Much to everyone's surprise, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is almost upon us. One of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, many months of silence went by until a few brief teaser clips were revealed to whet appetites. And out of nowhere, a spectacular full trailer for the film arrived, swiftly followed by reports that "The Master" would play at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals this fall. And suddenly, a big bump up in release dates occurred that meant the film was only six weeks away, set to start rolling out in limited release in the middle of September, soon after the end of TIFF.
But there does seem to be something of a tiny hitch on the road to release. Anderson shot a good chunk of the film in the plus-size, hi-res 65mm format, and has been committed to showing the film, where possible, on 70mm (films of this kind are shot on 65mm, with the extra 5mm going to sound, but projected in 70mm), to the extent where the delay on festival announcements reportedly came down to whether or not they'd be able to show the film in 70mm. But Time Out Chicago report that The Music Box, the only theater in the city capable of showing the film in Anderson's preferred format, have been telling fans that the film won't be exhibited. "They're not offering it to us," the Music Box reps told Time Out Chicago about distributors The Weinstein Company's decision. "They've made other arrangements."
The good news for Chicagoans is that all hope's not been lost: reports about the situation in the city have made their way to Anderson himself (according to a source close to the director), and the director apparently "flipped out" with excitement when he heard about the Music Box, unfortunately it was too late to book the film there. But it seems to be indicative of something of a disconnect in the distribution of the film. Anderson's camp are seemingly still trying to work out which theaters in which cities are capable of exhibiting the film in 70mm — something presumably rushed along by the release date shift. And at the same time, in Time Out's words, "as the Music Box’s experience indicates, the Weinstein Company seems to be moving forward with its own booking plans."
Their source in PTA's camp suggests that the idea of showing the film as widely as possible in 70mm has met with "blowback" from the Weinstein Company's end. Presumably, Harvey & co. care less about how people see the film, and more about people seeing the film in large numbers, and it sounds, from Time Out's report at least, that there's a little bit of a clash behind the scenes here. What seems to be clear at this point is that the filmmakers behind "The Master" are keen to learn of 70mm capable theaters as soon as possible, so if you live near one or work in one, now may be the time to make your voices heard. We imagine exact release plans for "The Master" will become clearer nearer the release date, but let's hope that Anderson and the Weinsteins come to terms, and manage to get the film in front of every screen capable of showing it in the format in which it was shot when the film opens on September 14th.