The word “film” continues to be used as part of film festival titles and in everyday conversation.
“Let’s go to a film tonight.”
But rarely are you going to see a movie on “film” anymore.
Just like the resurgence of interest to hear music played on vinyl instead of digital formats, audiences around the world are thrilling to the magic of seeing movies projected from actual movie film. This is something we once took for granted but now that almost all new movies are released in digital formats, special events make it possible to appreciate what it can look like.
Alamo Drafthouse, Kodak, and Art House Convergence are teaming up for Reel Film Day on Sunday March 5th, 2017. 35MM cinemas all over the world will champion the beautiful format of film and revel in all of the glorious depth and richness that ONLY film can provide: Reel Film Day is the first ever celebration of all things 35MM. Workshops, merchandise, lectures, live streams and screenings – lots of screenings – will serve to galvanize the most passionate film fans all across the US and revive a format to which every cineaste is indebted.
And why is Reel Film Day on March 5th? Because it’s 3.5. Most theaters will have a $3.50 admission price with a portion of the proceeds going towards movie restorations done by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. Check out the list of 35mm showings on Reel Film Day.
EatDrinkFilms salutes the celebration by featuring David Robson’s interview with Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission head programmer Mike Keegan. Jeff Joseph and Dennis Bartok, authors of A Thousand Cuts offer their timely interview with film preservationist David Shepard who recently passed away, leaving so many film lovers at a loss for words that we will not have David’s joyous spirit and passion for movies anymore. But we will have the heritage he left with dozens of movies that otherwise might have been lost.
“There is nothing like experiencing actual 35mm projected film,” said Steve Bellamy President of Kodak Motion Picture and Entertainment. “I don’t care if it is the greatest 8K projector in the world,35mm is a radically different thing and there is simply no comparison. Projected film is watching light blast through dozens of layers of color dye clouds and emulsion, 24 times per second. A film projectionist is a master craftsman and seeing his or her work is akin to performance art. While the world has largely migrated to the utility of video projectors, there is a massive growth in consumers who understand the experience of film projection. This is why theaters projecting film are coming back so strongly and doing so well!”
As a true celebration of the wide-ranging scope of cinema, Reel Film Day programming will be deeply eclectic, featuring classics including Powell and Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES and Orson Welles’ A TOUCH OF EVIL rubbing reels with cult favorites like BUCKAROO BANZAI and Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
“Less than 5% of our film history exists in a high-definition digital format,” says Alamo Drafthouse CEO and Founder Tim League. “If you really love film, then join us to recognize, celebrate and support film screenings in independent theaters everywhere. This scrappy group of fellow cinephiles is truly preserving film history. Support your local theater, support 35mm (and 70mm) film on 3/5, the first annual Reel Film Day.”
You can buy tee shirts and pins at the theaters or here.
And get the app here.
Full info on Reel Film Day.
That’s Not All Folks!
Because of previous programming commitments, not all 35mm capable venues will be showing “film on film” on March 5 but many screen throughout the year.
Dave Cowen of San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre reminds us that they still show 35mm and 16mm throughout the year. Dave wrote:
There’s just something better about seeing a film that was shot on film projected on film. It can be hard to say why, just like it’s hard to describe why the experience of listening to a record on vinyl can be a more enveloping experience than listening to the same music from your phone or on Youtube. Maybe it’s the 24 hertz flicker of each frame that makes the world of the film seem so much more vivid than the more flat projection of digital. Maybe it’s the faithful reproduction of the film grain, or the heightened yet natural ways that film can reproduce color. Maybe there’s even magic in the way that scratches and specks tend to be found on the beginnings and ends of each film reel, a wave-like undulation that happens every 20 minutes.
Whatever it is, there’s no question that seeing on a film on film is a remarkably edifying experience. Unfortunately, as multiplexes have rapidly adapted to digital, 35mm screenings have fallen by the wayside at an alarming rate.
