'The Hateful Eight': 70mm Road Show Hits a Few Glitches in Early Showings

THE HATEFUL EIGHT Still 1 - H 2015
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino's Western is playing in 100 theaters, many of which brought in projection equipment to exhibit the film.

Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight road show sold a strong $4.6 million worth of tickets over the Christmas holiday weekend, showing that moviegoers were game to see the film in its 70mm Ultra Panavision version. But along the way, there were glitches at some theaters, including failing projectors, out-of-focus images and sound sync issues.

In order to show the 200-plus pounds of film, old projectors were refurbished and retrofitted into modern theaters, while experienced projectionists were hired to operate the equipment and maintain standards. Released by The Weinstein Co., the 70mm version of The Hateful Eight is a slightly longer version that includes both an overture and a 12-minute intermission. When some sites ran into problems, audience members took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

“Those tweets don’t give an accurate picture of how well the roadshow 70mm showings have gone. They represent issues that were rare and far between. And when those select occurrences happened, the projectionists immediately fixed the issue or switched to the DCP print, so moviegoers all still got to see Quentin’s incredible film," responded Erik Lomis, TWC president, theatrical distribution.

A number of theater managers contacted by The Hollywood Reporter stated that screening went off smoothly once the kinks were worked out, saying that there were no notable issues with the projectors in their 70mm screenings. And many tweets from moviegoers who saw the film where it was projected without problems were highly favorable.

Ryan Oestreich, the manager of The Music Box in Chicago, said that his theater had no problems during its Hateful Eight screenings and that his print of the film "looks just as good as the first time that we threw it up." That being said, Music Box has had two 70mm projectors in-house since 2001 and also boasts an experienced team of projectionist who have run reel-to-reel prints of classics like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. "[The projectionists] have been doing this for so long they are just happy they get a new film to project," he said.

But speaking of theaters that had just installed the equipment, Oestreich continued, "However much training these guys got, they were just kind of thrown in and were told, 'Hey run this thing that we just installed that should work really well and hopefully you won't have an problems.' I hope that they are all hanging in there and I am glad that they are working hard to show it on film."

When asked if he had any advice for theaters that are less experienced with 70mm projections, Oestreich said, "Double check all of your loops and your sprockets and make sure that you are not damaging that print because it will ruin the experience for everybody." The Music Box plans to run the 70mm print of The Hateful Eight for as long as it is available. 

Theater sources say that many of the hiccups were during the first few showings, when theaters were still getting used to the new/old equipment. According to TWC, less than 1 percent of the shows over the weekend were forced to run the digital version (which was provided as a backup), and all 100 theaters are showing the 70mm version without issues. Commented Lomis, "Part of the risk and thrill of 70mm and celluloid film is honoring its imperfections and the history it brings with it. The box- office numbers speak for themselves to how well audiences are responding to this film."
The Hateful Eight, which stars Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson, will now expand nationwide Dec. 30, instead of Dec. 31.
See some tweets from Hateful Eight moviegoers below.