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The Music Box's Julian Antos talks about projecting 'The Hateful Eight' in 70mm

Written by
Michael Smith

When Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight opens in a handful of theaters on Christmas Day, it will be presented in a special "Roadshow" version that screens in the technically superior but nearly obsolete 70mm format. The film's wide release, which will occur one week later, will screen mostly via digital projection (or "DCP"). After watching a preview of The Hateful Eight in 70mm, I sat down with Julian Antos, technical director at the Music Box Theatre, to discuss the unique challenges of projecting the film in this format.

Could you explain the differences between seeing The Hateful Eight in 70mm versus seeing it as a DCP, which is how it’ll be shown in most commercial theaters? 

The main thing that sticks in people’s minds is that [70mm] is sharper. There’s more resolution if you’re comparing it to 35mm or a DCP that you’d see in a multiplex. The resolution is somewhere between twice to four times as much, depending on who you talk to, because film works differently than digital. It’s hard to quantify because you’re talking about grain structure versus pixels. On the whole it’s a much sharper format. Additionally, the color and contrast is much greater, deeper and richer. In terms of the way the light hits the screen, it’s more evenly lit, brighter, more intense. It’s a much more immersive, visceral experience than you’re going to get going to see the new Amy Poehler movie on DCP, which is the perfect use of DCP (laughs). Although we showed Love Actually here on 35mm and that was great, too.

Typically when people think of 70mm, they think of widescreen cinematography, outdoor locations and spectacular vistas, but most of The Hateful Eight takes place in one room.

Yeah, but then there are these extremely gratifying cutaway shots (to exteriors) a few times every reel. And what he’s doing with interiors is interesting. There’s one shot about an hour away from the end—it starts looking out of a window and then tracks over to one guy’s face and then the focus shifts to another character way on the other side of the room and then shifts back. It’s really using the super-wide aspect ratio and weird depth-of-field things to full advantage.

Speaking of the super-wide aspect ratio, this is not just 70mm. This is also Ultra Panavision 70. You guys have shown a lot of films in 70mm over the years. How is this format different, and what changes did you have to make to accommodate it? 

When we get the print, the image on the print is squeezed in by 25 percent. Then we have an anamorphic lens, which works like a Scope lens in 35mm, only it stretches it out by 25 percent instead of twice as much. So you’re taking the native aspect ratio of 70mm, which is 2.2 to 1 and stretching it out to 2.76 to 1. We’re putting a new screen in for this because it’s so wide that its native aspect ratio, 2.76 to 1, will span the entire auditorium—100 percent bigger in square feet. We’re putting in a new 7.1 surround sound system, too. We’re told it’s going to be one of the best sounding systems probably in a 200-mile radius. When multiplexes are built, they’re built so that equipment can be ordered en masse and everything’s assembled—it’s like a pre-made cinema. They put in great equipment and it sounds really good, but we’re taking a more specialized approach. It’s the difference between a good car and a really good car.

Could the success of this movie spark a renewed interest in seeing film projected on physical film?

I hope so. A lot of movie people are familiar with what 70mm is and what film projection is. But it would be nice to see this get the more casual cinephile types and the general public excited about this format.

The Hateful Eight opens on December 25 in the following Chicago-area theaters: AMC Crestwood 18, Showplace ICON, AMC River East 21 and the Music Box.

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