CinemaCon: Sony Teases Ang Lee's 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk'

"Technology is always second to story, and Billy Lynn's story is an American story," said Sony chair Tom Rothman of the technically bold film.
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Ang Lee

A short teaser for Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk received enthusiastic applause as Sony Pictures kicked off its presentation Tuesday night at the CinemaCon exhibitors convention in Las Vegas.

The newest effort from the Oscar-winning director of Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi has been highly anticipated in the production and entertainment communities since it was announced that the pic would be filmed in 4K (four times the resolution of today's commonly used 2K), in 3D and at a high frame rate of 120 frames per second (movies are normally shot and presented at 24fps). The movie's specs, unprecedented for a feature-length Hollywood release, promise to offer a very natural look.

Sony Pictures motion picture group chairman Tom Rothman introduced the footage by emphasizing Lee's visionary and inventive nature and by saying that the director used what the exec called "ultra high frame rates" for "blending" the intensity of war and the rest of life — seeming to indicate that the frame rates might vary in the production to suit the filmmaker's creative intent. "But technology is always second to story, and Billy Lynn's story is an American story."

Made with Jeff Robinov's Studio 8, Billy Lynn is an adaptation of Ben Fountain's novel about a 19-year-old private (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who survives a battle in Iraq that was captured by news cameras. He and his company of soldiers return to the U.S. for a promotional tour culminating in a Thanksgiving Day football game’s halftime show.

The clip (which included unfinished visual effects) featured sequences during the war, scenes from when Billy returns home and colorful shots of the fireworks and lights in the halftime show.

At CinemaCon, the teaser was not shown in the 4K, 3D, 120fps format. At the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention on Saturday, Lee will present a clip of the film in its intended format for the first time. No single digital cinema projector is currently capable of playing back that format, and so at NAB, it will be shown using two 4K laser projectors from manufacturer Christie.

Sony hasn't announced plans for Billy Lynn's release, and it is unclear how many theaters will be equipped to show the film in Lee's preferred format; it is expected to be a very small number due to the complexity and experimental nature of the effort.

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