Aspect Ratios on HBO HD - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I can not for the life of me figure out why HBO reformats most 2.35:1 movies to fit 1.78:1. Not all movies, but most of them, which is even more confusing. Why and or how do they pick and choose. Well, I decieded to ask HBO this very question. What follows is the email I sent to them on Jan. 27 and the response I received on March 6.

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My email to HBO:
Why are most of the movies broadcast on HBO HD, that have an orignial aspect ratio of 2.35:1 not presented in that format?

The Star Wars films are the only ones I recall being broadcast in their proper format on HBO HD. Other 2.35:1 films recently shown on HBO HD such as Mr. + Mrs. Smith, Domino, and Jarhead have all been reformatted to fit 1.78:1 (16:9 screens). I know that many fans of movies and of HD, myself included would prefer to see the movies in their original aspect ratio. I'm sure however that if you did that, you'd have an equal or larger number of people complaining that the movies are not filling their screens.

Perhaps you could premiere the movies on Saturday nights in the 1.78:1 format and then have a OAR presentation sometime later that night or later in the week.

Thanks.

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HBOs Response:

Thank you for taking the time to write to Cinemax.

The STAR WARS series was made available on our Cinemax Hi Definition (HD) channel, but, regrettably, not every cable and satellite affiliate of our company is equipped to support the HD version. The majority of films airing on Cinemax are also available on Cinemax in HD, where available.

Scheduling information for HBO and Cinemax HD programming is available at www.cinemax.com.

We hope this information was helpful.

Sincerely,

HBO Consumer Affairs

------

I've since followed up telling them no, the information wasn't helpful at all and asking if they even read my original email. If I get back anything worth while I'll post it, if for nothing else but a laugh.
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post #2 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 05:39 PM
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wow that is the least help full response possible. Although you should have known going in that the CSR who replied to your email would have no idea why they do what they do, although I would have thought that they would at least know what you meant.
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post #3 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 05:46 PM
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HBO is under the impression that owners of 16x9 televisions prefer the entire screen to be filled and while I am not one of them.... there are a lot of them out there. I will mention that this has been a hot topic for a long time on these forums and HBo actually has gotten a lot better about offering OAR. You used to see it a LOT less than you do now.

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post #4 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 05:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by WirelessGuru View Post

HBo actually has gotten a lot better about offering OAR.

Really? I've seen absolutely NO evidence of this. With very few exceptions, HBO still has a very rabid screen filling attitude. It will NEVER change. Every single HBO subscriber on this forum could drop their subscription and their attitude will still NEVER change.

Let us never forget what could have been. The following is from approximately 1999:



"Conversation with Ralph Fumante:
How HBO is Preparing for HDTV

by Michael Zakula


Home Box Office (HBO) has embraced the concept of airing library and original motion pictures in high-definition (HDTV) format. The cable network is programming an HD channel for early adapters of the new wide-screen TV sets. As part of this commitment, HBO will eliminate panning and scanning and will display motion pictures in their original aspect ratios on the new 16:9 HDTV screens. If a motion picture was composed in anamorphic format with a 2.4:1 aspect ratio, that is the way it will be seen. The Caucus took a strong stand on this issue in 1995 in conjunction with The Artists Rights Foundation, DGA and ASC.

Our goal is to make HD viewing an uniquely engaging experience, says HBO Studio Operations Vice President Ralph Fumante, Jr. We want the audience to experience narrative films and documentaries with all of the subtleties in colors, contrast and composition that are on the original negative, because an expression in someone's eyes, the look and feel of the environment and relative positions of characters in the frame are all part of the storytelling.

Fumante notes that panning and scanning alters the director and cinematographer's creative intentions. He says that HBO Studio Productions has invested in building a state-of-the-art postproduction facility in Manhattan. The centerpiece of the post facility is two Philips Spirit DataCines specifically designed to preserve subtle nuances in colors, contrast and other imaging characteristics recorded on film. Kodak earned two Emmy® awards last year for developing and manufacturing the imaging technology that is the heart and soul of these machines.

There has always been more visual information on film than we have been able to see on TV screens, says Fumante. With the Spirits, we can convert much of that information to traditional video and HDTV formats. It makes a tremendous difference.

Following is a conversation with Fumante and HBO Studio Productions colorists, Allan Rogers and Richard Dare.

Zakula: Why is HBO getting out in front on the high-definition frontier?

