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Showing DUNKIRK in 2.20 ratio in UK cinemas

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  • Showing DUNKIRK in 2.20 ratio in UK cinemas

    With his love for film Christopher Nolan has shot about 75% of DUNKIRK on 70mm IMAX with the rest, where it was impractical to use IMAX, on standard 70mm.

    In the US and Canada about 125+ cinemas are showing DUNKIRK in one of the these two formats. This number is well up on the number that managed to show INTERSTELLAR in 70mm and slightly up on the number Quentin Tarantino managed to assemble for THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Although still relatively small in total, this is quite an achievement between the two of them in sustaining 70mm.

    In the UK, just three cinemas are showing DUNKIRK in 70mm IMAX, namely:
    - BFI IMAX, Waterloo
    - Science Museum, London
    - Vue, Printworks, Manchester (formerly Odeon)

    A further 4 cinemas are showing it in 70mm
    - Odeon, Leicester Square
    - Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge,
    - Filmhouse, Edinburgh
    - Glasgow Film theatre
    We seem to have lost the 70mm capability more than the US has.
    The 70mm IMAX aspect ratio will be 1.43 with presumably a switch to 2.20 for the plain 70mm scenes (but I don’t know that for a fact)
    The 70mm aspect ratio will be 2.20.

    There are also some 35mm prints in 2.39 anamorphic Scope extracted from the 70mm source. I am compiling a list. I have about 10 at the moment, all independent cinemas as all the chains seem to have scrapped their film projectors.

    So in the UK, DUNKIRK can be seen on film in 3 different formats in about 20 cinemas. That sounds very small and it is, but it is probably the largest it can get to now.

    On the digital side, DUNKIRK can be seen in two formats, one being digital IMAX in 1.90 aspect ratio. I don’t know how many digital IMAX cinemas there are but I would guess about 20.

    The other will be the main way that most people will see the film - on a standard DCP where it is encoded in 2.20 aspect ratio.
    Herein lies a problem. The standard DCP is designed to hold either a 1.85 ‘Flat’ image or a 2.39 ‘Scope’ image with the projection equipment set to show just either of those. Storing an image in another format is quite possible but it makes it difficult to project properly.

    DUNKIRK is stored as 2.20 inside a ‘Flat’ container. This is purely so that more pixels can be stored making a higher quality image. However if that image is projected ‘Flat’ it will appear letterboxed inside the 1.85 frame. Worse, if the screen is Scope shaped with no masking (as many are), the image will appear hanging midscreen letterboxed and pillarboxed with black bars.

    If that image is projected ‘Scope’ the image will certainly expand out on the sides but the top and bottom will be slightly cropped as the 2.20 image is stored with a greater height than a 2.39 Scope image.

    To resolve this Warners and Christopher Nolan have issued a Projectionist’s Letter (attached as a PDF) telling the cinemas what to do, which is, basically, to manually adjust the zoom lens.

    I probably need go no further for most of you to realise that as cinemas no longer have a resident technical projectionist, this is opening a can of worms where all sorts of problems could occur.

    I have actually been around to three of my local cinemas explaining the situation and asking what they are planning to do. I want to see DUNKIRK properly shown on a big Scope screen with just slight black bars left and right to reduce the ratio from 2.39 to 2.20. I certainly do not want to see it shown letterboxed in a 1.85 frame, just like a big TV screen.

    At Showcase Southampton, the manager I spoke to fully understood the problem and was positive to pass my concerns on. I am awaiting a response.

    At Vue Eastleigh, the Duty Manager I spoke to was semi-technical. He was aware of the problem and said that it had been discussed and assured me that everything would be alright. “All the running is now controlled remotely and it would be fine”, he said. I pressed him but he could not tell me how but I’m sure he believed that all would be OK. All the 9 Vue screens here are Scope shaped with no masking and he assured me that there was no way they were going to show a mini picture hanging in the middle. So we’ll see.

    At Odeon Port Solent, my concern was passed on the central technical department and I have had an E-Mail back from them. Sadly they said that Odeon (implying all Odeons) will be showing the film as ‘Flat’ with the image letterboxed. I have written back explaining in very clear terms that I think this cause of action is folly and that showing such a big epic as DUNKIRK on a smaller screen than the adverts is just plain wrong. We will see. So just Odeon Leicester Square and all the digital IMAX cinemas will be showing the film properly.

    That’s what I’ve discovered so far. I’ll update as I find more things out.

    On one hand I commend Christopher Nolan for using his clout to sustain film and shoot on large format celluloid. On the other hand, he has opened a can of worms to ensure that it is exhibited properly.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by PhilipW; 20th July 2017, 09:30 PM.

  • #2
    Thanks Phil, interesting.


    • #3
      Excellent review for the movie, btw, on the BBC, I am looking forward to catching it.


      • #4
        Going to see it on Sunday.Bound to compare it with the 1959 film.
        I was with a tour group that went to Dunkirk in 1990 for the 50th anniversary.We had veterans of the evacuation on our trip.When we were on the beach they recounted their personal experiences..It was fascinating,like living history.


