With just two cinemas in the UK set to screen the 70mm version of The Hateful Eight that the director endorses, we decided to try and get to the bottom of the situation
The Hateful Eight is without doubt the most exciting new movie of the moment right now: a fiery Quentin Tarantino masterpiece that has got film fans everywhere excited to see it, and earned a rare 5-star review from our critic.
It’s got grizzled B-Movie veterans, an Oscar-tipped supporting performance, and so much audacious facial hair that its shampoo budget must have been through the roof.
But while the ensemble mystery-Western may seem set to make a major impact, its release in the UK this Friday has been anything but straightforward.
Two puzzling controversies
Earlier this week, we reported that Cineworld would not be screening the film at any of its venues around the country, after the cinema giant failed to reach an agreement with The Hateful Eight’s distributors.
Clearly something went sour there.
Allegedly, Cineworld objected to London’s Odeon Leicester Square gaining exclusivity for the West End, and promptly pulled the movie from its screens up and down the UK, including those of its subsidiary Picturehouse. Another major chain, Curzon, also refused to screen the film for similar reasons.
The drama wasn’t over though. On Wednesday, yet another bombshell dropped.
You see, Tarantino – a lover of celluloid, classic cinema, and the art of projection – had a very special vision for how his film should be viewed by its audience.
Specifically, he came up with a painstakingly constructed 70mm Ultra Panavision ‘Roadshow’ version of the movie, complete with a musical overture at the start, a 12-minute intermission, and extra footage not included in the standard release version.
You’d expect nothing less from such an aficionado of the movie ‘experience’. And this was the vision he had for how audiences would view the film.
But then it was revealed that just one cinema in the entire UK would be showing the version that the director himself was eager for people to watch, compared with a whopping 100 cinemas in the US.
The Odeon Leicester Square would seemingly have it, and no one else would. Everywhere else would simply get the shorter, standard digital version.
We asked the distributors what was going on…
@EFDFilms Hi. Will the special 70mm "Roadshow" version of Hateful Eight be screened anywhere outside Odeon Leicester Square in the UK?
— WOW247 (@wow247) January 7, 2016
…and got no response.
Still, there was some good news not long after.
Yep, that’s right. A whole other cinema in the UK will actually be getting the 70mm print too – namely Edinburgh’s Filmhouse.
— Filmhouse (@Filmhouse) January 7, 2016
That’s obviously encouraging, though there is a catch of course – with the 70mm print only available to view there over a month after the film’s general release today.
The good, the bad and the ugly
We reached out to the Filmhouse to ask about the attraction of 70mm as a format.
James Rice, Programme Manager at the Edinburgh venue, explained:
“The 70mm film format offers substantially higher resolution than 35mm film – higher also than the highest-spec digital projection commonly in use anywhere in cinemas today.
“The surface area of the film frame is simply larger as the image is being captured, printed, and projected at the cinema. The image on screen, if it’s shown properly, is therefore considerably sharper than that produced by any other normal form of cinema projection.
“Some hugely prominent films, 2001, West Side Story, Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia, for example, were all shot and originally released on 70mm. In recent years, the only films released at any scale on 70mm have been The Master and Interstellar, in both cases because of the filmmaker’s particular interest in this format. It’s therefore something of a special occasion whenever someone screens in 70mm, as it looks amazing, and it’s rare.”
Rice also went on to clarify some of the complexities and difficulties that certain cinemas would have accommodating the special 70mm print of The Hateful Eight – which may partly explain its lack of wide availability.
“The 70mm format has a long history but has never been extensively used. The prints themselves are expensive for distributors to strike, and because of the unusually large size and weight of the reels, they’re also expensive to ship out to cinemas. Maintaining the equipment and expertise to project 70mm, moreover, is something that the majority of cinemas have never chosen to do, even in the days before the advent of digital cinema projection. 70mm has consequently not been a common release format, despite its techical merits.
“Tarantino has produced Hateful Eight in an especially uncommon flavour of 70mm called Ultra Panavision 70. This uses anamorphic compression to extend the image to an even wider aspect ratio than normal and requires special lenses that are hard to come by. It’s therefore an even more distinctive choice on Tarantino’s part to make his film in this rare format. The last film made and released in Ultra Panavision 70 was Khartoum, 50 years ago this year.”
So. The question remains. Is the special 70mm version, with its extra 20 minutes of running time and classic cinematic approach, that much better than the standard version most will be left with?
“The advantage of seeing Hateful in 70mm is firstly that the picture quality should be better than anything else around,” adds Rice. “Secondly, it’s a different version of the film, including extra scenes and giving the full traditional roadshow experience with overture and intermission.
“The standard version of the film is brilliant, and it’s the one most people around the country will be seeing in the next few weeks and talking about. The 70mm presentation, though, will be a genuinely special event.”
Obviously, if you can make it to London or Edinburgh and visit the venues that do have the special version, that’s great. And if you’re a true enthusiast, you probably should.
But there will be legions of Tarantino fans up and down the UK who probably won’t be able to see the new movie in the way that the director intended – and that seems like a damn shame.
The Hateful Eight is out today.