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35mm Projection is at Risk. Does That Matter?

35mm Projection is at Risk. Does That Matter?

The obituaries have already been written for the book, the movie camera, and, yes, film. Business research firm IHS just released a study projecting that, as of next year, there will be more digital-projection screens than 35mm projection screens in the US.

We’ve known it was coming for some time now, but it still hurts the purists among us. 

Julia Marchese, writing for the New Beverly Cinemas in Los Angeles, has started a petition online to request that the studios not go through with their plans to stop sending archival 35mm prints out to repertory cinemas.

She says in the petition:

I firmly believe that when you go out to the cinema, the film should be shown in 35mm…We still use a reel to reel projection system, and our projectionists care dearly about film, checking each print carefully before it screens and monitoring the film as it runs to ensure the best projection possible. With digital screenings, the projectionists will become obsolete and the film will be run by ushers pushing a button – they don’t ever have to even enter the theater. 

The human touch will be entirely taken away…Revival houses perform an undeniable service to movie watchers – a chance to watch films with an audience that would otherwise only be available for home viewing. Film is meant to be a communal experience, and nothing can surpass watching a film with a receptive audience, in a cinema, projected from a film print.

Marchese goes on to say, the theater has “never been about making money,” but the costs of sending out prints and managing the archives seem not to be making sense for the studios, especially when the number of theaters doing repertory screenings is diminishing.

Marchese’s petition isn’t the only recent plea for film; those in London can visit the Tate Modern to see film artist Tacita Dean’s 11 minute ode to film as a part of the festival’s annual Unilever installation, where one artist gets to take over the museum’s Turbine Hall.  Dean’s stunning series of cinematic portraits make an argument for the primacy of film.  Here’s a beautiful video from the Guardian, where Dean explains how she crafted her film:

But this is what we’d like to know: When you watch a movie, how much does its delivery method matter to you? Is there a difference between a film that’s downloaded to a server vs. one  that’s unspooled on a projector? Do you have a preference?

Readers:  What do you think? Is 35mm film and projection worth saving?

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