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Chicago's Music Box Theater's 70mm Film Festival
Friday, February 19th Ė Thursday, March 10th, 2016

The 70mm Newsletter
Written and photographed by: Andrew Kotwicki, USA Date: 16.03.2016
The illustrious Chicago, Illinois based Music Box Theater embarked last month on their largest 70mm Film Festival yet. Beginning on Friday, February 19th and lasting through Thursday, March 10th, thousands of pounds of celluloid prints were shipped from across the country with many additions made to the schedule as the festival began. The festival included a whopping list of 17 titles including Vertigo; The Master; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Brainstorm; Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; Interstellar; It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; Cleopatra; The Hateful Eight; Lawrence of Arabia; West Side Story and the 70mm Shorts Program including but not limited to Here’s Chicago: City of Dreams; A Year Along the Abandoned Road; Winners; Williamsburg, the Story of a Patriot and much, much more. This year is also notable for being among the first for the theater to show 70mm blow up prints of 35mm films including Ghostbusters; Krull; The Wild Bunch; Starman and Inherent Vice. The festival proved to be among the largest collections and presentations of 70mm film prints I have ever seen and in conjunction with the programming a series of exclusive 70mm poster prints were made for Vertigo, 2001: Space Odyssey, The Master, Ghostbusters and Inherent Vice. Also inside the lobby by the concession stand was a large chalkboard mural drawn by the theater associates of the 70mm Film Festival replete with snippets from all the films on the schedule in a sort of collage.

Each film was introduced with a back history behind the prints, some with a more checkered past than others. For instance, Ghostbusters was reportedly nearly taken off the schedule due to the last reel of the film being lost in the mail by FedEx. Luckily after many phone calls back and forth with FedEx, the last reel arrived at the very last minute and the film was able to play without a hitch. Of the selection of films, 8 of them contained 6-track magnetic masters while the rest were in digital audio.
More in 70mm reading:

Music Box Theatre 70mm Festival

70mm Retro - Festivals and Screenings

Internet link:


As you probably guessed, all of the blow-up prints (save for Inherent Vice) contained magnetic audio and I can say without hesitation they were among the loudest movies I’ve ever heard in a movie theater. The theater screen itself was expanded to 41 feet wide to accommodate the two Ultra Panavision films on the schedule along with newly installed 7.1 channel sound. I myself was only able to see 10 of the films on the schedule but all were indelible experiences to see and hear.

The first night consisted of Ghostbusters and the projectionist informed the audience beforehand we were about to see 1 of 3 surviving 70mm prints left in the world and that it contained an exclusive 6-track magnetic mix not included on the Blu-Ray edition or the recently released 4K theatrical release. Despite some frame dropping on the leaders and a couple blemishes between reel changes, this was by far the best I’ve ever seen Ghostbusters look and sound with some ear piercingly sharp sound design. When the ghostbusters first test their proton packs accidentally on an unsuspecting maid, the sound was almost deafeningly loud. The next day consisted of Vertigo, The Wild Bunch, The Master and Inherent Vice.
Vertigo looked splendid and to my knowledge was the only VistaVision film on the schedule. We were informed The Wild Bunch was loaned out by Warner Brothers and that it was the last surviving 70mm archival print left and second to Ghostbusters was the print with the most wear and tear although the 6-track magnetic mix was a very powerful listen.

The last two of the evening belonged to Paul Thomas Anderson with the uncompressed 70mm presentation of The Master followed by what the projectionist called ‘the best blow up print ever made’ with Inherent Vice. Despite being shot in 35mm, compared to the other blow up prints shown in the festival, Inherent Vice looked stunning with every grain level visible and a far brighter image than the 4K digital presentation. At the last minute, The Hateful Eight 70mm Roadshow was added to the schedule and when compared to the AMC Forum 30 presentation in Sterling Heights, Michigan, this was by far the best presentation of the film I’ve seen yet. The screen itself was adjusted to properly accommodate the Ultra Panavision aspect ratio with no focus issues or sound dropouts to speak of, which were a frequent problem with the AMC Forum 30 presentation.

The following weekend I returned for Krull, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Many fellow cinephiles balked at the inclusion of the blow up print of Krull on the schedule but much like prior festivals the Music Box Theater held which included the likes of Lifeforce on the schedule, it was fun to mix up the programming with something not so serious. The print itself looked great and as previously mentioned, the 6 track magnetic audio had me reaching for my ears for some ear piercing sharp sound effects. The next film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World appeared to be a restored Ultra Panavision print although the audio was digital rather than magnetic. Despite some sound dropouts in between reel changes, the presentation was perfect and appeared to be the general theatrical release version as opposed to the roadshow cut and the newly assembled Criterion cut.
The author Andrew Kotwicki.

