When House 1's digital install is done, Kornfeld plans to hold a special screening one morning where he does an A/B comparison between analog and digital versions of one or more films. The presentation will be painstaking and, he predicts, devastating. He says it will run three hours and prove once and for all the inferiority of current digital formats to a picked audience of specialists, industry insiders, and critics.
But Kornfeld's professional fate, in the end, is to do the best he can with tools he hates. The good news is that he plans to make a go of it with the Christies. He's determined, in a gloomy kind of way, to make them look as good as they can.
Not all projectionists are so dour. Veteran Brooklyn Academy of Music booth ace Mike Katz offers a gloom-free perspective on the stresses imposed on the profession by the digital shift. "The passionate ones hang on. They acclimate," he told me in a phone conversation from his booth at BAM, where he heads both film and digital projection. "Regardless of the technology, we're still watching movies. We're still allowed to escape."
Katz recently screened one of his favorites, the 1952 western High Noon, on digital and says it looked better than any of the several 35mm prints of the film he's shown over the decades.
Full disclosure: I'm a real-film nut like Kornfeld, and sometimes it's hard for me not to be heartbroken by these changes. But either I don't have his eye (I definitely don't have his eye), or maybe I'm just an optimist, but I've seen a few digitally projected movies, and I thought some of them looked pretty good. Bogart-at-the-Brattle-in-the-'80s good, MIND-BLOWING good? No, not yet, not to me. But good enough to get lost in, good enough to get carried away by? Definitely.
One of these days, maybe even David Kornfeld will learn to stop worrying and love the bomb. Or not. Either way, I'll still be taking my family to our neighborhood cinema, the Somerville Theatre, for film — and digital — glad to have him at the helm.
Chris Marstall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.