35mm

Austin Cinematic Limits

Flashback to the spring of 1998 — yours truly is living in Philadelphia and desperately looking for another city to call my home. I am not ashamed to admit that I plan on basing a significant part of this decision on the quality of programming at movie theaters in each city. Austin is the clear favorite in this category. I fondly remember falling in love with the Alamo Drafthouse during SXSW 1998 (beer! food! movies!), but it is my virginal foray into the Paramount Theatre that remains emblazoned upon my mind. Despite earning a masters degree in cinema studies, I never had access to a repertory cinema before. Sure, I studied the history of cinema but I watched all of the films on television. Now, I am finally experiencing those films in the way that they were intended to be seen! It might be hard to believe, but up until that fateful summer, I had never seen a film released prior to 1975 on the big screen. Flashforward 14 years — I find myself at the Hideout Cafe sitting across the table from the Paramount’s film programmer, Jesse Trussell, on the eve of the official release of the 2012 Summer Classic Film series schedule.  Trussell hands a photocopy of the schedule to me. I scan it quickly. My jaw drops.

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This is the fight of the generation. The proliferation of technology, the cost and the spread of “democratic filmmaking” have propelled digital to the forefront, threatening to end 35mm as a platform. As more theaters convert wholly to digital projection and “projectionists” only understand how to press a button to make the movie work, the 100-year-old medium of preference is losing out. Which is why Christopher Nolan gathered the most prominent filmmakers together to watch 6 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises. As Gendy Alimurung writes in an absolute must-see article in LA Weekly evocatively titled, “Movie Studios Are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital are Vast, and Troubling,” Edgar Wright, Michael Bay, Bryan Singer and a host of other notable names were brought in for the “ulterior motive” of Nolan’s plea to save 35mm. Now, he’s fighting with ink. In the latest edition of the DGA Quarterly, the master filmmaker has some lofty words for 35mm and a strong dismissal of change for change’s sake.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but it will if it doesn’t get exactly what it wants. All it wants, however, is to bring you the news every weeknight and to consume a few cheeseburgers here and there. Nothing much, just links and beef and cheddar. Mmm… cheddar. “Sure, we said that we weren’t going to do any more parody trailers. But we didn’t say anything about parody posters!” Oh Disney, you scoundrels. We begin tonight with a shot of WereRowlf, a character from The Muppet Saga, a parody play from Disney’s The Muppets that came in a package of three posters. If it wasn’t so silly, it would be completely stupid. But it’s the Muppets, so I can’t help but giggle.

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