Warner Bros. Prepping 'Dunkirk' for One of the Largest 70mm Releases of Last 25 Years

Christopher Nolan’s commitment to the film format will be on full display with the release of his World War II drama Dunkirk, whose July 21 release is expected to include roughly 100 70mm theater installations plus 31 Imax 70mm theaters — which would make it among the widest 70mm releases in the last quarter century.

Theaters scheduled to install 70mm film projectors for the release including AMC Burbank in Los Angeles and AMC Lincoln Square in New York, as well as the ArcLight Dome in Hollywood.

Much of Dunkirk was lensed with Imax film cameras by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. Oscar-winning VFX house Double Negative is leading the tricky visual effects work. Meanwhile, Burbank-based Fotokem — the last remaining film lab in Los Angeles — was the lab for the production and is handling the film prints, including those for the 15-perf Imax and 5-perf (standard) 70mm release. (Word on the street is that an anamorphic 35mm film version of Dunkirk is also being made.)

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

Nolan has been a champion of keeping film alive as a production medium, as well as for exhibition and archival purposes. He has been using Imax film cameras for a growing portion of the production of his motion pictures, an effort that started with  2008's The Dark Knight.

Warner Bros. is working to make the 70mm release possible, though didn't offer details. With digital projection now common around the world and a scarcity of 70mm projectors, this is an ambitious undertaking. The last time a notably wider release on 70mm occurred was for Ron Howard's 1992 period drama Far and Away. More recently, the 70mm film format got a burst of attention when The Weinstein Co. released Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight on roughly 100 screens.

The 70mm release of The Hateful Eight was challenging, starting with the need to simply locate the projectors and then rebuild and install them for the theatrical presentations (at a total cost of $8 million to $10 million, according to sources), led by Boston Light & Sound (which had not responded to a call from The Hollywood Reporter at press time, though presumably might be involved in Dunkirk due to the scarcity of 70mm equipment and expertise).

Projectionists also needed training to present Hateful Eight, and Fotokem made the release prints. Tickets to the Dunkirk 70mm engagements go on sale Wednesday at DunkirkMovie.com, Fandango and other sites, two days before the availability of the wider release.