Fumante: HD is a natural evolution for HBO. We have always done our best to preserve the artistic intentions of the filmmakers. Our goal is to faithfully bring the stories they tell to our subscribers. Subtleties in the quality of the images, composition and camera movement are essential elements of visual storytelling. With HDTV we can do a much better job.

Zakula: What is the current status?

Fumante: We had a very short window. HBO announced intentions to deliver high-definition television programs a little over a year ago. Very few library or HBO films were converted to HD format at that time and there was no postproduction infrastructure in place. You could have counted the number of telecines that could deliver high-definition images on one hand. We felt that the Philips Spirit DataCine was probably the only true high-definition machine at that time. It gave us exactly what we needed to air the most pristine pictures. So, we made the necessary investment in setting up a facility with two Spirits and a talented staff."
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post #5 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 06:07 PM
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HBO doesn't make HD transfers of films from other studios (at least nowadays). Of course they imply that they do and totally skip around the pan and scan issue.
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post #6 of 291 Old 03-07-2007, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WirelessGuru View Post

HBo actually has gotten a lot better about offering OAR. You used to see it a LOT less than you do now.

That's pretty hard to believe. In the last year, I've only ever seen the six Star Wars movies and Clear & Present Danger in OAR on HBO HD.
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post #7 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 04:46 AM
 
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Originally Posted by WirelessGuru View Post

HBO is under the impression that owners of 16x9 televisions prefer the entire screen to be filled and while I am not one of them.... there are a lot of them out there.

They're almost surely correct. I consider myself pretty persnickety with regard to video, as compared to the average Joe, and I prefer filling the screen rather than letterboxing, especially when we're talking about the smaller difference between 1.78:1 and 2.35:1. Sorry, but I do, and evidently there are enough folks like me, and folks like average Joe who cares even less about the persnickety details of video and OAR.
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post #8 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 06:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

They're almost surely correct. I consider myself pretty persnickety with regard to video, as compared to the average Joe, and I prefer filling the screen rather than letterboxing, especially when we're talking about the smaller difference between 1.78:1 and 2.35:1. Sorry, but I do, and evidently there are enough folks like me, and folks like average Joe who cares even less about the persnickety details of video and OAR.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I weep for you and your kind. But I weep even more so for those of us decerning enough to know a difference and yet suffer becuase everything needs to be dumbed down for a bonehead mass audience.
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post #9 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 06:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

I consider myself pretty persnickety with regard to video, as compared to the average Joe, and I prefer filling the screen rather than letterboxing

You would likely be one of the few who consider you to be "persnickety with regard to video" if you prefer crop/pan/scan presentation over OAR. In fact, I'm not even convinced that the "Average Joe" that is aware of what is lost in order to fill the screen would still make that decision.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

especially when we're talking about the smaller difference between 1.78:1 and 2.35:1.

It is "smaller" than 16:9 to 4:3 - but it still means that over 11% of the original movie is being eliminated.
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post #10 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 10:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

It [an image cropped to 1.78:1 from 2.35:1] is "smaller" than 16:9 to 4:3 - but it still means that over 11% of the original movie is being eliminated.

The loss from such cropping amounts to nearly 25% of the horizontal aspect of the image: 1.78/2.35=.757. That's a BIG loss. Still, there are people who should know better who insist that such a profound loss is worth it to avoid black bars - which all goes to show that there is no accounting for taste. Those folks should consider that the next time they watch a 2.35:1 movie cropped to 1.33:1 (4:3), which amounts to a loss of almost half: 1.33/2.35=.566!
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post #11 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

The loss from such cropping amounts to nearly 25% of the horizontal aspect of the image: 1.78/2.35=.757. That's a BIG loss. Still, there are people who should know better who insist that such a profound loss is worth it to avoid black bars - which all goes to show that there is no accounting for taste. Those folks should consider that the next time they watch a 2.35:1 movie cropped to 1.33:1 (4:3), which amounts to a loss of almost half: 1.33/2.35=.566!

A few days ago, I saw a post from someone over on the Blu-ray forum that complained about the fact that so many movies were 2.35:1 with black bars at the top and bottom. They wanted the movies to use their entire screen.

The same person, over in the LCD forum, previously complained about overscan on the TV and how they were losing 3-5% of the image around each side. They're mad about losing 3-5% of the picture area around each edge due to overscan, yet don't mind at all if channels like HBO crop 30% of the picture off their movies. Ridiculous...
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post #12 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

The loss from such cropping amounts to nearly 25% of the horizontal aspect of the image

Wow, your way is so much easier.

