'The Hateful Eight': Meeting the Challenge of a 70mm Roadshow Release

In order for The Hateful Eight to make its debut in a special 70mm roadshow engagement — it begins in 100 theaters on Dec. 25 before the film goes wide in digital projection on Dec. 31 — a massive effort is required by director Quentin Tarantino and The Weinstein Company. A coordinated approach is needed from production, distribution and exhibition. 

The roadshow presentations — a format that was generally used from the early 1950s through the early 1970s for movies ranging from Ben Hur to Lawrence of Arabia  — displayed movies in two “acts” with an intermission. This presentation of Hateful Eight will be shown in a slightly longer version (which will include both an overture and a 12-minute intermission) than when it plays digitally. TWC has lined up 100 screens, including at least one in each of the top 44 markets. And, according to the producers, to commemorate the event, Tarantino and cast members are planning to make some surprise appearances in select cities.

The film itself was shot in 65mm — with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses that had not been used since the ‘60s — by Tarantino's go-to cinematographer Robert Richardson, who has won Oscars for JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. Richardson worked closely with suppliers such as Kodak (Tarantino banded together last year with several studios and filmmakers including Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams to make deals with Kodak in order to keep film alive, at least for the foreseeable future), Burbank-based FotoKem (which handled all lab work including processing and making prints) and production equipment provider Panavision.

For exhibition, just locating the vintage projectors was a challenge. And then rebuilding and installing them for the theatrical presentations — at a total cost of $8 million to $10 million, according to sources — was an 18-month process, led by Boston Light & Sound. BL&S company president Chapin Cutler says it involved finding “some projectors from collections, some from movie houses that went digital, but most from service companies that had been active when film was king. There were a few in kind of running condition, but most were missing parts that were needed to run the machines. Most of what we got were in pretty rough shape. For most, we had to strip out all the gear and then build them back together, [in some cases] remanufacturing the equipment or making some of the missing parts.”

Projectionists also needed training. “We trained new people and brought people out of retirement who did it years ago,” says Hateful Eight producer Richard Gladstein.

With these projectors now operational and available, there’s the potential they could be used for future films beyond Tarantino’s roadshow. Sources say Warner Bros. is considering the possibility of having a 70mm release for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was shot in part in 65mm Imax and opens in March. There’s also some murmurs suggesting that others are considering 70mm rereleases of classics that were originally made for the format, such as Lawrence of Arabia.

“I think a lot of people are entertaining that," says Hateful Eight producer Shannon McIntosh, noting that with the projector availability, “it becomes a no-brainer.”