Problems screening The Hateful Eight in 70mm

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino and girlfriend Courtney Hoffman attend the Hateful Eight premiere in Hollywood on Dec 7.
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino and girlfriend Courtney Hoffman attend the Hateful Eight premiere in Hollywood on Dec 7.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • The reviews for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight were mixed and so were reviews for projection of the film in 70mm, a seldom-used format that requires special projection equipment run by knowledgeable technicians. By Monday, on forums such as Twitter and Reddit, there were reports of problems with screenings from Tampa, Florida, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Theatres struggled with print scratches and sound synchro- nisation. On Christmas Eve, an electrical issue with a projector at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square in Manhattan prompted a technician from Boston Light & Sound - the company charged with finding, fixing and installing the projectors - to race down by train with replacement parts on Christmas.

Yet these incidents seem to have been the exception rather than the rule. Mr Erik Lomis, president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment for The Weinstein Co., which is distributing the movie, said 13 shows between Thursday and Sunday were considered full-blown failures, meaning that the 70mm could not run and the film had to be replaced with a digital copy. That is less than 1 per cent of 1,400 showings, he added.

Of the 100 theatres screening the film in the United States and Canada, 89 were set up for the 70mm run, which is being billed as a roadshow (with overture, intermission and additional footage).

Facing capacity crowds over the first weekend, The Weinstein Co. has decided to rush out the shorter, digital version early, beginning on Tuesday evening in addition to the roadshow version.

Most theatres no longer use standard 35mm film, let alone 70mm, which is known for its breathtaking clarity and which had not been shown in this many theatres in the US since 1992.

"It is a tricky, unforgiving, high- maintenance format to run correctly," said Mr David Kornfeld, head projectionist at the Somerville Theater in Somerville, Massachusetts, who was running a Hateful Eight screening when he spoke by phone. "Because the picture area of 70mm is three to six times greater than 35, you have three to six times more area to make a mess of."

One common complaint is that the image does not fill the entire screen, but that is, in most theatres, intentional. The Hateful Eight was shot in an unusually wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1, meaning that the picture should have 2.76 feet (84cm) of width for every foot (30cm) of height.

Whatever setbacks have occurred need to be seen in the context of the project's scope.

"It's very easy for people to talk about the failures and forget about the successes," said Mr Chapin Cutler, a founder of Boston Light & Sound. "Overall, this thing should never have come off - and it did."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Problems screening The Hateful Eight in 70mm'. Print Edition | Subscribe