The Somerville Theatre’s bringing rare prints back to the ’Ville this week for its second annual 70mm and WideScreen Festival after last year’s event drew crowds from around the world.
The Somerville Theatre’s one of only about a dozen theaters in the country that can show 70mm films, according to Director of Operations Ian Judge.
The high-quality format that offers crisp images and enhanced audio has largely fallen out of use due its steep costs compared to digital. The prints damage easily, and even if theaters manage to get their hands on a 70mm print—movie studios are careful about who they lend them to—they need special equipment and an experienced projectionist to show the film. The Somerville Theatre’s projectionist has almost 40 years of experience screening 70mm films, according to Judge.
“As years go on, more and more of them will disappear—they get damaged, they get lost. For films that were made in 70mm, it really is the ultimate film format. If you want to experience these movies as they were meant to be seen by the people who created them, then this is one of your last chances to do so,” Judge says.
The theater will hold 17 screenings between Sept. 20 and Oct. 1. Offerings range from classics like “Cleopatra” and “Lawrence of Arabia” to the more modern “Wonder Woman.” Tickets are $15 for adults, with lower prices for seniors and some matinees.
Despite the rarity of these screenings, there are some signs of hope for 70mm films. Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” was screened in several formats including 70mm, and the Somerville Theatre recently commissioned a new 70mm print of “2001: A Space Odyssey” for its exclusive use.
And moviegoers are still interested in the 70mm format, if last year’s festival attendance is any indicator. About 2,100 people attended the first festival, according to Judge.
He says the festival is taking a risk by screening fewer high-profile films this year.
“That’s kind of the purpose,” Judge says. “We do these kinds of things and we do them because they’re important to do and not because necessarily they’ll make money, although we obviously want them to do that. It’s the reason we run old movies and repertory stuff. Those are what make us a special place–you can’t see the 70mm stuff everywhere.”
The Somerville Theatre is giving one Scout reader a pair of tickets to its screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” on Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. Enter by September 25 for a chance to win.