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Film’s Not Dead Yet: See The Master in 70mm

Image from The Master
It's another discouraging week for fans of celluloid, as word from Japan is that Fujifilm will stop making movie film early next year due to a general lack of demand. (The Japan Times reported that the company plans to take final orders from studios worldwide, and then cease production in the spring.) But film fans do have something big to look forward to — director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, the first narrative feature shot in 65mm in over a decade, opens today in a handful of 70mm engagements.
The new Samsara by nonfiction filmmaker Ron Fricke (Baraka) was also shot in 65mm, but no 70mm film prints were struck — only 4K DCPs. In a note to viewers, writer-editor-producer Mark Magidson calls this "the best possible viewing experience," a claim that film purists will, no doubt, dispute. But Anderson is reported to have pushed hard to identify theaters that can still show 70mm prints, entice them to book the film in 70, and (not least of all!) convince distributor The Weinstein Company to make enough prints to service them. 
As a result, if you're in the New York or Los Angeles areas, you can go see The Master, right now, in a glorious 70mm print. Starting next Friday, September 21, the film will expand to 70mm theaters in Austin, Texas, Boston, Seattle, Oakland, CA, and Silver Spring, MD. Check the list of 70mm engagements at the P.T. Anderson website to make sure you don't wander into a 35mm or DCP screening by mistake. (I was a little bit crushed to read that the Esquire Theater in Denver, where I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm some 20 years ago, is no longer able to exhibit 70mm, leaving Denver with no 70mm theaters at all.)
If you ask me, this is a little bit amazing: the opportunity to see a brand-new film photographed and projected on 65/70mm film stock at a time when the whole industry is making a wholesale transition to digital acquisition and exhibition. It won't be quite as good from a pure quality perspective as watching the IMAX 15/70 sequences from The Dark Knight Rises on a gigantic screen, but, knowing Anderson, the aesthetic experience will be quite different.
It's one of our best filmmakers working with some of the finest analog technology available in a digital age — how many more chances will you have to see something like this? If you love the old-school texture of film images, and if you live anywhere near one of these vanishing 70mm-capable theatrical venues, you owe it to yourself to make it to this one.


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  • Michael P. Smith

    Pretty sad that the industry has totally embrassed “digital projection” vice the
    high resolution of film. The upcoming generation of film buffs will lack this
    wonderful experience.
    MPS Washington, D.C.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think digital overall is the issue, it’s that the industry skimps on resolution, 2K is still dominantly the standard and a lot of movies are now sadly limited to that resolution for various reasons. It’s also that a considerable percentage of cinemas are technically inept when it comes to digital projection.

      I think all options should be kept open for shooting and editing a movie: film/digital, 16mm/35mm/65mm/IMAX Film/2K/4K/5K+, various aspect ratios, colour/B&W, 2D/3D, photochemical/DI etc.

      But I think digital archival and digital distribution/projection is brilliant as long as it is done at considerably higher resolutions.

      Archival should be done at roughly 3K for 16mm, 5K for 35mm & 8K for 65mm; all uncompressed with high bit-depth obviously. Of course, in the case of content shot on film, original elements should also be looked after for as long as possible.

      As for cinemas and projection, many really need to pull their fingers out and train up the projectionists better for digital and all projectors should be capable of 4K at the minimum.

  • http://twitter.com/TirNaNog3 Tír-Ná-Nóg

    Kodak, now Fujifilm. Those were the days. Here’s looking at you kid!

  • AniMajiik

    It’s a sad day indeed. It’s the end of an era.

  • Alice Ericson

    Film isn’t dead. Kodak is still making billions of feet of it. GM filed for bankruptcy and they were the number one car seller in the world shortly thereafter….. Fuji only had a small portion of the market. It is true that this market is much smaller, but it isn’t gone. AND THE MASTER proves why. Film will be a choice for filmmakers in the years to come. If you are an artist, don’t let them (studios) take away one your tools for expression.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not a question of movie theaters not being able to show 70mm film anymore, it’s that they don’t want to show 70mm films. Projectors can always be rented, but theater owners have to balance the cost with potential profits.

    Also, anyone who hasn’t seen a 70mm movie actually filmed in 70mm should go see it. It may be the last time to see what a 70mm movie looks like.