Why Theater Owners Despise ‘Interstellar’ Director Christopher Nolan

The campaign and leadup to Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar, has been epic. The Matthew McConaughey starring space drama looks to be, by all accounts, another megahit for The Dark Knight director. However, in bringing his latest opus to theaters, Nolan is infuriating theater owners.


Christopher Nolan is a staunch believer in film; not as a concept, not as an art form, but film itself. Celluloid. Nolan despises digital filmmaking as much as theater owners despise him, and his insistence that moviegoers see Interstellar via his preferred format is driving them crazy.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the two major enemies that Nolan has created with his release of Interstellar are Byron Berkley (CEO and President of Foothills Cinemas) and Joe Paletta (CEO and founder of Spotlight Theaters.) Theatrical exhibitors have struggled to convert all of their theaters to strictly digital presentation formats, and Nolan’s insistence that fans see Interstellar not in 4k Digital or Digital IMAX, but rather in 35mm, 70mm or IMAX 70mm isn’t helping.

In the end, it all comes down to money. If the theaters show Interstellar the way that the Inception director desires, they’ll have to bring in all new, special projectors – not to mention projectionists that know how to operate them.

Joe Paletta commented on what he views as the absurdity of Nolan’s efforts.

“This devalues what we’ve done. I can’t afford to get the projectors out of the warehouse for two days, and I don’t even have anyone to operate them.”

Byron Berkley agreed with Paletta, saying, “It makes no sense to step backwards in time.”

The digital versus film debate has heated up in the last few years as more and more filmmakers convert to an all digital format. One of the key reasons for the switchover is, again, money. Shooting digitally is cheaper. Instead of paying for miles and miles of film stock – with only a fraction of it included in the final product – directors can shoot digitally and simply “erase” what they don’t want. Shooting digitally also means that directors can immediately view what they’ve shot via monitors on set instead of waiting up to a day for the film to be developed.

However, Christopher Nolan isn’t the only director that’s refusing to march to the tune of digital filmmaking. Quentin Tarantino so believes in film presentations that he took ownership of a theater in Los Angeles that only presents movies via the film format.

The only theaters that might benefit from Nolan’s celluloid insistence are smaller theaters that have been slow to convert to digital, says Cinema Blend. A 35 or 70 mm presentation using the equipment that they already have up and running might lead to big returns as purists run towards the format their favorite director is recommending.

Interstellar opens on November 5 in select theaters and everywhere else on November 7th.

[image via mashable]

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