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Would the digital revolution have given Hamlet 2 a happy ending?

Steve Coogan and Elisabeth Shue in Hamlet 2.
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Digital distribution of movies, as opposed to the use of old-fashioned film and projectors, is the wave of the future -- and as noted in this July 2007 Message column about Centennial-based National CineMedia, Colorado is primed to be at the center of this revolution. Right now, however, we're still in a transitional stage -- and a screwed-up screening of Hamlet 2 this past Sunday at the Regal Stadium 16 at Colorado Mills proves that neither method is perfect.

Of course, Hamlet 2 isn't, either. The film, starring British comic Steve Coogan as a talent-challenged drama teacher trying to save the theater department by creating a twisted musical sequel to Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, has all the ingredients for an amusing flick save one -- enough funny stuff to keep the audience laughing on a consistent basis. Still, the whole enterprise might have been rescued if the climactic title play proved hilarious enough to compensate for the middling material that preceded it. And maybe it was -- not that my family and I had the chance to find out for ourselves.

Right as this sequence was about to begin, the film abruptly stopped unspooling, the lights in the theater came up, and "First Look," the pre-show infotainment package beamed in by National CineMedia, began squawking. Over the next ten minutes, several people, including me, headed to the lobby to ask what the hell was happening without receiving a satisfying answer. Then, finally, a theater employee came in to explain that a reel had completely popped off the projector unit and it would take so long to repair that they probably wouldn't have everything fixed until shortly before the next screening. "It was almost over anyhow," he added, as if that made the situation better instead of worse, before handing out re-entry passes to the approximately thirty people in attendance.

"When we go to digital, we won't have to worry about this kind of thing, because we'll be pulling everything off of a hard drive," the staffer pointed out while dispensing the tickets. But projecting everything remotely is no guarantee of flawless performance. Indeed, the aforementioned "First Look" feature didn't work properly either before or after the main show started; the audio sounded sans video. If that had been the case with the feature instead of the advertising, the crowd would have been pissed off, too.

Looks like neither digital nor celluloid can guarantee a happy ending. -- Michael Roberts

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