While the Roxie Theater in San Francisco adapted to digital in 2014, it didn’t “switch” to digital; two decades-old cast-iron pedestals keep the 35mm tradition alive next to a modern digital projector and DCP server in the booth. While the digital projection equipment looks great, especially for modern films shot on digital, viewers still flock to the Roxie to see repertory films on film. While a screening of a classic may gather little attention, big crowds can gather for a film that hasn’t been shown in its native format in several years.
(Dave Cowen is Executive Director of the Roxie Theater.)
While previously-scheduled programming precluded the Roxie’s participation in Kodak’s Reel Film Day on March 25th, there will be an entire week of 35mm features in celebration of the Roxie’s 41st anniversary as one of the nation’s vanguard arthouse theaters, including Eraserhead, Vincent, Nico:Icon, Rivers and Tides, Freeway, Polyester (in Odorama!), The Hidden Fortress and a “Love, Death and Bowling” Double Feature: Buffalo ’66 plus Dream with the Fishes.
In addition, the Roxie will be paying tribute to Bill Paxton with a screening of Twister in 35mm on March 8th.
Karl Cohen has some fun memories of his days showing movies:
“HAPPY REEL FILM DAY- I spent almost 15 years showing film classics and recent works on 16 mm films at Intersection in North Beach, at Ashkenazi and Newman Hall in Berkeley and at other locations. That was in the 1970s and early 1980s and bringing people together to see amazing works was a wonderful experience; even more fun when I combined the evening with live entertainment (comics, mimes, clowns, etc.). We only asked for a $1 or $2 donation as those were the days when making people happy was more important than making money. Still, Robin Williams once told me at a party that he owed me money. He did?
Turns out when he first came to SF he was so broke that he and another struggling comic used to sneak into Intersection up the back stairs. They were that broke.
I gave a lot of struggling filmmakers a chance to see their work with an audience. One of the important things I got out of it was a chance to discover independent animation along with experimental filmmaking and the chance to meet a lot of wonderful film people.”
(Karl Cohen is an author, professor at SFSU, collector, Editor of ASIFA News, and film presenter.)
Regular 35mm, 16mm and special 70mm screenings are scheduled throughout the year in several major cities.
In New York check listings for the Metrograph, Film Forum, Lincoln Center Film Society, BAM Rose Cinemas, Museum of Modern Art, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn, Nitehawk, Anthology Film Archives, IFC Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the George Eastman House in Rochester.
In Los Angeles check out the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and Aero Theaters, the Bing at LACMA Downtown Independent, Cinefamily New Beverly (run by Quentin Tarantino), Billy Wilder Theatre at UCLA, and the Nuart. The Turner Classic Movies Festival in April features numerous film showings.
When in the San Francisco Bay Area look to the Alamo New Mission, Roxie, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SFMOMA, ATA, the Exploratorium, New People (for special events) and the Castro; the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Niles Essanay Film Museum, Paramount and Grand Lake Theaters in the East Bay, and the Smith Rafael Film Center in Marin. The Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto exclusively shows 35mm prints, most often restorations and from archives. Film Festivals that notably feature 35mm screenings include Noir City and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Canyon Cinema distributes and presents experimental movies on film. Check their upcoming events here
Elliot Lavine’s upcoming “I Wake Up Dreaming” film noir series at the Cinema 21 in Portland, Oregon will feature 35mm prints of Gun Crazy, Criss Cross, Black Angel, Ride the Pink Horse, Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Heat and Murder By Contract.
Here is a partial list on other places to see films projected from film during the year.
Kong: Skull Island will open on March 10 in a limited number of 70mm engagements including the The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, Cinerama in Seattle, City Cinemas in New York and Arclight in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks. For a complete list go here. There has been very little information about this but it is reportedly a blow-up and not filmed in 70mm.
Christopher Nolan once again has made his newest film Dunkirk on 65mm film and there will be 70mm engagements in July, 2017.
For news about other events and to read excellent articles check out Film on Film.
A Super 8mm fanatic tells Vice why he collects movies.
Movies Studios forced Hollywood to abandon 35mm film. This 2012 article in the LA Weekly explored the consequences of going digital.
Compiled by Gary Meyer