Your recent piece on inept screenings of old movies reminded me of a couple of horrific screenings I have been to.
I once saw The Third Man where the projectionist couldn't understand the Academy ratio of the film so expanded the picture so it filled the width of the screen. This caused the top of the picture to be projected onto the ceiling of the cinema and the bottom to spill over the first few rows of the stalls with only the centre of the picture hitting the screen. This had the effect in medium shot of everyone having their heads cut off, or in close-up just showing their nose. Needless to say it was money-back-time.
But even worse because it was my local art house cinema I saw Hitchcock's '39 Steps' expanded from academy to widescreen with the resultant distortion. When I complained they told me it was the new digital projection and they couldn't alter it. But the really scary thing I was the only one that did complain. Oh the sad lonely life of a suffering film buff.
All the best
Retro responds: We all have similar war stories, Mark. When I was working in a theater during my high school days, we had a very old projectionist named Mandrake who tended to doze off inside the locked projection booth. One time he didn't wake up in time to start the main feature. The theater wasn't in the best area and the local populace began screaming. The theater manager and I kept pounding on the projection room door...Startled, the projectionist awoke suddenly and presented The Valachi Papers without remembering to bring back the curtains. Thus, the entire first reel was shown on the curtains themselves. This Mandrake was no magician!- Lee Pfeiffer