Buffering Errors Have Come to the Big Screen

A screening of "The Conformist" reportedly went awry

Paris Theater
A screening at the Paris Theater this weekend did not go according to plan.
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

For cinephiles who savor watching movies on the big screen, there’s nothing quite like seeing a great film on a far grander scale than a home theater system can accomplish. Among the many reasons I’m an advocate for both watching movies on the big screen and owning them on physical media is this: with a print of the film or a Blu-ray, you’re never going to encounter a film buffering in the middle of a crucial scene.

At least, you’d think that was the case. Unfortunately, the attendees of a recent repertory screening of The Conformist appear to have seen a buffering error in the last place they’d expect to do so: on the sprawling screen of New York City’s Paris Theater.

Twitter/X user SenorMustachio went viral on Sunday when a dispatch from theThe Conformist screening struck a nerve with Film Twitter. “[J]ust walked out in the last twenty minutes because the @netflix-owned theater literally just showed their asses by streaming the Conformist (advertised as a DCP) from @PrimeVideo, when the movie started buffering on the big screen,” he wrote. “Absolute insanity.”

That included a photograph of the screen showing what sure looked like Amazon Prime’s interface and the kind of spinning wheel you might see if your home internet connection got wonky while you were watching. That the film was being screened as part of the Academy Museum Branch Selects series adds to the surrealism.

In a subsequent thread, SenorMustachio clarified his position. “I truly love movies and moviegoing. I don’t wish ill will on any of the front-facing staff at @ParisTheaterNYC who had nothing to do with the decision making here and were forced into a bad situation,” he wrote. “I’m sorry you’re caught up in this. I DO however hope this caused some great embarrassment to whomever the buck stops with at @ParisTheaterNYC and/or @netflix, who made the final decree to press play. This can’t happen ever again.”

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While digital screenings of repertory films have become more widespread, a closer look at the requirements for the Digital Cinema Package shows that theaters have anticipated steps to prevent buffering issues like this from taking place. New York’s Anthology Film Archives, for instance, requires that if a digital copy of a movie is playing there, there must also be a Blu-ray on hand in case anything goes wrong.

When Netflix bought the Paris Theater in 2019, film advocates were thrilled by the news — and by the fact that the theater would remain operational. But there’s also an art to running a beloved movie theater with repertory programming — and giving customers a better experience than they’d have at home is at the top of that list.

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