The weekend has arrived and those dating are most likely headed out to dinner and a movie, but they don’t know where to sit in the theater. Most know to avoid the first few rows and some will make sure they don’t end up in the back of the theater unless they like being remote. But few know, for which seats the director designed the movie.
Theaters range in size and shape and follow the rudimentary formats prescribed by the National Association of Theater Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America. These formats are based on screen ratios and the projector’s “throw” of light based on lumens, curvature of the lens and the screens’ reflective material.
Let’s make it simple…
Without trying to figure out the complex formulas to determine seating placement, a well-designed theater will provide good seating about two thirds of the way back from the screen. Unfortunately that’s based on typical screens being about 20’ X 47’ and the theater having a total depth of… Nope, let’s keep it simple.
Have you ever attended the rehearsal of a stage show? Did you notice that the director always sits in a specific place? Or, how about at a concert venue, did you notice where the mixing board is located?
Microphone jacks are typically placed in the ideal location for the director to plug in his headset or microphone in professional, university and high school theaters. This gives him the closest view of the stage, while still being able to see the entire stage. If he moves closer, he can’t get the big picture. If he moves further back, he can’t focus on the detail.
In film, the same rule of thumb holds true. When a director is viewing his final mixed film, he is seated based on the screen location and surround sound speakers. Even in the mixing room the director is positioned in the ideal location and makes all the decisions based on that spot.
When the show releases to the silver screen the ideal location is about 2.5X the screen height back from the movie screen. If you select a seat in that location, you’ll notice surround speakers directly to the left and right of you. The entire movie was created based on those seats. Any other point of view changes the impact of the film.
For instance, if you don’t like horror films you can sit in the back to diminish the surprise factor and reduce the emotional pull on your heart. If you enjoy rollercoaster like action films you can move closer to the screen to keep your head moving and help your stomach churn your latest meal.
Regardless of the screening room size, you’re safe sitting 2.5X the screen height back from the screen in order to see the film as the director designed it.
© 2017 by CJ Powers
CJ, How can we know where 2.5x screen height is?
Should we be buying a laser guided measuring tape?
I’ve sat at a point in the modern theater where I’m looking straight at the screen. My head is level so that only my eyes need to make slight adjustments. This position is approximately 6 rows up from that walkway most theaters have. And it’s in the middle of my row.
Not scientific but it’s a great view and sounds fabulous.
Sounds like a good process that you’ve worked out for yourself.