Ahead of its broad release next week, Quentin Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight hits a select cinemas around the country today — because not all cinemas are equal when it comes to the quality of the projection. There are a precious few picture theatres in Australia that still run 70mm film projectors, an aging film standard with four times the frame size — and loads more detail — of classic 35mm film stock and even the best cinema-grade 4K sensors.
This is how you see The Hateful Eight early. And you owe it to yourself to see this movie — or any other — in the beautiful, but dying, 70mm format.
70mm film is a massive, positive-process stock measuring around 70mm wide by 51mm tall (3570mm2), more than four times the size of 35mm film's 36x24mm (864mm2) negative surface area. This massive increase in surface size means that films shot and displayed in the 65mm/70mm format need less magnification to be displayed on cinema-size screen, translating into a huge increase in image quality and the quality of colours, shades and shadows displayed. In recent years, high quality 4K projectors have closed the gap in quality somewhat, but there's no making up for 70mm's end-to-end size advantage.
70mm film is not easy to do. It's incredibly costly and time-intensive to produce a film in the format, which is one of many reasons it is slowly dying off in movie studios and cinemas around the world. The Ultra-Panavision format hasn't been used for a single cinema production since Khartoum in 1966; that means The Hateful Eight is the first feature motion picture in 50 years to use this equipment. There are actually upwards of two dozen 70mm projectors around Australia, but many have fallen out of service.
The Hateful Eight is just better in 70mm. There's an extra six minutes of exclusive footage in the cinematic film cut — as well as a 12-minute intermission where the film reels have to be changed. Just like the old days! The 70mm projection has meant major issues for the film, with out-of-practice projectionists struggling with film placement and focus in early screenings. They've found their feet now, and this isn't a problem that digital projection has, but trust me: once you see a 70mm film, you'll understand how it's different, and why it's better.
In Melbourne, the Astor Theatre in St Kilda bills itself as the only cinema regularly showing 70mm film, and has a one-week run of The Hateful Eight on 70mm stock from today until the 21st of January, with four sessions daily — tickets are $25. (It also has a beautiful Barco 4K digital cinema projector running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which it'll be using once the 70mm run comes to a close.) The Village Rivoli in Hawthorn East has three or four sessions daily for the week, as does the Sun Theatre in Yarraville.
In Sydney, the The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Mosman is one of the few places to see The Hateful Eight — it's running three sessions a day from Friday until Wednesday 20th January inclusive, with $25 tickets. Also in Sydney, Event Cinemas George Street has a one-week run of the film with four sessions daily, as does the Ritz Cinema at Randwick.
If you're anywhere else around the country, sorry — better book yourself a plane ticket. You can see an interactive map of 70mm projection locations around Australia (and the rest of the world) below. [The Hateful Eight]