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Friday the 13th August 2010 was a lucky day for more than 350 guests who watched a film in Rungsted, Denmark marking the 125th anniversary of the birth of Karen Blixen (original birth name: Karen C. Dinesen). The guests arrived in practical, picnic clothes to see Sidney Pollack's blockbuster "Out of Africa" (1985), which was coincidentally celebrating its 25th anniversary.
"Out of Africa" was shown as an Open-Air performance in 70mm on a 10 meter wide canvas on Karen Blixen's own lawn. Organizers behind the event was The Rungstedlund Foundation, which operates the Karen Blixen Museum in Rungsted, some 20 kilometers north of Copenhagen. The audience brought chairs and blankets to keep warm during the 3½ hour long event.
Newspaper coverage of event 12. august 2010. Top: Berlingske Tidende. Middle: Frederiksborg Amtsavis. Below: Ugebladet Hørsholm.
The organizers had worked several months planning, finding sponsors, ticket sales and contracts for the showing of the film. Early on I had an informal talk with Curator Anne Sofie Tiedemann Dal and gently asked her how this performance would be organized. A handful of options were available; DVD, BluRay, 35mm or 70mm film. From my point of view, 70mm would be the obvious choice to ensure the best quality available on the lawn.
DVD were out of the question, because the quality isn't good enough. Nor are there any 35mm film prints in distribution anymore. The most practical and impressive solution, I suggested, was to show the 70mm print from the Danish premiere of February 1986. The distributor UIP still keeps this print available, and thanks to them for that!
I recommended that Anne Sofie contacted Orla Nielsen, who is the only person in Denmark who has equipment and experience to show 70mm from a portable system. Orla had previously shown 70mm at DGI Byen's swim bath in 2000.
Karen Blixen Museet's advert from Politiken 12. august.
Advertising of this event was done with a flyer distributed at the museum, as well as the museum's Facebook page, e-mail newsletters and finally, through a few newspapers on 12 August, with a simple ad advertising the screening of "Out of Africa" in Blixen's backyard.
Tickets were sold through BilletNet and cost DKK 85. In the days leading up to this show organizers had anxiously glanced at the weather forecast, hoping for dry weather. August had been very rainy, so would the "traditional" bad luck of Friday the 13th become troublesome here? The green grass was still damp on Friday evening but the day had been sunny.
Blixen museum's cafe had a very busy afternoon to prepare meals for the guests who had ordered the menu for the evening. The big grill was put into position on the terrace, and while a lovely scent of barbecue spread in the summer evening, guests started to arrive quietly and found a favorite spot on the Rungstedlund's "savannah".
Many people bought the menu from the cafe, and just as many had brought their own picnic basket with homemade food, to be enjoyed on the lawn.
While the audience enjoyed the sun's last rays on the grass, they opened champagne, wine and beer. There was also plenty of lovely draft beer from Bornholm, wine and soft drinks to satisfy even the thirstiest guests in the cafe.
Philips DP75 behind the wide frames.
Orla Nielsen and Jørgen Carlsen from Biffen, Aalborg had arrived the day before with their speakers, film projector and the 70mm film.
The large screen was supplied by Jesper Meng from Kinorevuen in Skørping. Jesper has extensive experience in open-air cinema operation, and he actually delivered a brand new screen for this occasion. Cables were pulled, speakers positioned and the screen was set up. The 70mm film was wound on to some projection reels and made ready to be shown.
3 JBL 3677 (left, center, right) speakers.
The projector was given last minute alignments, and then the projectionist team was ready to work. By the light of a Maglite, the film was loaded in the machine, the xenon (lamp) was lit and the amplifier was ready for use. The soundhead in the machine was an older model from the 1960s, but only used once 10 years ago in DGI Byen. It was virtually completely new and ready to "pull" magnetic sound out of the old film strip.
Guests Mette Winther & Helle Kjeldgaard, who love the film and the actors.
Interested in projection technology, several guests visited the projection vehicle. Many believed that it was "old technology" Orla had brought, and that it existed only in a few theaters today. Imagine their surprise when we told them that it really was a quite normal film projector, which they could find in most any Danish cinema. Obviously it was a bit unusual with 70mm but the guests had their curiosity satisfied.
