Alright fellas and ladies. Let’s talk film. 70mm film.
In December, me, a co-worker, and a friend went to watch the Hateful 8 Roadshow event, in Glorious 70mm. The show was only showing in one theater in New York City for the chain of movie theaters I work in. It was hard to get in, but we finally did. The first thing we noticed was that the theater had adjusted the screen by taking off the scope walls (the adjustable black curtains that adjust to the format of whatever film is playing). This was done to accommodate the 70mm, since normally the theater couldn’t handle the extra widescreen. It was great because the film (instead of digital) projection gave an old-school feel to the movie that you can only get this way. If you’re a fan of OLD westerns and would love to see how it felt to watch a film back in the days, this is the way to do it. However, that’s not what did it for me.
Although this was what I hope becomes more then a once in a lifetime experience for me, it wasn’t the scope of the 70mm film that left me in awe. It was the Roadshow event aspect of it that was unique. I’ll explain.
Looking at the picture above, can you see the difference? The picture on the right is what you get with 70mm, and the picture on the left is a 35mm picture. This is most likely what your local theater has. 70mm is clearly better then regular film, and it’s hard to find 70mm films to watch but when you do, they’re well worth it. However, Quentin Tarantinos 70mm show would later be released for wider distribution in regular theaters. So is there a point to seeing the film in 70mm? Most people would say yes, just for the experience, but some would say no.
Do you see the middle square on the above picture? That’s what most theaters would be getting to see. The outside is what you’re getting if you see the film in glorious 70mm ultra-widescreen Panavision. As you can see, you get way more in the frame and it looks wider and gives way to much more composition in the shot. Not to mention the movie looks crisper and more colorful. However, if the movie is being released widely afterwards, then what you’re getting is just more negative space you’re not paying attention to since the director still has to shoot with what the 35mm theaters will be showing. As a result, the 35mm theater viewers will be seeing the same story, just without the extra scenery which will not give you any extra information (as it would be unfair).
Secondly, there’s IMAX. While 70mm is beautiful, there’s a reason it hasn’t been around. Since 70mm Ultra-widescreen film is harder to portray due to lack of theaters that support it, a lot more films come with IMAX, since it supports digital theaters and looks as crisp. This gives almost the same feeling that the 70mm does, specially if you’re watching a Christopher Nolan film for example, in which some scenes are shot with 70mm IMAX film. While ultra-widescreen is different and interesting to look at, IMAX 70mm can show you even more, and can be transferred to 35mm by just shrinking and cropping a little bit, giving the viewers almost the same experience in small theaters when it comes to visuals.
This is another example of the difference, while 70mm is not there, you can see there’s less to crop. Hateful 8 gave me a great experience, and when I went to the smaller theater to watch it again, it definitely made a difference in my mind. However, it didn’t make a difference because of scope, but rather because of the experience of the event.
The Roadshow Event
The picture above is a theater showing the beginning of Hateful 8. Instead of trailers, you get this for about 20 minutes with some reading material. This contains a bit of trivia about the film. It tells you about the production and struggles the film went through to be made, filming locations, the director and where he came from, the characters, the cast playing them, and other crew and equipment used. This is the main detail that makes this a unique experience, more so then the scope of the film.
As you read through the pages for a short time, You can just look at the pictures of Tarantino filming his scenes, The pictures of the characters, complete with biographies and the plot of the film, you become more excited to watch it. Once you put the small pamphlet/book down, you can look up and see the scope of the theater and just listen to the music of the film. This familiarizes you with the music in a way that is unexpected, as you can feel the tension of the music and picture the scenes in your head before you even watch the movie. Then the film starts. It makes you hear the music and listen in more to it as you’re watching the movie. It makes you appreciate it more (Even though it’s already great without an overture before it.)
Finally, just at the right moment, Samuel L. Jackson’s character looks at the camera and the screen faded to black. The word Intermission showed up and people stood up, stretched, went to the bathroom and went out of the theater for refills. It took about 15 minutes before the film started again. Quentin Tarantino narrates us through what just happened, and mentions it’s been 15 minutes. It immersed you into the story even more as you spent 15 minutes doing whatever you were doing. It might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, when this part comes in the regular version as I watched the film in a smaller theater, I wished the intermission was in there as later it started to feel like it was dragging a little more. But the best part was missing. In the Roadshow event, those 15 minutes felt like they actually passed in the film when I actually had to wait for it to restart while I went to the bathroom and got more soda and popcorn. It was a great addition.
Finally, when watching in a smaller theater something felt off as it seemed the beginning started off earlier. Then I realized the film had certain small scenes and shots that were cut out for the regular version. This made sense, but I definitely missed the scenes which were missing as some beautiful shots were left in, but some beautiful shots where also cut out. They have nothing to do with the story, and didn’t affect the pacing, but it was noticeable enough to make me glad I went to the Roadshow event. This also made me feel like the event was more exclusive. It’s the type of shots you’re never gonna see again because they were cut entirely out for wide release, making you feel as though you saw something you couldn’t have seen otherwise.
When I left the smaller theater I still loved the film, but I was thankful for going to the Roadshow event. Since it was an option, I even kept my pamphlet they gave me going into the film as a souvenir. It’s my reminder of the experience, and like I said, I hope it’s not the only one like it.
After a couple of weeks, I couldn’t help but think:
Why don’t more modern films do this in digital theaters? In 2014, Producers in the Round Table interview for Hollywood Reporter said it was harder to sell tickets for theaters, due to the fact that it was needed to make the film seem like more of an event then just a film premiere. I believe if this was done, specially for IMAX films, it would make it more of an event. More people would show up if you said a “Special Roadshow” version of the film would be shown for the first few weeks. The shows would still be digital IMAX, adding an intermission, souvenirs, and extended scenes that would not be seen until the film came out in home releases, in the special features rather then on the film itself. I think we would be more excited to watch these films earlier as it would seem more exclusive and eventful. Maybe even more memorable. The big films and larger releases would see a lot more money in the first few weeks in IMAX theaters everywhere. I know I would definitely throw myself at them after what I experienced with Hateful 8’s Roadshow. I definitely thought of films this could’ve happened with after leaving the theater. Imagine, for instance, having the same experience with Interstellar or Inception. Wouldn’t it be much more worth the amount of money we pay for a ticket today?
Did you watch the Hateful 8 Roadshow event? What do you think of it? would you like to see some more Roadshow events for different films? Can you think of any specific ones you wish were shown that way, thinking back? Either way, It’s an event I crave to experience again as a film enthusiast.
Thanks for reading!