Christopher Nolan’s epic thriller Dunkirk is showing from a 70mm print at Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge. Book now to see the film in 70mm and receive an exclusive collectible film strip, whilst stocks last.
When we think of the romance of cinema – that moment when the lights dim, the curtains pull back revealing the illuminated screen, the shuffling down into a cozy seat surrounded by friends and the smell of popcorn – there’s a machine, hidden behind a porthole somewhere up near the ceiling of the auditorium, that we owe that romance to. In Cambridge, at the Arts Picturehouse Cinema, not only do we have a trio of sprightly, young digital projectors serving each screen, we are very fortunate to also be equipped with two 35mm projectors, and for those lucky cinema-goers in Screen 1, an Italian Cinemeccanica, dual 35mm/70mm projector – affectionately known as a Vic 8 by those in the cinema industry.
I started work at the Arts Picturehouse in 2008, at a time when cinemas up and down the country were having their 35mm and 70mm projectors ripped out and replaced with digital models. A necessary efficiency drive that modernised the UK cinema network, but I can’t tell you how happy I am to work in a cinema with the best of both worlds. The foresight to look to the digital future, with an eye on the analogue past. And just when we thought 35mm and 70mm film was a thing of the past, in stepped directors like Christopher Nolan who took a stand for the continued use of film prints and released films like Interstellar and now, his latest feature, Dunkirk, on 70mm prints.
Our Vic 8 has screened everything from the space horrors of Alien and Aliens; the epic desert adventure Lawrence Of Arabia; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, to a rather marvellous short film called A Year Along The Abandoned Road with a soundtrack by Jan Garbarek. As we progress further down the road of digital projection, every 70mm screening takes on a new significance – a special event that can’t be replicated by the individual at home or on their phone – these screenings are about the community of cineasts that enjoy getting together, with a few hundred other people, to share an experience that harks back to the travelling fairs held on commons and parkland, and the early cinemas that the likes of the Lumiere Brothers helped fill with their novelty moving pictures in the late 1800s.
If you’re lucky enough to be given a behind the scenes tour of projection, what sight will greet you as you approach the Vic 8? To start with, its size is impressive. Easily over 7ft tall, the projector is bolted down to the floor and looms over you as you approach it. Where these days you may find touch-screen panels, and digital displays, the controls for the Vic 8 are all wonderfully tactile – a crank here, a sturdy flick there, operating this machine is the equivalent of driving a classic car around Cambridge, as opposed to this year’s latest model. Everything is accessible, and with the right screwdriver or oil can, fixable without a tablet computer downloading the latest firmware update from the cloud. The heavily insulated power cables to the Vic 8 resemble something like the ribcage bones of the Xenomorph Queen from Aliens.
It’s an honour to be the only cinema in the Picturehouse family to receive a 70mm print of Dunkirk for the film’s opening 3 weeks. All credit is due to the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, for requesting it be filmed on this format, and to the film’s distributor, Warner Bros, for agreeing to release it on 70mm. They both do a great service to the diversity of cinema on offer to UK audiences, and we’re delighted to be offering it to cinema-goers around Cambridge and beyond. The film opens here on Friday 21 July, tickets are on-sale now and if you want the best seats in the house, I recommend pre-booking your ticket. I hope you enjoy your 70mm Dunkirk experience at the Arts Picturehouse Cinema.Book now for a 70mm screening