My Favourite Film of 1941.

Film The only occasion I saw Citizen Kane in an auditorium was in screen six of the then newly refurbished Odeon cinema on London Road in Liverpool.

For a period they decided they were "fanatical about film" and in order to somehow demonstrate this, they decided to run a series of repertory screenings during weekday afternoons and one week that included a print of Citizen Kane. My guess is it was on tour from the BFI although I can't easily find any evidence of this.

Having already watched the film a few times, I still wanted to see it projected and having enjoyed  The Blair Witch Project (despite the booing of fellow audience members) which had been presented in its correct aspect ratio was pretty hopeful Kane would receive the same treatment.

It wasn't. Soon as the film began with the top and bottom actually being project on the ceiling and floor of the screen with the middle of the image on the screen, I knew I was sunk.

There were about ten people in the screen (an audience which explains why these screenings were discontinued pretty quickly) and no one moved.

I did. I ran to the back of the screen and out the door but there was no one around and the long walk to the foyer would have meant missing a whole chunk of the film.

So I slunk back in my chair and watched it as is. At a certain point an usher did visit briefly but not long enough to notice that anything was wrong even as Orson Welles's artificially bald pate disappeared off the top of the screen. Greg Toland designed the look of Kane to highlight the ceilings. On this day it didn't matter.

Afterwards I went to the box office to complain. The person at the counter didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Just suggested I filled in a comments card, which I did with many forceful words, then asked to speak to the manager.

After explaining the business to the manager I was still met with a blank face. The manager who didn't understand anything of anything I was saying to them, of aspect ratios and matting and ceilings, said simply that it was "projected in that way because it was how the film had been supplied to them" and that was that. They did give me a refund, so there is that.

Fifteen years later (at least) (I don't quite remember when this incident happened), I wonder about the extent to which this has changed.

Apart from ITV and some of the minor freeview channels, films tend to be presented in their correct aspect ratio on television and in streaming services.  99.9% of the time this is also true of blu-ray or dvd (even to the point in some cases of preserving IMAX sequences and cutting between the two).

The Grand Budapest Hotel, a hugely popular film, even plays around with aspect ratios as it portrays different time periods.

How much has this educated audiences to aspect ratios and the importance thereof?

I don't know.  Kane's an old film and the academy ratio is rarely utilized in film now apart from in artsier cases.  Plus it requires the viewer to know which ratio a film was originally shot and edited in and even as such works are pillar boxed on widescreen televisions, do people really know how that should be replicated in cinema screenings?

I tend to be so attuned to this that I can usually tell if a film's been cropped for television to fit the 16:9 frame but it doesn't seem to bother others.  It's perplexing.

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