Posted on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 by Jacob Hall
Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight opened on 100 screens this past week as part of a unique, limited engagement. These 100 theaters would not be screening the movie through digital projection, but on 70mm film, a format that is all but extinct. That alone is an ordeal and a half, but that unique projection would only be one aspect of this “roadshow” release. There would also be an overture. And an intermission. And souvenir programs. Tarantino’s obsession with classic film presentation has climaxed – to watch The Hateful Eight in this format is to take a three-hour journey back in time, to an age where movies were truly sold as proper events.
As a sucker for Tarantino’s work (I did rank all 122 of his characters) and an even bigger sucker for unique, one-of-a-kind theatrical experiences, I knew there was no way I was going to miss seeing The Hateful Eight in “glorious” 70mm. So, here’s how it all went down.
Although there are several theaters screening The Hateful Eight in its roadshow version in Austin, Texas, certain nightmare stories from around the country made me very picky about where I would see the movie. Since many multiplexes haven’t utilized film projectors in years, tales of mistakes and mishaps swept the internet in wildfire. Broken projectors. Melted prints. Theater managers simply throwing their hands in the air and screening DCPs instead.
My decision made itself: I would see the film at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in downtown Austin. First of all, the Drafthouse’s famously strict no-talking policies would ensure a solid audience. Second of all, the Ritz location was already equipped with a 70mm projector and had a staff that knew what they were doing in the booth. In addition to various repertory screenings, I had previously seen The Master, Interstellar, and Inherent Vice projected in 70mm here and the projection had never been anything short of flawless. If you live near a theater with repertory experience, it may be a better choice than the theater at your local mall – the chances of a professional projectionist being involved (and not a hapless, underpaid teen) are probably little higher.
Plus, the Drafthouse had devised its own special Tarantino-themed menu:
If you want to check out this version of The Hateful Eight (and, spoiler alert, you do), check this Reddit thread before you commit to a long drive. It’s a fairly comprehensive look at which theaters are providing a great show and which ones are shitting the bed.
Despite tickets priced at a premium and the constant internet chatter about the exclusivity of this whole endeavor, The Hateful Eight didn’t start to feel like a proper event until I received my souvenir program. Here’s the thing: this program is nothing fancy. It’s only about ten pages and most of those pages are dedicated to stills from the film and photos from the set. It’s not the kind of thing that lights your world on fire, and serious collectors of movie merchandise won’t be bowled over by it.
But you know what? A for effort, and I mean that with approximately zero condescension. Getting to flip through this booklet while waiting in the lobby and then while waiting in the theater enhanced the experience in a low-key but significant way. This little book made the movie feel like Something Special instead of just another late-night screening. In the age of the internet, this felt like the old-school hype machine that powered epics like Gone With the Wind coming back to life. If the job of a souvenir program is get you invested in a movie before a single frame is screened, then this thing did its job.