The background on this is that a while back, Christopher Nolan announced that theaters capable of showing Interstellar in analog 70 mm or 35 mm formats like it was meant to be seen would get it two days early, on November 5th instead of 7th. Not surprisingly, a lot of theater owners who had converted to all-digital weren’t super happy about this plan, saying “It makes no sense step back in time,” and “This devalues what we’ve done,” among other grumbles.
Today, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, who knows a little something about running a theater, has written a response on Deadline. As a theater owner who’s actually a film fan, he’s in a unique position to do so.
Some of the especially relevant bits:
If Christopher Nolan prefers for his movie to be projected from 35mm or 70mm prints, then we as an industry should respect his vision and do our best to support it. He is seeing an industry that has all but abandoned the rich history and tradition of film projection and is using this highly anticipated release to stop the rapid erosion of film projection in cinemas. […]
Of the approximately 40,000 screens in the US, less than 400 are showing Interstellar on film. This speaks to a tiny fraction of total number of screens in America still having the ability to project film. During the conversion to digital, most exhibitors made a conscious decision to turn their back on 35mm projection forever.
In an age where everyone is scrambling for the elusive alternative content dollar, it appears that the vast majority of cinemas have discarded a simple key that was right under our noses. Of the tens of thousands of films ever produced since the advent of cinema, only about 1% are available on DCP (the standard format for digital cinema files). If you want to properly project a classic film that isn’t one of the top hundred or two recognizable titles, you must project on 35mm. [Deadline]
As I like to say, Drafthouse is what happens when you get people who actually like movies in the movie business. As people stop seeing the movie business as a place to make huge amounts of money, more hardcore-fan-driven enterprises like Drafthouses would be a nice side benefit. Not that I’m holding my breath. All I know is, “35mm movie prints” + “the ability to order beer and queso dip” is the kind of business model I can get behind.