1) We're not talking about cropping your master file of the video! This is a purpose bound encode for use with specific displays.
2) Many could care less how it was "meant" to be seen, they have their own ideas.
3) Many portable screens are too small to waste space on black borders and most of the movie's action happens close enough to the center of the image, that the tradeoff is easily worth it.
4) While some Video players or Televisions do a perfectly good job of 'zoom + crop' to fit without distortion, a lot of them don't.
5) It reduces the overall image size to that part which you actually need, allowing better quality at lower file sizes for portable use.
So, why is Windows Media Player Classic perfectly capable of properly zooming and cropping video to fill the screen without distortion, and Video encoders are incapable to do that without a LOT of fumbling?
On Media Player Classic, I just hit one menu option, 2 clicks! that's it - perfect every time. No black bars, no distortion. What is the magic that Handbreak and everybody else, including Xmedia, Freemaker etc can't duplicate?
Is it only cause they have the attitude of "oh why would you ever want to do that? It wasn't meant to be seen like that."
Did they not think that people will create different files for different devices as needed?
As for watching a movie in 2.4:1 or such, unless you spend a LOT of cash on an overpriced, comparatively small, specialized TV from Philips or some other rare bird TV, you're stuck with 16:9 like everybody else. You can call 16:9 arbitrary and contrived all you want, but that's the display ratio we got on Televisions, Computers and mobile devices (excluding a few Apple devices). That pretty much makes it the standard, and any other ratio is just as contrived, even if they created them over the years to account for various technical issues for shooting and distributing films.
So, given that 16:9 is the de-facto standard for 98% of all displays consumers have access to purchase in 2012, shouldn't that warrant a specific one-click zoom+crop setting that actually works? Programmatically, it can't be that hard: zoom to fill the screen vertically, then cut off left and right excess.
Handbreak's controls actually look like the program could actually do that at least with a few clicks, choosing the aspect ratio and setting crop. But it doesn't work, I have to use manual settings every time if I want it to come out correctly.
Freemaker offers a "Zoom + Crop" feature with no manual settings at all. I thought: oh, nice, they will automatically zoom and crop to the resolution and aspect you've chosen.. but no. It doesn't work at all, black bars remain.
EDIT: You might be tempted to answer: "oh, its difficult cause there are so many different aspect ratios even on BD films." Then, if its so difficult, why can Microsoft's Classic Player handle it every time?