Central marketing manager Milana Vujkov talked to Central technical manager Paul Perkins after the of rehearsal of the unrestored 70mm print of Stanley Kubrick’s revolutionary 2001: A Space Odyssey, unveiled at Cannes this May for its 50th anniversary, and championed by Christopher Nolan.
The timeless masterpiece can now be experienced as seen for the first time on its original release in 70mm Cinerama roadshow format, 3 April 1968.
A perfect opportunity to discuss intricacies of celluloid projection, superiority of film’s original medium, the importance of film heritage and film culture, key role of the projectionist, and the place of cinema in our lives.Book tickets for 2001: A Space Odyssey at Picturehouse Central
What was your first encounter with 70mm?
Odeon Convent Garden, in 2003, we had a season of 70mm films and for it I made up and ran ET
How was it different than 35mm?
It was twice the size, and back then it ran off Mag Film, instead of DTS, the way it’s run now
What is the difference in putting it together?
It’s pretty much the same, but it’s a lot longer to do, because you have to check the joints a lot more
It needs to be a certain length?
Oh yes, if you’re running it onto a platter, which we have upstairs, and we use here, it cannot be any longer than three hours
The roadshow’s the classic way that films of this kind were shown?
Yes, with intermissions…. Back in the day, Laurence Of Arabia would have had a roadshow, Spartacus too… When they came out on 35mm, you could run it straight through. The roadshow was the 70mm, the premiere way of seeing it. They would put these roadshows all around the country before it went out on general release.
Used mostly for epics?
Yes, it was usually the Biblical epic films it started with in the 1950s, then it went onto things like Dr Zhivago, and Laurence Of Arabia
You came to work at Picturehouse Central when the cinema opened?
Yes, I was here about two weeks before it opened.
What was the start of 70mm presentation at Central?
We were supposed to have a projector from the start, but they are quite hard to find now, sadly… On our first birthday we showed Aliens. Since then we’ve shown Alien, Dunkirk and then Interstellar. We did a Christmas screenign of Edward Scissor Hands which was nice as it’s a rare one, and then Phantom Thread.
There was the Keepin’ It Reel celluloid strand
We did 2001 previously on 70mm as part of Keepin’ It Reel in October, actually. It was a 70mm, on old print, that’s when we had issues with sound… Because the Mag was stripped away on the sides of the film, which caused a thudding in the screen.
How is this print different?
It’s taken from the original negative, so it’s pretty much how it would have looked in 1968, it’s kind of ‘un-remastered’, they’ve taken away all the digital clean-ups they’ve done with it. It’s exactly how it would have been presented back in 1968, we are doing a full roadshow of it here. Overture music, full 15 min intermission… Then interact music, which is the walk-in music for the second part. After the closing credits, which we play with the lights down as per instructions from MGM and Warners, we play 4.5 min of exit music, very rarely done nowadays.
How Christopher Nolan wanted it?
Christopher Nolan, yes, and how Stanley Kubrick did it in 1968
What do you get visually from celluloid, and what from digital?
I think film is a lot better. The highest digital you can get at the moment is 4K, that’s the gold standard. Whereas the 35mm equivalent is 6K, 70mm equivalent 12-14K, and IMAX film usually around 16K.
There is almost a mystical quality to celluloid because of the fact that light goes through it… I assume that the way we receive the image is also different, because it has to do with how we see.
It’s a trick… The images aren’t actually moving on screen, they are all still images that are being shuttered. The image goes through the projector, 24 images every second, that image has a shutter drive that goes across it twice, which forms an optical illusion that tricks your brain into thinking they are moving
A moving image, yet a still life… And the difference between 35mm and 70mm?
It’s double the size, so you don’t have to magnify the image so much. It so much clearer. That’s the way to see a film.
How often do we play from celluloid at Central?
It goes in peaks and troughs. Not enough as far as I’m concerned.
In terms of job satisfaction, I guess celluloid is
Yes, it makes me feel like a projectionist, which is what I’ve been for the last twenty years.
And when digital came in, how did that affect the job of the projectionist?
I know that some people had it really bad. I was quite lucky because I worked at that time for Apollo, which was quite a small cinema
When was that?
It started about 2007, then it started really taking effect around 2008, 2009, we didn’t get digital projectors until 2011, so we were quite late
What do you think the future will be? There are some people now really championing it, and they are very influential
I’d like to think that it’s not going to disappear forever, I do think the two formats can live side by side. Filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Tarantino, Scorsese still shoot on film, and they do help, especially when Christopher Nolan makes such a big deal of showing his film on film… I think people know what the word roadshow means because of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.
What about audiences? When the eye stops being trained to see something in a certain way, do you think that’s going to affect viewing?
It absolutely has. A friend who worked for Warners was telling me that at the premiere of Dunkirk one of the women who was working there, about twenty, came up to him and said that the screen was flickering, that the film is unwatchable… And that’s literally how film was projected, you forget that it has a slight flicker, that your eye will get used to after about 5-10 minutes. Unfortunately, there is a whole generation of people that has hardly seen anything on film anymore…
I remember when we were showing 2001 here, people were commenting that there was a flicker… And I was saying yes, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be
People don’t know what film looks like anymore, which is a real shame… And it looks better, it looks more real, more tactile to look at.
It’s layered, more depth in it that digital projection just doesn’t have
No, it doesn’t. There is a certain artifice do digital.
For me, it’s the closest that art can come to a dream
Thank you so much for this, would you like to close with anything?
I really do hope people come and see this. Screen 1 is a really nice place to watch a film, and if people come and see it, hopefully we can do more.
We are inviting people to have an experience the way that experience was meant to be had, but also when they do that they are a patron of the art