Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is one of the most anticipated films of the fall movie season. Featuring an all-star cast and a story said to expand across a number of alien worlds, Interstellar is looking to be one of Nolan’s most ambitious projects yet. It comes as no surprise to learn that the movie is set to premiere two days early in theatres still equipped to project 35mm and 70mm film on November 5. However, most theatres are upset about the early premiere, and the director’s push to keep the format alive.
Theatre chains and owners, who spent millions switching to digital video projectors, are baffled by Nolan, Paramount and Warner Bros.’ choice to screen Interstellar early in 35mm and 70mm, especially with so many theatres switching to digital. While not widely published, most Hollywood studios have stopped sending theatres film prints, requesting theatres to switch to an all-digital presentation format. With so few theatres equipped with film projectors, only a small select number can host early screenings.
Nolan has made it well known that he has been an advocate of film for years, opposing the idea of switching to an all-digital filmmaking process. With fellow directors like Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Neill Blomkamp making the switch to digital video, Nolan is perhaps one of the few people working in the filmmaking industry that has enough influence with studios to film in the format he wants.
In an interview with The Director’s Guild of America Magazine from 2012, Nolan talked about the increased pressure from studios and theatre chains to switch to digital video:
For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and the industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. We save a lot of money shooting on film and projecting film and not doing digital intermediates. In fact, I’ve never done a digital intermediate. Photochemically, you can time film with a good timer in three or four passes, which takes about 12 to 14 hours as opposed to seven or eight weeks in a DI suite. That’s the way everyone was doing it 10 years ago, and I’ve just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven’t seen that reason yet.
Ironically, Paramount, one of the studios distributing Interstellar, was the first studio to stop distributing film. Paramount Vice President Rob Moore explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the reason for the release of Interstellar on film is an effort to “encourage the movie going experience.”
“Interstellar plays spectacularly, and we have a filmmaker who loves film, so we wanted to take a moment to showcase film as an important part of our heritage,” said Moore. “We are taking a moment to acknowledge the huge heritage of film by opening the film two days early in theaters that can offer that format. Filmmakers like Chris and J.J. Abrams want to make sure that film is a part of the business going forward.”
As of Nov. 5, 189 theatres will be playing early screenings of Interstellar with 41 IMAX theatres playing 70mm prints.