Indie Theaters Scramble to Screen ‘Interstellar’ in 35mm and 70mm

Indie Theaters Scramble to Screen 'Interstellar' in 35mm and 70mm

Christopher Nolan has been vocal about his support for film, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when Paramount and Warner Bros. said they’d release "Interstellar" two days early (starting November 5) on 70mm, IMAX and 35mm. Then, on November 7, the film will open wide in 4K and IMAX digital screenings.

READ MORE: Christopher Nolan Fights the Future: Will Debut "Interstellar" Early on Film

"To see Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on the big screen is an unforgettable movie going experience," said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures, in a statement. "From IMAX to traditional film and digital projection, we are pleased that audiences will have the opportunity to see this awe-inspiring film in a wide variety of formats and we are very excited to be making the film available two days early for moviegoers."

Ironically, earlier this year, Paramount became the first studio to stop sending film prints out to theaters.

Paramount lists the theaters playing the film in various formats (IMAX 70mm film, 70mm film, 35mm film, IMAX, 4K digital, digital) on its web site. But while film purists are thrilled, many theaters have expressed annoyance with the plan which, in some cases, means reassembling their 35mm or 70 mm projectors — or missing out on the early audiences flocking to see the buzzed-about film.

Some theater owners are miffed at the mixed messages Hollywood is sending — first, they are pressured to convert to expensive digital projection systems and now they must scramble to outfit their theaters with 35mm or 70mm projection systems (you can see where the film is screening in various formats here).

"This devalues what we’ve done," Joe Paletta, CEO and founder of Spotlight Theatres, a small chain in Georgia that recently went all digital, told The Hollywood Reporter. "I can’t afford to get the projectors out of the warehouse for two days, and I don’t even have anyone to operate them." 

However, a handful of independently owned theaters around the country are seeing the return to film as an opportunity to reassemble their projectors and draw audiences.

Nick Kuechler, the manager at Portland’s Cinemagic Theater, said he recently spend a few days cobbling together a "new" 35mm projector "with the best pieces from different theaters." But as a former technician, the job was a pleasure and Kuechler is confident it will pay off financially.

"By giving 35mm a couple of days to open early, it’s not a gamble," he said. "Even people who don’t care about the format will want to see it. For a couple of days, we’ll be one of the only places in town to see it. At the very worst, we’re not going to lose any money."

READ MORE: Theater Owners Say Early Release of "Interstellar" on 35mm and 70mm Devalues Digital Push

In fact, Kuechler thinks the opportunity to screen "Interstellar" in 35mm is "pretty cool. They gave us a way to justify it financially, beyond it being a little pet project."

His projector is now in "to stay," said Kuchler, although he added that "I don’t know how often I’ll get to use it." 

Other small theaters are scrambling to assemble film projectors and, in some cases, are seeing it as a way to "eventize" the movie even further, even going so far as to post videos of their print preparations on YouTube. Willow Creek Cinemas Twelve in Minnesota posted on YouTube that they are "honored" to be opening "Interstellar" on 70mm and shared the below to showcase some of the preparations they’ve made to screen the film.

READ MORE: Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Judd Apatow Lead the Charge to Keep Film Stock Alive

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Film is dead as the dominant distribution medium for movies. However, it will continue to live on in archival screenings and special events like this one. Considering the nearly complete transition to digital, I’m not sure why some people consider the continued existence of film to be so irritating. Digital has won, but there a significant number of cinema lovers, both inside and outside the industry, who treasure the opportunity to experience movies in their original medium.


I truly give a shit.


Film is as dead as a frigging doormat. This dopey publicity stunt is just that; a publicity stunt. Even the IMAX theaters that are in regular multiplexes are not true IMAX theaters. They are two Christie projectors side by side, thus doubling the amount of light reaching the screen giving the ILLUSION of greater resolution. Oh yeah, the sound is superior, but that’s about it. So (in NYC, Los Angeles, etc.) you are paying $20.00 a ticket for an IMAX-Lite presentation. Do fans truly give a shit? Of course not, so enjoy.

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