Hugh Grant found Joker to be “unendurable.” However, it isn’t for any reasons you might be thinking of. Grant found the controversial movie to be too loud in the theater, which is a common complaint these days. If it isn’t the loudness as a whole, it’s the dialogue being much too quiet and everything else being ridiculously too loud. So, is Grant getting old like he thinks, or are movie theaters engaging in their own loudness wars like the music industry?
“Am I old or is the cinema much too loud? Unendurable. Pointless,” said Hugh Grant on social media, while tagging the U.K.’s Vue Cinemas. The company promptly reached out, thinking it might have been an isolated incident, but the many replies to the actor’s original tweet agreed with him. Vue responded by stating that they, “regularly checked to ensure they comply with health and safety standards.” This is a common practice in theaters all over the world, especially with sound technology getting better by the day.
Dolby is leading the sound revolution in theaters and they point out that theater size, audience size, and other outside factors can have dramatic effects on the sound. Obviously, a giant theater with nobody in it is going to cause some slight reverb, but not enough to really damage anyone’s ears. A spokesperson for Dolby had this to say.
“While a scene may be perceived as loud, these are brief moments and well within the industry standards. An area that can be confused with loudness is when we feel discomfort: this could be loudness or distortion. Distortion is when a sound system was not appropriate for the size of room it is installed in and at peaks causes distortion, which is objectionable to a listener.”
Distortion is one thing, but these theaters are equipped to handle this kind of volume, so there should not be any distortion at all. For the most part, Dolby recommends theaters keeping their faders on 7, which is roughly 85 decibels, depending on the theater. 85 decibels is the equivalent to a loud restaurant, heavy traffic, and a lawn mower. Anything over 85 decibels for a prolonged amount of time can damage our ears, but even action movies aren’t pumping that high for the entirety of the feature. Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Association explains.
“(Cinema Association) has required cinemas to work with equipment manufacturers to ensure that the standard settings on systems keep maximum sound levels within acceptable parameters. These are typically recalibrated on a weekly basis.”
So yes, theaters might be too loud at times, but it might very well have to do with age. There are many different variables, but the more sophisticated the sound systems get, the more the rooms have to be recalibrated for the new technology, otherwise it’s pointless. The same can be said for home viewing when the dialogue is at a whisper, but the score and explosions are unbearable. You can check out Hugh Grant’s Twitter response below.
Am I old or is the cinema MUCH TOO LOUD? Unendurable. Pointless. @vuecinemas
— Hugh Grant (@HackedOffHugh) October 5, 2019