This year, the 50th anniversary of director Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was celebrated with a rerelease of the movie on 70mm. Basically, the movie was given an upgrade by being released on its original format... It's a confusing concept given that the movie is now 50 years old. You'd think that its original format would be a downgrade, however, a typical movie nowadays is filmed on 35mm which doesn't contain as much image nor as much quality in a frame as 70mm. The rerelease keeps the director's original vision intact by maintaining the image in which it was initially filmed. The release is a testament to who we are as an audience. The fact that 70mm is still a feat speaks to the binge-culture that's become the household norm due to extremely accessible streaming services…
Now, most movies are compressed or filmed with smaller formats in order to correlate with theater regulations, home viewing options, and to reduce costs on-set to remain efficient (the cameras are big, clunky and heavy otherwise). Fortunately, select theaters have the option to project true 70mm and I was fortunate enough to land a seat in one of them for the 50th anniversary release of 2001. This was my first time experiencing true 70mm and it's a shame it's a rarity.
I go to the movie theater for the experience…sounds cliché, but it's true. Movie theater attendance is no longer thriving and with streaming services currently available at our finger tips in the comfort of our own homes, why would anyone want to get up off the couch and see something elsewhere?
At home, there's more freedom, but the almost tangible cozy feeling you get when, among other things, the lights dim and the projector vamps up, is lost. At risk of sounding preachy, the theater makes us live in the moment.
Movie theaters in general have become too commonplace for most people. Audiences have been desensitized to the experience that was once an event. I believe I make my case by mentioning smart phones. It seems like no one can go through a movie's first act without pulling a phone out and checking social media (which can clearly be seen from three rows back!!!) However, as I sat in the theater for the 70mm showing, it was dead silent. Not a peep nor a phone. The screen was daunting, the sound was exhilarating, the seats were comfy, and there was an intermission! It was a show; an overture even set up the movie before the opening credits. Granted, the people who sought out these tickets were most likely already fans of the movie and weren’t going to pull out an android or iOS device by any means, the argument still stands.
A lot of people make the excuse that tickets are too expensive to go see a movie; I agree with them. It is definitely expensive to simply catch a flick, however, I go for immersion. I want the experience to resonate. When it's for the experience, it's all worth it. A lot of movies are trying to reel people in with 3D and IMAX formats and I think that's great, but I don't think that those things alone sell a movie.
2001: A Space Odyssey is arguably the most celebrated and innovative science fiction movie of all-time. With that said, the 3 hour chunk of my day was well worth the price of a ticket. However, the whole time I kept wondering why this experience was so hard to come by? Why can't movies have the kind of production value to accommodate 70mm filming more frequently? Clearly that's a wish that's improbable because of costs I'm unaware of, as well as other potential conflicts of efficiency on film sets, but still; the fact that movies are recognized and celebrated for their 70mm productions means that the format is something to behold. I'm sure the restoration was no simple task and since very few movies are filmed on 70mm, by virtue of the fact, the decision to film on the format is a bold move and I admire that.
70mm releases exist to remind us that visual entertainment isn't always served as a binge-fest to guzzle down and forget about a month later. Take a breather, slow down, immerse yourself, and enjoy the moment.
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