        • #5
          Two small updates

          I have counted now that at least 15 UK cinemas will be showing DUNKIRK in 35mm. There may well be a few more. Many of these are Picturehouse cinemas who seem to have retained their equipment.

          This may seem like a small number; in absolute terms it is but it is probably also the largest number of 35mm prints struck for any film in many a while. For a lot of films released in the UK now, no 35mm prints are struck.
          This just emphasises what a powerful force in the industry Christopher Nolan is nowadays.

          I am seeing the manager that I spoke too at Vue again on Saturday when I am there seeing something else. He will have seen the film then himself and will update me on Vue are doing. He remains confident that all will be fine, but it is not in his hands, it is all controlled from HQ.
          All the DCPs are locked by Warners until Friday for security reasons (fair enough) so even the cinema itself cannot run the film through beforehand to check.
          Last edited by PhilipW; 20th July 2017, 09:27 PM.


          • #6
            Excellent review for the movie, btw, on the BBC, I am looking forward to catching it.
            Every review I've seen so far is full of praise - lets hope it does the boxoffice it deserves.


            • #7
              Have just booked to see this tomorrow night at Odeon Leicester Square where it is showing in Imax and is proceeded by a 20 minute organ interval by Donald Mckenzie


              • #8
                Originally posted by orpheum View Post
                Have just booked to see this tomorrow night at Odeon Leicester Square where it is showing in Imax...
                No. It's showing in 70mm at the Odeon Leicester Square. The London Imax showings are at the BFI Imax and The Science Museum Imax.


                • #9
                  I don't care which format as Donald McKenzie is still playing the organ.


                  • #10
                    Just seen "Dunkirk" (Adelaide, Sat pm.) An absorbing account of those few, desperate days. Courage, Bravery-a very moving film of ordinary individuals trying to reach England, anyway they can. No stiff upper lips in this film, just a harrowing account of war and all it's destruction.


                    • #11
                      I cheated I watched the 1959 film last night so I knew what happened!Great organ interlude from Donald McKenzie.Before the film a member of staff came up on stage to remind us we were watching it on 70mm.At those prices how could I forget.Three words to sum up the film,overblown,inaccurate and noisy.I had to take out my hearing aids.As we were going out we were given a strip of 70mm film.So all I need is a projector and big screen and watch it.On second thoughts I would far rather watch the 1959 film again.After all it features Flanagan and Allen.


                      • #12
                        Some updates from the cinema chains that I have contacted

                        Showcase Southampton have written back to say that DUNKIRK will be presented correctly full height in 2.20.
                        This new cinema, branded ‘Cinema De Lux’, has 10 large Scope screens and is rather a fine place to watch movies in. I presume all other Showcase cinemas will also be showing it fine.

                        I have spoken again to the manager at Vue Eastleigh who has now seen the film and confirmed that it too was being shown correctly full height at 2.20 on all its 9 Scope screens. He believes that all Vues will have the same policy.

                        So far, so good. I’m glad that cinemas are showing the film correctly. I would be delighted if it turned out that my original post was unduly pessimistic.
                        However, I have not yet received good feedback from Odeon. I can only hope that what they told me as to how they were going to show it turns out to be different from how they actually do. It could happen and I hope so.

                        Just along the coast from me in Bournemouth, Odeon has recently opened up a new 10 screen multiplex. The largest screen, branded ‘ISense’, boasts a screen size of 23’ by 55’, full Scope with no masking and very large. I have suggested to my local Odeon that they contact them and ask how they are going to show the film; it would be unbelievable if it were not shown it properly full height.
                        Hopefully that might shame my local Odeon into taking action.

                        I have yet to see the movie. I am thinking of going up to London to see it at the BFI IMAX.


                        • #13
                          I saw Dunkirk last night and it was truly stunning. I just wish I had an IMAX anywhere nearby. The film helped bring back to life an equally spectacular book about the evacuation that I read a few years ago. This was Dunkirk Spirit by Alan Pearce. As far as I know, it's the only novel that focuses entirely on Dunkirk from the perspective of those involved. The author obviously went to incredible depth to bring this mind-blowing event to life. If you enjoyed the film and want to fill in the blanks, I cannot recommend this book enough. Well done Nolan!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by orpheum View Post
                            Three words to sum up the film,overblown,inaccurate and noisy.
                            Interested in your comment about accuracy, Orpheum, you are the only commentator I have seen to mention that. Are you talking about the usual artistic licence, truncated timelines, merged characters etc., or do you feel there were more significant fabrications?


                            • #15
                              Now I don't want to get in a debate but I will give you some examples:
                              Air:the hairstyles
                              took place over land not over sea.Mainly bombers were shot down.Stukas were sitting targets as they were so slow.That's why the RAF were not seen over the beaches as in the film.
                              Army.It was the British army who mainly fought the rearguard action to stop the Germans not the French.Nor did the fighting take place on the entrance to the beach.It is ironic that this is the only time when the French are shown when around 120000 of them were evacuated.
                              Navy The original intention was for the small boats to pick up soldiers and take them to the waiting destroyers.That had to be abandoned when the navy had to withdraw the destroyers due to heavy losses and the small boats evacuated troops directly to south coat ports.The small boats didn't suddenly emerge as shown in the film.