Clear your calendar, L.A. cinephiles! The American Cinematheque has announced the titles for its extraordinary 70mm festival taking place at the iconic Egyptian Theatre in the days after the movie palace reopens following a three-year restoration. Netflix, in partnership with the American Cinematheque, bought the cinema in 2020.
The 516-seat theater, which was the longtime home of the American Cinematheque before the refurbishment, will retain its full ability to project 70mm prints and also be one of only five cinemas in the U.S. capable of projecting nitrate film. That early form of celluloid prints is notable for its astounding sharpness and vivid colors — you’ve never seen Technicolor until you’ve seen it in nitrate — but it’s extremely flammable, which you know if you’ve seen “Inglourious Basterds,” and thus harder to handle for many projectionists today.
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The festival “Ultra Cinematheque 70: Hollywood,” running from November 10 through November 21, will kick off with a 70mm print of Jacques Tati’s 1967 masterwork “Playtime” supplied by Janus Films. The extra-wide, super hi-def format is ideal for this film that encourages you to scan around the frame at all times as multiple axes of action take place at all times, like you’re scanning a large scale Breughel painting where multiple things are happening at once — almost the “choose your own adventure” of cinema. “Playtime” screens in 70mm every now and then (I caught it at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago 2008), but it’s a rare enough treat to be considered a true cinematic event.
The American Cinematheque’s very own 70mm prints of “Lawrence of Arabia” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” will be screened as well. And remember when there was a fuss and furor over Disney supposedly withholding archive prints from rep houses? Bruce Goldstein told IndieWire that wasn’t really an issue, and IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann poked holes in the general outcry about the issue at the time. Well, Disney is letting the American Cinematheque screen a 70mm print of James Cameron’s “Aliens,” a 20th Century Fox title acquired in Disney’s purchase of the studio in 2019.
“Boogie Nights,” “West Side Story,” “Spartacus,” “The Master,” “The Wild Bunch,” and “Nope” will also get the 70mm treatment as part of the lineup.
Beyond Fest at the American Cinematheque will also bring Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” as well as a screening of Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” with Wright in attendance for a Q&A moderated by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. This is where the Netflix influence is felt: the screening is pegged to the “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” animated series debuting on the streamer.
Chief projectionist Ben Tucker will be in the booth along with American Cinematheque union projectionists when the theater reopens November 9 and after. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will have lineups programmed by the AC, which, under the leadership of newly promoted artistic director Grant Moninger and senior programmer Chris Lemaire, also programs the Aero and Los Feliz 3 cinemas. Imani Davis, Cindy Flores, Lyric Luedke, and John Hagelston round out the team.
Netflix… helping to deliver some of the best news for theatrical in a while.
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