. I called the box office on my cell phone and politely told them to fix it immediately. It was fixed as Indy rode his horse down the hill toward the truck. The problem occurred again at the final reel change when the credits began, and was not fixed.
I asked a (different) manager afterwards what happened. He explained that their projectionist did not splice the reels together correctly, and the print arrived too late for them to preview it for errors.
This answer really isn't satisfactory. As mentioned, these prints are very rare, and should be handled by folks who know what they are doing.
Additionally, if there isn't time for a preview screening, how hard would it be to send a projectionist into the booth every 20 minutes to monitor the reel change and make sure nothing is amiss?
If theatres want to remain in business, they must do a better job. This sort of problem does not occur when watching a movie at home.
I look forward to seeing more classics at the Continental, and trust they will strive to improve their presentation in every way possible.
Check out our Back on the Big Screen listings for upcoming screenings of classic films across the U.S., including more at the Continental.