I thought my number seemed smaller than I remembered as the difference - but as a math major, I didn't doubt my calculations. I had a double brain fart. First, I used my theater screen as reference instead of the obvious simple formula. Second, I compared the 86.22" 16:9 width to the 96" width of my 2.35:1 screen (instead of 9' 6"). Using 114" I get 24.37% - right where you said.

I guess I've been out of college long enough that I should start referring myself as a "former" math major.
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post #13 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 04:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bfdtv View Post

A few days ago, I saw a post from someone over on the Blu-ray forum that complained about the fact that so many movies were 2.35:1 with black bars at the top and bottom. They wanted the movies to use their entire screen.

The same person, over in the LCD forum, previously complained about overscan on the TV and how they were losing 3-5% of the image around each side. They're mad about losing 3-5% of the picture area around each edge due to overscan, yet don't mind at all if channels like HBO crop 30% of the picture off their movies. Ridiculous...

Now that is truly unreal. This example should be used as the "poster child" for the absurdity of the black bar haters. But then again, they are so irrational and childish, I'm sure they will come up with some absurd rationalization to account for this.
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post #14 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 04:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

They're almost surely correct.

Really?? No, not really. HBO's decision to butcher movies occurred about Sept, 1999. That was when very few viewers had HD sets or the satellite equipment to view their HD channel. Their decision was based upon the mindset of HBO's employees who preferred a filled screen. And if HBO is so concerned about offending their viewers with black bars, why do they show some series, ie Sopranos, in letterbox (with black bars on four sides) on their SD channels?

HBO is irrational and mindless and hypocritical in their decision to fill the screen on their HD channel. Those that follow HBO's decision (ie viewers and other broadcasters) are just as irrational and mindless.
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post #15 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WirelessGuru View Post

HBo actually has gotten a lot better about offering OAR.

Really? As long as Gus Van Sant's Elephant (NATIVE 4:3) is shown in a cropped 16:9 with the top and bottom chopped off on HBO HD, I'm not buying into their progress on OAR.
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post #16 of 291 Old 03-08-2007, 06:35 PM
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I never knew the full horror of pan-and-scan until I saw Lawrence of Arabia cut to 4:3, on HBO.

57 channels and nothing on
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post #17 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 03:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

They're almost surely correct. I consider myself pretty persnickety with regard to video, as compared to the average Joe, and I prefer filling the screen rather than letterboxing, especially when we're talking about the smaller difference between 1.78:1 and 2.35:1. Sorry, but I do, and evidently there are enough folks like me, and folks like average Joe who cares even less about the persnickety details of video and OAR.

You are correct that most people seem to prefer to have their screen filled. But would a lot of them feel so strongly that they would cancel. MTV has shown letterboxed videos all tehse years without complaints.

But would it kill you if HBO offered two versions at different times? Have full frame and OAR?

And would you cancel HBO if they offered OAR on all movies all the time on their HD channels? And if you would, where would you go? HDVD and BuRay are OAR usually. So why should HBO cater to someone like you?

And did it ever bother you in the non HD days, when HBO would show letterboxed vesions of their original series? I always found it hilarious HBO would be hypersensitive for people who want wrong presentation, but then they had no problem forcefeeding OAR to these same folk when it came to their own series. Obviously it wasnt really that big of a problem.
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post #18 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 03:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by TheGigaShadow View Post

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

I consider myself firmly part of the solution. I simply disagree with you what the problem is. I believe maniacal fixation on OAR is counter-productive.

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Originally Posted by TheGigaShadow View Post

I weep for you and your kind. But I weep even more so for those of us decerning enough to know a difference and yet suffer becuase everything needs to be dumbed down for a bonehead mass audience.

Your disrespect for the majority is noted and pretty disappointing. Even when I disagree with the majority, which is relatively often, I'm no so arrogant to presume that my perspective is the only redeeming one, as you've done here.
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post #19 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 03:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

You would likely be one of the few who consider you to be "persnickety with regard to video" if you prefer crop/pan/scan presentation over OAR.

No, I consider crystal clear video to be hallmark of video persnickitiness.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

In fact, I'm not even convinced that the "Average Joe" that is aware of what is lost in order to fill the screen would still make that decision.

You're presuming that they don't understand.

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Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

It is "smaller" than 16:9 to 4:3 - but it still means that over 11% of the original movie is being eliminated.

