THX now starring

Lucasfilm bows five-star theater rating system

Looking for five-star accommodations? Try your local movie theater.

Lucasfilm’s THX Theatre Alignment Program, which for over a decade has provided distributors with detailed evaluations of theaters nationwide, will today institute a new rating system that grades movie houses on a scale of zero to five stars.

At the studios’ request, TAP sends trained evaluators unannounced into between 10 and 400 theaters on a picture’s opening weekend. The evaluators check on everything from image and sound quality to the accuracy of print ads to whether or not theaters are adequately displaying promotional materials.

Technicians on tap

In the event of technical problems, the evaluators make an effort to rectify the problem on site or, if neces-sary, bring in a TAP technician. In any case, the distributor receives a status report within 24 hours.

“Distributors are very concerned about presentation quality, especially in the top markets,” said Tim Schafbuch, TAP director. “If anything goes wrong, they want TAP to be there to do something about it right then. They do not want to hear it from a disgruntled patron.”

While the TAP evaluation program has been available since the mid-1980s, the newly designed reports give distributors a way to see at a glance which theaters are making the grade and which are not.

Reader-friendly reports

“Now that they have the stars, I actually read the reports,” said Ted Gagliano, senior VP of feature post-production at 20th Century Fox. “It’s a lot easier to read the grades than to wade through pages of reports.”

The upgraded service, which THX has been refining over the last six months, gets its official launch this weekend with Fox’s reissue of “Star Wars.”

The rating system criteria was developed with the help of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners and distributors. Each theater begins with a base score of 100 and points are deducted based upon the relative severity of various problems. In the end, a rating is assigned based on the point score, with 97-100 points equaling five stars; 88-96, four stars, and so on.

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