5 reels of superb quality 70mm film.
Several people asked if they could sit on the lawn in front of the film projector, and despite a few well-intended "warnings" about projector noise, many sat down. Some others did complain about the projector noise and I have to admit the sound of the clicking filmstrip was considerable.
But I guess that is part of the conditions for open air performances. Projection in a somewhat primitive style, it is a different experience to watch movies outdoors, compared to a safe, comfortable and warm indoor cinema. Open air is more of an "event" and has a "live" touch to it.
Line, Bettina, Hanne and Trine around a delicious menu of salad, chicken and bread, as well as Austrian wine.
A beam of light from the Philips DP75 machine threw its delicate light from the great film strip out through the summer night. Flying insects danced in the light before it hit the canvas in crisp 70mm quality. It's an almost 50 years old Philips 110mm lens, Orla used this evening. Originally it came from the Europe Bio in Aalborg. And so, once again it was back in use to show great movies on a large canvas.
Catherine Lefebvre prepares introduction.
While we all waited for it to get dark enough Catherine Lefebvre took the microphone around at 21 and welcomed the audience. She thanked the Nordea Bank for sponsoring the show, and also UIP for making the film available. And not least thanking her staff in return for the hard work they all did to get this evening up and running. Then I had the honor of telling the audience a little bit about the movie and the 1986 premiere in Denmark's largest cinema, the Imperial Bio.
Time is 21:15, and the film has begun.
Catherine Lefebvre finished the introduction by saying that she personally would hand out Kleenex to all who needed it during the film's third and sad last part. Her initiative aroused enthusiasm and fun among the audience. Catherine had brought three packages Keenex from the local service station and placed them on the speakers.
Machine and film.
A quarter past nine the light on the screen went out, and the show was going. Universal Film's logo appeared on screen as it was now dark enough to show the film. Meanwhile, you could hear the soft swish of passing cars on the Strandvejen nearby (beach road), and a single airplane across the Øresund (water between Denmark and Sweden), John Barry's fine music appeared from the JBL speakers to support the iconic main titles. Just before daylight disappeared for the last time that day, some flying bats also took a look at David Watkins Oscar winning photography from Africa.
The big, beautiful 70mm image did a fine job on the screen. The colors are still beautiful and intense. There is something very special about the 70mm, allowing the story to become more vibrant.
The projectionist is waiting - and enjoying a beer.
Along with the deep colors, the definition shows all the details, such as you cannot see on DVD and TV, and it makes the illusion perfect - you are simply in the savannah in the company of Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Since the movie's running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes, it is necessary to make one extra break, for changing of reels, since there is only one machine to run the film. Orla had chosen the first break after about 30 minutes playing time - a break of less than 4 minutes, just long enough to change film reel. The second reel ran until 23 in the night, after which the "real" intermission of 20 minutes arrived. In other words, the intermission arrived after approximately 100 minutes of running time. The intermission was an opportunity to do re-supplies in the café, stretch legs and enjoy the fresh and humid summer air. 30 minutes before midnight, the film continued for the final 60 minutes.
350 guests enjoying a classic.
The evening dew began to accumulate and the 26 degrees with blue sky, bright sun and white clouds of earlier in the day was now superseded by 15 degrees and damp weather. Wisely, the audience had brought along blankets on to stay warm in this Danish August evening. The grass was wet with dew, and I could clearly smell the fresh soil in the air, and also got wet shoes while I walked around and took pictures during the movie. At one time it began to rain slightly, but just enough to make a few move for a Nordea sponsored raincover. Luckily it was a short distance to move and only a short shower, and soon rain clouds vanished, and opened a nice clear sky with all the stars you could wish for. The weather stayed dry the rest of the night.
Film magic at Rungstedlund Friday 13. August 2010.
It was a magical and unforgettable evening with good mood and many smiles. My evening in the company of Blixen, open-air and 70mm ended around 23:30 just after the break in star clear weather. A beautiful and unique experience. There were even several in the audience who enthusiastically told me that they had seen shooting stars in the sky above Rungstedlund. What more could you want? Orla told me a couple days later that the audience ended the day with a nice applause when the credits finally ran across the screen half past midnight.
Saturday morning, Orla and Jorgen packed up the whole cinema, and returned home to Aalborg.