I have visited the theater in the Student Union on multiple occasions. Upon my first experience, I was appalled by the borderline amateur presentation, but I wondered if it was just a one-time occurrence. After two other showings, I now know that our potentially amazing theater is wasting away. I’d like to take the time to explain what the experience is like.
First, I checked out the Student Union Theater website, which claims that the latest and greatest movies in Dolby/Digital sound are shown. I was not aware that seeing Gamer in the theater at the same time it was coming to Starz on cable was latest and greatest. I also should have noticed that Dolby/Digital sound was missing, a key word when discussing a movie theater. That word is surround. Our theater, although clearly equipped with the newest technology, does not show movies in surround sound. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The movies are preceded by a trivia game consisting of questions about the film and some of the actors in it. The Zips Programming Network sponsors this, and the prizes are free t-shirts! As I, a movie trivia monster, answered two out of the three questions asked; I was the lucky winner of two of these shirts. I am a big guy, so I had to give the large shirt to my wife in lieu of the XXL size.
It was not until we got home that we were able to really enjoy the design found on the shirts. My wife discovered that her shirt had the words My life, my body, my choice printed on the back. When she turned it around and saw Does HIV look like me? we immediately turned our attention to the shirt that I had claimed. On it was an advertisement to see the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus at EJ Thomas. Cool! I exclaimed. Then I looked at the date; August 2009. Again we laughed heartily and threw our respective shirts in the dirty laundry. Thanks ZPN!
As bad as everything had been up to this point, I was not expecting the next awful surprise, although I should have. The screen at the front of the theater is a standard sized theater screen. It is large, white, clean and beautiful. To my dismay, I noticed a standard DVD player logo on the screen. Within seconds a standard DVD menu popped up. After clicking play, I almost cried. These latest and greatest films are being shown by using a Full Screen DVD, which takes up approximately one half of that large, white, clean, and beautiful theater screen.
On my first visit, I sat in the back of the theater, as I typically do at a local Regal or Cinemark. My eyes almost screamed out of my head as I tried to focus on the tiny, stretched images but at least the sound was good. On my second visit, I sat near the front and my ears were assaulted by the blast of the front speakers that clearly provide all the sound to fill up the theater. My third visit was purely for my own personal research when thinking about what to write here.
If the ZPN wants to show a DVD presentation of a film that has been out of major theater release for months, that’s fine. However, I don’t think that it is too much to ask for a widescreen DVD that actually fills most of the empty screen! Better yet, would be to outfit the theater to play 1080i Blu-ray discs! It can’t possibly cost that much for an HD projector and a $70 Blu-ray player.
My special comment to the ZPN: I realize that these movies are free for students, but non-students pay cash. If you ever want to bring in the cash-carrying crowd, you must upgrade the facilities to meet their full potential. Netflix-ing a movie at home should never be a better experience than visiting a fully functional theater. And, for God’s sake, please give away t-shirts that are relevant, and not some ancient overstock that has been festering for over a year. Patrons of the theater deserve better. The University deserves better.