Tarentino’s new movie looks glorious in 70 mm film

Shortly after Christmas, I found myself seated in a darkened theatre, awaiting the start of the movie. There was a palpable tension in the nearly full room, as if we were going to see the latest release of content from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

As the orchestral overture lured us into silence, the screen opened up into a snowy mountain vista, and an eerie and restless calm settled the audience. The person seated behind me put voice to what the audience was seeing, asking: “Why is the picture strobing like that?”

You see that full screen of a bright, snowy vista, unctuous with detail, in Quentin Taratino’s western, “The Hateful Eight,” that was filmed and projected in 70 mm Ultra Panavision at this exclusive Roadshow viewing.

The retro Roadshow presentation, previously used for just 10 films in the ‘50s and ‘60s, most famously “Ben-Hur,” screened in 100 specially retrofitted theatres in 44 North American markets for a two week engagement over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday.

Director Tarantino and the 70 mm Ultra Panavision cameraI had forgotten how glorious film looked, especially when the image is captured on a negative that’s more than 2-inches wide. When Samuel L. Jackson’s face fills the screen some 20 minutes into the story, the detail in the image is nothing short of breathtaking. The dark glow under his skin contrasted the salt and pepper beard, highlighting the power and ability film still has. 

I have screened the film in three locations: the ArcLight in Hollywood, and at the Music Box and Icon theatres in Chicago. I am glad to say that the Hollywood screening, with multiple projection and sound issues, was by far the worst.

Without question, the Music Box was my best overall experience.

As you know, the Music Box was instrumental in providing personnel and expertise for the limited Roadshow release.

To my surprise, however, the screening at the ICON theater on Roosevelt Road was remarkably good.  The only glitch was a minor framing issue in the soft upper edge of the gate and a torn sprocket hole, about five minutes into the third reel that popped the image out of focus for a second.

One hallmark of the projection was the overall brightness of the image, back to the actual 14 FL (Foot-Lambert) of brightness recommended by SMPTE specification. Making the imagery seem more luminous than usual, highlighting the fact that many theaters are projecting digital content at 75% power to save on lamp replacements, giving viewers closer to 10 FL for 2D projection and as low as 6 FL for a mainstream 3D stereoscopic release projected in a secondary market.

While “The Hateful Eight” was typical Tarantino, replete with racism and violence against women, yet considerably less violent than “Kill Bill” or “Django Unchained, the experience of seeing that filmic quality onscreen again reinvigorated my creativity.