By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Sep 08, 2006 at 9:07 PM
Let me just say, I love the Oriental Theater. It's one of my favorite places in Milwaukee.  It's a beautiful treasure on our East Side, and a wonderful place to watch a movie.

Just not tonight.

I attended the 7 p.m. showing of "Little Miss Sunshine," and within five minutes of the start of the film, I noticed something wasn't quite right.  The audio was loud enough, but was completely devoid of bass. In fact, it sounded so tinny that I felt like I was listening to the movie through a cordless phone. Or perhaps under water.

For the first time in my movie-going experience, I got up to see what was going on, because frankly, the audio quality was miserable.

I politely asked the ticket taker if he knew if anything was wrong with the audio at tonight's showing.  He said, "Uh, yeah, I think the Dolby sound is broken. You might want to talk to a manager." He pointed me to a woman behind the snack bar.

So I asked the manager if she knew what was fishy with the sound. She confirmed that the audio system had been broken, and yes, they knew about the problem.

As I listened to her explanation, another couple suggested we all ask for a refund.  "I can give you a refund," the manager offered.  "But not if you sit through the whole movie first."

Well, I said, I'm already here, so I'm not particularly interested in leaving and going to another theater.  "No one else is really complaining," she said, getting back to making popcorn.

My last ditch attempt to reason with the manager seemed fair enough: "Couldn't you have told me when I was buying the tickets that your sound system was broken?" She just sort of shook her head.

So, giving up, I went back into the theater.  I think the movie was really good, but it was hard to tell, since I could barely hear most of the good lines.  And the worst part is that I had pondered going to see the movie at one of the Marcus chains, where the video and audio would have been top notch. But we picked the ambience, for the same steep price tag.  And in doing so, we sacrified quality, and unfortunately, any semblance of customer service in a highly competitive industry.  I hate to say it, but next time, I might think twice where to spend my cinema dollar.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.