As with The Hateful Eight, the screen was adjusted accordingly to accommodate the full bore of Ultra Panavision. The last film on the schedule proved to be the theater’s biggest moneymaker, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which managed to sell out every single screening on the schedule. The print appeared to be the same one which played at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York around August, 2015, although this time around the audio was magnetic rather than digital and despite the deafening loudness it was the only film shown at the festival with crackling audio. Despite the deficiencies, this is still the truest possible way to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with contrast levels, brightness and color saturation not seen since the 1987 Criterion laserdisc release supervised by Stanley Kubrick. The last film on the schedule for the weekend was a restored print of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and despite the film’s age, it appeared to be brand new and free of any damage or blemishes whatsoever, making it, Inherent Vice and The Hateful Eight among the cleanest prints shown at the festival.

Sadly I was unable to attend the 70mm Shorts Program, Cleopatra, Interstellar, Starman, Lawrence of Arabia or West Side Story but I’ve a feeling Lawrence of Arabia and West Side Story will be back on the schedule next year. Considering this is my first time seeing a true 70mm blow up print as opposed to films like Brainstorm or Interstellar which alternate between 35mm footage and 65mm footage, it was an eye opening experience. Despite the blow up prints of 2.35:1 35mm films slightly cropped reframing to a 2.20:1 70mm blow up print, I must say I will still take a blow up print over a 35mm print for the brightness, resolution, size and magnetic sound. If you’ve never heard a film on 6-track magnetic audio, it’s quite simply the loudest and fullest possible way to hear a film with emphasis on heavy bass levels, rich directional use of the surround sound field and ear piercingly sharp clarity. It was also gratifying to see all of these films under the supervision of some of the best projectionists in the nation as opposed to the hasty 70mm roadshow rollout of The Hateful Eight which played in theaters handled by projectionists who haven’t touched a film print in years. Word has it the theater programmers are already looking into what to include for next year’s 70mm Film Festival and based on the success of this one, I’ve a feeling it will be even larger than this year’s rollout. Stay tuned for the next 70mm Film Festival by the Music Box Theater, arguably one of the finest movie houses in the nation and by far among the best curators of 70mm films in the world!

70MM Film Festival: The Ultimate Edition Schedule

Friday, February 19th
7:00pm Vertigo
11:00pm Ghostbusters

Saturday, February 20th
11:30am Vertigo
3:30pm The Wild Bunch
7:00pm The Master
10:30pm Inherent Vice

Sunday, February 21st
12:00pm Ghostbusters
3:00pm The Hateful Eight: 70MM Roadshow Edition
7:30pm The Wild Bunch

Monday, February 22nd
7:30pm Vertigo

Wednesday, February 24th
7:30pm Inherent Vice

Thursday, February 25th
6:30pm Ghostbusters
9:30pm The Master

Friday, February 26th
1:30pm Itís a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
7:00pm 2001: A Space Odyssey
11:00pm Brainstorm

Saturday, February 27th
12:00pm Krull
3:30pm Itís a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
9:00pm 2001: A Space Odyssey

Sunday, February 28th
12:00pm Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
4:00pm 2001: A Space Odyssey
8:00pm Krull

Monday, February 29th
7:30pm 2001: A Space Odyssey
Tuesday, March 1st
7:30pm 2001: A Space Odyssey

Wednesday, March 2nd
7:00pm Itís a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Thursday, March 3rd
6:30pm Brainstorm
9:45pm 2001: A Space Odyssey

Friday, March 4th
7:00pm Interstellar
11:30pm Starman

Saturday, March 5th
12:00pm 70MM Shorts Program
3:00pm Cleopatra
8:00pm Lawrence of Arabia

Sunday, March 6th
11:30am West Side Story
4:00pm Lawrence of Arabia
9:15pm Starman

Monday, March 7th
7:30pm West Side Story

Tuesday, March 8th
7:00pm Lawrence of Arabia

Wednesday, March 9th
7:00pm Cleopatra

Thursday, March 10th
2:00pm Lawrence of Arabia
8:00pm Interstellar
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Updated 21-01-24