Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ Scores Widest 70MM Release in 25 Years

Dunkirk Movie
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

Dunkirk” will appear in 125 70MM theaters, Warner Bros. Pictures said Wednesday. That’s the widest release in the format in 25 years, a testament to director Christopher Nolan’s clout and belief in the superiority of these screenings.

Directors such as Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino swear by 70MM, the industry term for a wide high-resolution film gauge that was once used to project epic films such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Ben-Hur.” They believe it creates crisper, more painterly images. However, theater chains have moved away from film projection, in favor of cheaper, digital forms of exhibition. It takes a filmmaker with enormous influence to compel them to take old equipment out of mothballs and hire staff that can work the older projectors.


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In 2016, Quentin Tarantino and the Weinstein Co. rolled out “The Hateful Eight” across roughly 100 70MM locations. The indie studio ginned up a lot of publicity for the move, but it was pricey, with some industry observers speculating that it cost between $8 million and $10 million to rebuild or install the equipment.

In 2014, Nolan convinced Paramount and Warner Bros. to let him screen “Interstellar” in 50 Imax enabled 70 MM venues. Other films such as Anderson’s “The Master” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” have been shot on 65MM film stock as a way of emphasizing their dramatic scope.

“Dunkirk” focuses on the evacuation of retreating Allied soldiers from the French beach during World War II. It stars Tom Hardy, Branagh, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, and newcomer Fionn Whitehead. Nolan always wanted to film to screen in 70MM and shot much of “Dunkirk” with Imax’s extremely high-resolution 2D film cameras. The director is something of a film traditionalist. He has publicly rejected attempts by studios to offer movies on home entertainment platforms early, advocating instead of the theatrical experience. He also is no fan of digital projection.

“I have been a longtime proponent of film – particularly the Imax film format – as a storytelling medium,” Nolan said in a statement. “The immersive quality of the image is second to none, drawing the audience into the action in the most intense way possible.”

Tickets to the 70MM engagements of “Dunkirk” go on sale on Wednesday. Regular tickets are available on Friday. The film opens on July 21.

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  1. Soon to be Famous says:

    Lot of Nolan haters here.

    Probably paid by Netflix to trash him for his recent comments on their hatred of movie theaters.

  2. George J. Obi says:

    If this was a college course, it’d be titled “How To Market Art Films To Fan Boys 101.” Works for me.

  3. Jake Laser says:

    A lot of really stupid comments here. Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and virtually every movie he has made has been brilliant.

  4. Jake the Snake says:

    Blooooooooooooood Duuuuuuuuumps!!

  5. Chucky says:

    World War II worship, sold to the US public by name-checking a Batman movie.
    Another example of Hollywood dumbing down product for make benefit unwashed peoples of Murica.

  6. Mark says:

    Correction: Hateful Eight came out in 2015…Saw it on Christmas Day…

  7. Neil says:

    Nolan knows, that this will pay off in the end, because it generates more publicity and gives the movie an ‘event’ feel…it’s smart and I hope it works.

  8. LOL says:

    Nolan’s films have no soul.

  9. Bindercd says:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

  10. Film traditionalists must always have access to high financing to reimburse theater owners as well as underwrite the project. Fewer and fewer will be able to do this.

    The risk for Nolan and Warner Bros. is to their influence on theater owners and limited financial partners should “DUNKIRK” lose money or merely btreak even given it is a World War II movie for a general audience who have shown indifference toward that era.

    This is not about filmmaking or entertainment but about financial profit.

  11. navtej singh says:

    not only has nolan succeeded in convincing studio to invest in an expensive war film but he’s going for the kill with the release format also, he’s going to leave them bankrupt. Wish i can find someone as trusting as WB trust nolan

    • joestemme says:

      Yes, WB is still trying to crawl out of the Bankruptcy hole that Nolan put them in with his multi-Billion dollar grossing Batman films.

      • cadavra says:

        Not to mention INCEPTION ($825 million worldwide theatrical) and INTERSTELLAR ($675 million worldwide theatrical), as well as the produced-only MAN OF STEEL ($688 million worldwide theatrical). Yeah, the man’s a real money pit.

    • Vidal Sassoon says:

      Yes Bankrupt. Of course.

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