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Is Paul Thomas Anderson Having Difficulties Getting 'The Master' Exhibited In 70mm Format?

by Oliver Lyttelton
August 3, 2012 6:39 PM
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The Master Joaquin Phoenix

Much to everyone's surprise, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is almost upon us. One of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, many months of silence went by until a few brief teaser clips were revealed to whet appetites. And out of nowhere, a spectacular full trailer for the film arrived, swiftly followed by reports that "The Master" would play at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals this fall. And suddenly, a big bump up in release dates occurred that meant the film was only six weeks away, set to start rolling out in limited release in the middle of September, soon after the end of TIFF.

But there does seem to be something of a tiny hitch on the road to release. Anderson shot a good chunk of the film in the plus-size, hi-res 65mm format, and has been committed to showing the film, where possible, on 70mm (films of this kind are shot on 65mm, with the extra 5mm going to sound, but projected in 70mm), to the extent where the delay on festival announcements reportedly came down to whether or not they'd be able to show the film in 70mm. But Time Out Chicago report that The Music Box, the only theater in the city capable of showing the film in Anderson's preferred format, have been telling fans that the film won't be exhibited. "They're not offering it to us," the Music Box reps told Time Out Chicago about distributors The Weinstein Company's decision. "They've made other arrangements."

The good news for Chicagoans is that all hope's not been lost: reports about the situation in the city have made their way to Anderson himself (according to a source close to the director), and the director apparently "flipped out" with excitement when he heard about the Music Box, unfortunately it was too late to book the film there. But it seems to be indicative of something of a disconnect in the distribution of the film. Anderson's camp are seemingly still trying to work out which theaters in which cities are capable of exhibiting the film in 70mm -- something presumably rushed along by the release date shift. And at the same time, in Time Out's words, "as the Music Box’s experience indicates, the Weinstein Company seems to be moving forward with its own booking plans."

Their source in PTA's camp suggests that the idea of showing the film as widely as possible in 70mm has met with "blowback" from the Weinstein Company's end. Presumably, Harvey & co. care less about how people see the film, and more about people seeing the film in large numbers, and it sounds, from Time Out's report at least, that there's a little bit of a clash behind the scenes here. What seems to be clear at this point is that the filmmakers behind "The Master" are keen to learn of 70mm capable theaters as soon as possible, so if you live near one or work in one, now may be the time to make your voices heard. We imagine exact release plans for "The Master" will become clearer nearer the release date, but let's hope that Anderson and the Weinsteins come to terms, and manage to get the film in front of every screen capable of showing it in the format in which it was shot when the film opens on September 14th.

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  • David | August 7, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    I'm crushed this won't make it to the Music Box!

  • I | August 6, 2012 2:21 PMReply

  • Brian Marino | August 5, 2012 11:44 AMReply

    70mm at the Riverview Stadium in Philadelphia. Not sure where else in the area.

  • Spout | August 4, 2012 1:15 PMReply

    The Ziegfeld here in NYC has 70mm capability! Please make it happen, PTA!!!

  • Zach | August 4, 2012 7:15 AMReply

    70mm projector at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne Australia! Bring it here PTA and Weinstein Co!

  • Brock Landers | August 4, 2012 4:33 AMReply

    I don't care if I have to watch this on an Iphone

  • jimmiescoffee | August 3, 2012 10:28 PMReply

    i truly believe this will be a fantastic film.

  • Glass | August 3, 2012 10:15 PMReply

    Anyone know what theaters in LA show 70mm features? I could swear the Cineramadome has shown 2001 in 70mm before, but maybe I just saw the placard in the lobby but it was showing somewhere else...

  • Hollywoodgirl90028 | August 5, 2012 12:14 AM

    Glass I seriously doubt the ARCLIGHT SCIENTOLOGY ummm sorry I mean Cinerma Dome, will show the Master. Although that would be very ironic considering its scientologist ownership connections. Lol
    In anycase they went digital only not that long back, infact their upcoming cinerama anniversary screenings they are renting projectors to show those presentations, and that was only because that is their only option.

  • James | August 3, 2012 9:30 PMReply

    The only two 70mm capable theaters in New York are the Walter Reade and the Ziegfeld, correct?

  • hunter | October 16, 2012 12:16 AM

    Also Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY.
    We did a pre-screening with P.T. Anderson.

  • Derek | August 9, 2012 12:21 PM

    Don't forget about AMC Lincoln 13.

  • Ben Kenigsberg | August 3, 2012 8:57 PMReply

    "Flipped out" in a positive sense. He was happy about the advocacy post, which was written before TWC turned down the Music Box. I've added a clarifying bracket.

  • AS | August 3, 2012 8:47 PMReply

    I'm becoming more and more skeptical about this whole "you have to see it the way it was intended" bit. That was the whole thing with TDKR. "You have to see it in full IMAX with a 70 millimeter projector." Well I DID see it in full IMAX with a 70 milimeter projector (the only theater with those specifications in Connecticut I might add) and there was ZERO difference between seeing it on a regular sized screen. In fact, I went to go see Drive and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on your standard theater projection (I think it was digital but I'm not sure) and I was more impressed with the image and sound than I ever have been with the whole "you have to see it the way it was intended" routine. As far as I'm concerned, theater projection basically all looks the same. The difference is only apparent when you're watching a film on blu ray.

