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A road-ready ‘Hateful Eight’

Quentin Tarantino (sitting, far left) directing a scene for his new movie, “The Hateful Eight.”

Columbia Pictures

Quentin Tarantino (sitting, far left) directing a scene for his new movie, “The Hateful Eight.”

Three local cinemas — the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Somerville Theatre, and AMC Boston Common (along with Providence Place Cinemas in Rhode Island) — are among the 100 venues nationwide that will be screening Quentin Tarantino’s much-anticipated “The Hateful Eight” in a 70mm “roadshow” format beginning Dec. 25. The film will open in more theaters in a conventional digital release on
Dec. 31.

It’s been an ambitious plan for “Hateful Eight” distributor The Weinstein Company (TWC) to present the widest-reach 70mm movie release in more than 20 years. Tarantino’s 187-minute roadshow engagement includes an overture, an intermission, exit music, and an extra 6 minutes of footage that will not be part of the digital release. Moreover, Tarantino shot “The Hateful Eight” in Ultra Panavision, an obscure, super-wide format that hasn’t been used since 1966’s “Khartoum” and which requires special lenses for exhibition. Tarantino, a noted cinephile, wanted a return to the exacting presentations that marked major releases of the past. Yet it comes at a time when most theaters have scrapped film altogether in favor of digital projection.

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“We had to basically equip, from scratch, 89 of 100 theaters,” says Chapin Cutler, cofounder of Boston Light & Sound, the Brighton-based company hired by TWC last year to oversee the national installation of the 70mm equipment, much of which had to be recovered or rebuilt.

That isn’t the case with the Somerville Theatre, which routinely screens 35mm and 70mm film, or the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which also has permanent 35mm and 70mm equipment. But even those theaters required the rare Ultra Panavision lenses to project “The Hateful Eight,” which BL&S supplied, fit, and adjusted screen by screen.

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The Boston Common’s 70mm equipment will be removed at the end of “The Hateful Eight” roadshow run, says Cutler, who’d just returned from the film’s East Coast premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. Despite all the hoopla and considerable cost to TWC for the presentation, Cutler says, “We are not reversing the digital revolution. We are talking 100 screens [nationwide] out of 40,000.”

Along with equipment, projectionists also were jettisoned by most multiplexes when DCP became the preferred format. The 70mm presentation of “The Hateful Eight” will require trained personnel, which is already in place at both the Somerville and Coolidge Corner but not at most multiplexes.

David Kornfeld, a veteran Somerville Theatre projectionist who has extensive experience with 70mm, describes the format as “tricky, unforgiving, exacting, easy to screw up, and not something you can learn in a day.”

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But Boston Common patrons need not worry that it will be ushers and concession attendants in charge of the 11 reels of “The Hateful Eight,” totaling some 350 pounds. “There will be a combination of Boston Light & Sound and Weinstein staff working in the field,” Cutler says. “We’ve also simplified the system so it is easier to operate than it was in the old days. We have removed all the 35mm parts so it’s a single-purpose system. We are fully responsible for the tech support and we’re available to help in an emergency.”

Quality presentation has long been the raison d’être for an old-fashioned moviehouse like the Somerville or the Coolidge. But even though most of the 70mm engagements for “The Hateful Eight” will be in multiplexes, says Cutler, audiences are still getting a rare presentation.

“Even in the good, old roadshow days, you didn’t always have a curtain or masking [borders around the screen]. My first roadshow was ‘My Fair Lady’ in a shadowbox without a curtain,” he says. “I’ve seen the digital version of ‘The Hateful Eight’ and it’s kind of lackluster. The 70mm version is stunning.”

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.
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