And typically the least important 11%. Maybe when your eyes get older, like mine, you'll realize that taking advantage of all the available space is far more important to video quality.
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post #20 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 03:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Frank Stein View Post

HBO is irrational and mindless and hypocritical

Get a grip.
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post #21 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 04:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mantar View Post

You are correct that most people seem to prefer to have their screen filled. But would a lot of them feel so strongly that they would cancel.

It's not a matter of canceling out of spite (as presumably you're asserting that the small group of folks represented here in this forum would cancel out of spite if HBO doesn't present OAR as much), so much as reducing the reason to remain subscribed. The better the video is perceived by J6P, the more likely J6P will pay the $10 per month.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mantar View Post

But would it kill you if HBO offered two versions at different times? Have full frame and OAR?

It wouldn't make a difference to me. Does it make a difference to them? Remember them? They actually count. To expect them to do anything sub-optimal based on their objectives (not yours) is unreasonable.

In conclusion, I think the discussion here is pretty close to myopia. Because HBO is doing something some folks don't like, they attack HBO rather than just expressing disappointment. I find that pitiful -- pretty close to despicable, which is why I took such a strong position, to highlight how incredibly myopic some of the statements in this thread have been.
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post #22 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

And typically the least important 11%. Maybe when your eyes get older, like mine, you'll realize that taking advantage of all the available space is far more important to video quality.

Actually, my number was corrected - it is over 24%.

If you don't mind (even the "least important") 24% of the movie being lost - I still suggest that doesn't make you particular (or "persnickety") at all. Would you mind the "least important" 29 minutes of a 2 hour movie being cut out?
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post #23 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 04:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

Actually, my number was corrected - it is over 24%.

If you [biker1] don't mind (even the "least important") 24% of the movie being lost - I still suggest that doesn't make you particular (or "persnickety") at all. Would you mind the "least important" 29 minutes of a 2 hour movie being cut out?

Yeah, the fellow is a card carrying member of the Flat Earth Society, who clearly does not understand that A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. In fairness, I should note that my son, who is a home theater freak worthy of any of us here, also belongs to the anti-black bar brigade. For reasons I can't explain, he, like biker1, simply doesn't get it.
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post #24 of 291 Old 03-09-2007, 05:42 PM
 
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Get a grip.

Brilliant response. But not unexpected from a screen filler. Don't forget another "favorite" of the screen filler's mentality: "I pade fer a ful screenee telebision and I gosh dern want 2 geet whaaat I pade fer! I is smart nuff to no how a movin piture shud be shown."
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post #25 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 06:00 AM
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I would rather watch the OAR DVD over cropped HBO HD any day.
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post #26 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 06:12 AM
 
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I'm not against black bars. I'm against shrinking the video down so small that I have to sit closer to the television to see fine details clearly. I'm sorry that I couldn't afford a 70" television where shrinking the image wouldn't make a difference -- I'm sure that would make you less condescending towards my perspective. Maybe I should invent bionic eyes so I can earn my way back into your good graces.
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post #27 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 06:46 AM
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You really want the networks to eliminate 24% of a movie so people that have poor eyesight can see the remaining 76% better? Who decides which "fine details" should be easily visible to those that either have poor eyesight or a TV smaller than they would like? Even a cropped scene may not allow you to read the license plate of a car driving by - should they crop and zoom it further?
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post #28 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 06:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

I'm not against black bars. I'm against shrinking the video down so small that I have to sit closer to the television to see fine details clearly. I'm sorry that I couldn't afford a 70" television where shrinking the image wouldn't make a difference -- I'm sure that would make you less condescending towards my perspective. Maybe I should invent bionic eyes so I can earn my way back into your good graces.

Then feel free to fire up the expand mode on your TV. It sounds like your eyes wouldn't notice the loss in detail, anyway.
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post #29 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

I'm not against black bars. I'm against shrinking the video down so small that I have to sit closer to the television to see fine details clearly.

In one scenario, the fine details in the image are reduced in size a little.

In the other scenario, 24% of the image has been completely removed -- fine details, coarse details, every single detail at all -- gone.

Which do you think is the more rational compromise?

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post #30 of 291 Old 03-10-2007, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

Because HBO is doing something some folks don't like, they attack HBO rather than just expressing disappointment. I find that pitiful -- pretty close to despicable, which is why I took such a strong position, to highlight how incredibly myopic some of the statements in this thread have been.

We've had over 7 years of expressing our disappointment, only to be met with deaf ears and thinly veiled scorn from the powers-that-be at HBO. You'll have to forgive us for being more than a little fed up with the situation.

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