  • AS | August 7, 2012 12:46 AM

    Thanks, I knew it! The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater was how average the screen size was. But since I've only been to 2 different IMAX theaters in my life, I had no frame of reference so I didn't know if it was much smaller than most IMAX screens. Too bad there isn't a decent one closer to where I live.

  • Jhyder | August 6, 2012 11:56 AM

    AS, apparently you saw DKR at the Rave Buckland Hills theater. Unfortunately, although that theater does have a 15/70 projector (and an IMAX digital projector, which is why it's called "dual projection"), it is the IMAX MPX projector, which doesn't project the full height of the original IMAX frame. The MPX was intended to be retrofitted into existing 35mm auditoriums with shorter screens. Also, Buckland Hills has one of the smallest IMAX screens in the world, only 23x48 feet. If you go to Norwalk and see DKR at the Maritime Aquarium, you'll see what people are talking about: its screen is 57x73 feet, and is a full-height IMAX screen. Or go a little farther to New Roc City in New Rochelle, where the screen is 60x81. For more information about the different aspect ratios of the IMAX film and digital projectors, see here:

  • AS | August 5, 2012 10:51 PM

    Thanks for the info. The theater I went to says "dual projection." What does that mean?

  • mike | August 5, 2012 5:24 PM

    Theaters with (15,70) in the listing are showing TDK in true imax.

  • mike | August 5, 2012 5:23 PM

    this will help you realize whether or not you are seeing real IMAX projection. Look up your state and theater. If, next to the name and the theater, you see a parenthesis which says (15,70) you saw the film in TRUE IMAX. if not, you got ripped off. You saw the film in a large scale but without full resolution. There are a lot of 'IMAX' theaters which don't show mainstream films in 15perf 7omm and in my opinion they shouldn't confuse the public and make it clear to them that they aren't watching 15 perf source material with superior resolution

  • Mike | August 5, 2012 5:18 PM

    You obviously didn't see the film in real IMAX. There aren't too many real IMAXs in the states, only two that I know of in LA that show mainstream pictures: The Rave and City Walk. Everywhere else will show the film, which was shot in imax, but not projected horizontally on 65mm film. Only IMAX brand theaters do this. And only a select few of those IMAX theaters get prints struck from the original 65mm negative (i believe only 3 or 4 cities in the country have these prints) whereas the rest of the prints are from 6k scans.

  • AS | August 4, 2012 12:43 PM

    @Hank: You know, it is possible to respond without being insulting. There is no question that there is a gigantic difference between films shot on 70mm and those shot on 35mm. But for me, the difference has only been apparent on Blu Ray. I was recently watching TDK on blu ray and the jump from 35mm to IMAX was jarring, so there's nothing wrong with my eyes. I just didn't notice any difference in the theater. Idk, maybe it was the projection? I have no way of knowing.

  • Iagr | August 3, 2012 10:20 PM

    I largely agree. The 70mm and IMAX theater prints have lost a great deal of the resolution of the master print. The viewing of The Tree of Life I saw at the Landmark Sunshine in NYC (presumably 4K digital projection) had the best image quality I've ever seen of a film, certainly superior to TDKR in 70mm at Lincoln Square. So again, I think people are not taking into account how 4K scans are taken directly from the film negative and therefore possess an enormous amount of visual information, certainly competitive if not superior to duplications of prints.

  • Rob | August 3, 2012 9:55 PM

    Yeah, seriously, I'll cop to being a film tech nerd, but there's literally no way that the layman wouldn't be able to notice the absurd leap in definition, not to mention the (occasionally jarring) jumps in aspect ratio. I believe your IMAX theatre may not have projected to correct specifications. For me, the experience almost served as a live tech demo--I've never seen 35mm made to look so inferior, so grainy, except when juxtaposed against the IMAX image.

  • hank | August 3, 2012 9:42 PM

    there is a noticeable jump in image resolution when viewing the Dark Knight Rises in 70mm IMAX. It's even noticeable when the film cuts between scenes shot in 70mm and those shot in 35mm. You literally see a drop in resolution in the 35mm footage. Either your theater wasn't projecting the image properly or you were just too busy burying your head in your iphone during the screening to give a fuck.

  • concerned citizen kane | August 3, 2012 8:24 PMReply

    joaquin phoneix kinda looks like pta in that screen-shot.

  • Cigs & Red Vines | August 3, 2012 8:22 PMReply

    We're trying to get the word out to theatre owners and PTA fans so that the film can hopefully be booked in as many 70mm screens as possible. Pass it along.

  • Rudebard Baken | August 3, 2012 8:02 PMReply

    Anyone have an idea of the DC area theatre possessing a 70mm projection system? There is a list online of US theaters that do but the list must be at least 5-10 years old.

  • Rudebard Baken | August 3, 2012 11:16 PM

    Thanks, Soggy. Just saw they are showing Baraka, 2001, Spartacus, Chitty Bang, etc. on 70mm. Gonna have to check a few of these out

  • Soggy Flakes | August 3, 2012 10:22 PM

    AFI Silver in Silver Spring has a 70 mm projector. Currently doing a 70 mm festival, in fact.

  • shawno85 | August 3, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    It's Chicago-ans, not Chicago-ites.

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