Our current slate of film programs is exactly what we had in mind when we installed our 4K Barco digital projector last summer.
Our program’s primary mission is to present the most vital contemporary cinema—narrative, documentary, experimental—from around the world. But until we installed the digital projector, there were an increasing number of times where we were showing a filmmaker’s work in a less-than-ideal manner. Most may never have noticed the difference, but if the filmmaker was present, he or she did, as did we. Unlike most theaters, in addition to making the digital upgrade, we made a conscious decision to keep and maintain our 16/35/70mm dual-system projectors, which allows us to keep showing film, including rare and archival films.
For instance, our Pre-Code triple-bill on Thursday, May 23 features three relatively obscure films from one of the most entertaining periods in Hollywood, all in archive or vault prints. We’ll be screening a new 35mm print of Laughter in Hell (1933) from Universal, The Little Giant (1933) in a new 35mm print from the Library of Congress, and a new 35mm print of Black Moon (1934) from Sony Pictures. It’s bound to be one of the more special programs in our 2013 calendar. We’ll also be showing a new 35mm print of the Morris Engel film The Little Fugitive (1953), which was preserved by the Museum of Modern Art, on May 31 and June 1.
If our screenings of the 4K restoration of Roman Polanski’s Tess last weekend represent one extreme in the projection spectrum, then our screenings of The Master in 70mm on June 6–8 represent the other. The format is rare in most modern movie theaters, but we’ve shown 70mm prints many times in the past (including Vertigo and 2001). This will be the first time we’ve screened a relatively recent release in the format, and we’re elated to be able to present the only screenings of the film in Ohio in 70mm! Director Paul Thomas Anderson has championed showing The Master in 70mm; both Chris Stults (associate curator, Film/Video) and I saw it this way last fall at the Toronto Film Festival and the image quality was simply breathtaking.
These upcoming screenings are a part of our ongoing mix of new independent and international films, new documentaries, specialty programs, and Hollywood and world classics. Within those categories, you can see that our programming is using all of our projection formats (with the exception of 16mm) to the extreme. For example, Jenny Deller’s Future Weather, which screened on May 1, was presented in HDCAM, while the recent French comedy Let My People Go! (May 2 & 4) was screened on DCP, as were the new documentaries Koch (May 9 & 11) and The Law in These Parts (May 21). And the May 17 & 18 screening of Tess looked incredible (2K is the norm for the vast majority of theaters).
As film production and projection progresses, digital imagery will look better and better and it will be the rare experience indeed to be able to see any work in a nice film print. But that’s why we are here and why we are so committed to keeping alive all of these formats and to being as clear and open as possible about what projection format is being screened for every title. While digital technology will continue to improve, the commitment by exhibitors to present only the best formats available may or may not. There need to be venues around the country where a filmgoer can go to remind him- or herself what a moving image is supposed to look like, and that is the mission we strive to continue.
—David Filipi, Director, Film/Video