Quentin Tarentino’s latest movie “Hateful Eight” came out on Christmas Day in 70mm format in 100 theaters around the country. The cineplex digital version comes out on January 8th.
What’s the big deal about 70mm?
It’s not a big deal for any Baby Boomer kid and their parents, particularly if they lived near a big city.
Retro movie history.
I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming just north of Denver and watched a variety of 70mm movies during the 1950s – 1960s.
During any given year, there weren’t that many studio movies that came out, which made going to the movies extra special, particularly when there was a lot of hype.
“Hateful Eight” is set in Wyoming during after the Civil War. The other Wyoming connection to the movie is the buffalo coat worn by Kurt Russell was made at a tannery in Thermopolis – Merlin’s Hideaway. This is where last month, I took a buffalo skin from a Northern Arapaho traditional bison ceremony, which is a story for another day.
“Hateful Eight” was shot using old technology analog Ultra Panavision cameras. There were several technologies out back in the 1950s and 1960s – MGM pioneered the wide format in Ben Hur and won an Oscar in cinematography.
My family used to drive down to Denver to watch movies. In 1963, we made a weekend of going to the Cooper Cinerama Theater to watch the epic western “How the West Was Won” packed with stars of the day and three hours long.
The theater had a 105-foot curved screen that was 35 fet tall and had over 800 seats. Everyone went dressed up to go to the movies in those days
“Hateful Eight” is R-rated. All of the original Cinerama movies would be rated G today.
The film was shot in Ultra Panavision. Compared to today’s High Definition 16:9 (1.8:1) aspect ratio, Ultra Panavision is 2.57:1 aspect ratio or nearly double the width of HD.
The cameras have special lenses that correct for the extra wide angle. When shown on the bigger screens, the special projectors also had special lenses for the wider format. There are some spectacular scenes like the buffalo stampede that were great to watch in Cinerama.
There weren’t many Cinerama theaters back in the day, which is why the outdated equipment is so hard to come by and the few remaining were scrounged up to screen “Hateful Eight”.
I wonder if Tarentino saw “How the West Was Won” in a cinerama theater and decided to make an homage to the western epic on the very wide screen.
In 1964 “Cheyenne Autumn” had its media premiere in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the Lincoln Theater with Carroll Baker and James Stewart in attendance.
That screening was a 35mm roadshow print. The world premiere was 70mm in London, England at the Warner Theater.
The last 70mm film I saw in a a theater was “Alien” at the Century 21 in Denver near the Cooper. That was when I was stranded on Colorado Blvd with a broken down VW.
My family also took a weekend vacation to Denver in 1965 to see the “Sound of Music” at the Aladdin Theater on East Colfax. That epic was shot in 70mm on Todd – AO cameras. The wide panoramic shots of Julie Andrews singing “… the hills are alive” in the Swiss Alps were spectacular. It wasn’t Cinerama. The Todd-AI tecnology was billed as Cinerama through one hole. Cinerama had three synched projectors.
There’s a scene at the end of the movie when the Von Trapp’s are evading capture in a cemetery. Liesl’s former boyfriend Rolf – now a Hitler Youth hides behind a pillar.
The shot has to be so wide that Captain Von Trapp while approaching Rolf has all this dialogue to say before he gets near enough for a close up – it could have been a cut, but the camera pushing in gives more visual drama.
Ultra Panavision affects screenwriting.
The “Sound of Music” played for 112 weeks at the Aladdin. Back in those days there were very few movies on the road.
In 1969 we went to the Cooper to see “Paint Your Wagon” – also shot in Ultra Panavision. I remember this great scene when a runaway wagon plummets into a river from the POV of the driver.
It made me whoozy.From what I see in the “Hateful Eight” trailer, there are some great wide shots, but much of the story is shot on a sound stage, which sort of defeats the purpose of Ultra Panavision.
I’m not much of a Tarentino fan – except for “Pulp Fiction” and I won’t go out of my way to watch “Hateful Eight” in a Cinerama theater.
If I see any 70mm movie it will be “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the Seattle Cinerama. There wasn’t much hype about 70mm in the Star Wars macaroni and cheese ads.