Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Criticwire Survey: 35MM Exhibition

Q: In a post at, Aaron Aradillas decried the fetishization of 35mm film exhibition, which he argued "creates divisions where there really shouldn’t be." How important is it to you to that movie shot on film be seen the same way, and given that that 35mm screenings are increasingly rare in most parts of the country, is it possible the stance that you haven't "really" seen a movie until you've seen it on celluloid does more harm than good?

I actually worked at one of the first movie theaters in Canada to have a digital projector – and we would literally get people drive for a few hours to see movie projected that way – which I guess made some sense when we were one of the only places capable of projecting Attack of the Clones the way Lucas intended it to be – but no sense at all for most movies – which at the time were still mostly shot on film. From then one, I’ve always been of the opinion that a film should be shown on the format it was made – film for film, digital for digital. Which means the vast, vast majority of modern films should be shown digitally, because that is how the filmmakers made the films, and intended them to be shown. I will make the effort to see films shot on film projected that way – I did with The Master back in 2012 – but the sad truth is that it really isn’t an option most of the time. I may well have to see Inherent Vice digitally projected – and the chances are Quentin Tarantino’s 70MM film set for next year, The Hateful 8 – which also be projected digitally almost everywhere. And the choice between seeing these films projected digitally or not at all isn’t really a choice at all – I’m seeing them. I wonder about the much ballyhooed two day early release of Interstellar on 35MM only – as most theaters in Canada have tickets available for the first week of its run, and so far only four – three IMAX, and one regular – have show times for November 5th. I’m sure there are more theaters capable of showing 35MM films than that (I know the Lightbox for example can show just about anything) – but so far it seems like a rather thin list.

Besides, I really don’t think there are too many purists like Quentin Tarantino out there – those who claim that they would retire if he couldn’t shoot on film, and digital projection is nothing more than TV in public. I think many prefer film to digital but few would go as far as he would. The truth is that the debate between film and digital isn’t really a debate anymore – digital won. While I still believe that films should be shown the way the director’s intended them – either through film or digital projection – but seeing things on film is really more of a luxury than a necessity – something we should treasure and preserve yet isn’t really necessary for the medium to survive.

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