Hyderabad, rejoice. The rest of India, hop onto a plane to watch Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar the way its creator intended it to be seen.
Hyderabad’s Prasads IMAX has the only screen in the country where the space exploration drama can be watched on 70mm film and in the immersive format. Interstellar opens in India on November 7, two days after its release in the US. The director’s latest project stars Mathew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as astronauts who burrow through a wormhole to look for an alternative planet to Earth.
Nolan, a big advocate of celluloid in the digital age, is an ardent proponent of preserving older film projection methods and of pushing the boundaries of filmmaking technology. “David Lean dragged 65-millimeter cameras into the desert [for Lawrence of Arabia] and I don’t know why we shouldn’t have similar aspirations,” he told the New York Times in a recent interview.
He shot Interstellar on 35mm stock as well on 70mm in the IMAX format ‒ an acronym for Image Maximum ‒ to magnify the cinematic experience. But since cinemas around the world have been replacing outdated 35mm projection with digital alternatives, the film will be released in six formats, including 35mm, IMAX as well as 70mm on IMAX.
In India, 95% of the single-screen and multiplex cinemas have switched to digital from celluloid, according to this year’s FICCI-KPMG report on trends in the media and entertainment industries. (The country is estimated to have between 12,000 and 13,000 screens). Of these, only Prasads IMAX in Hyderabad has the 70mm projection equipment necessary to screen Interstellar the way director hopes it will be viewed.
Inquiries from afar
It is part of a multiplex complex built in 2003, and its management has retained its capacity to screen in different formats, said T Srikanth, General Manager, Operations, at Prasads IMAX. “We have a capacity of 630 seats, and our IMAX screen is 92 ft by 72 ft and the biggest in the country,” he said. “The size of the average multiplex screen is 24 ft by 55 feet, so we stand out in terms of sheer size.”
Srikanth added that he has been fielding inquiries from as far away as Delhi and Bangalore for show timings and tickets. “The IMAX theatre in general does very well for us – for instance, Avatar ran for almost a year and was watched by over 375,000 people,” he said. “We are really lucky to be screening Interstellar.”
Movies with IMAX versions such as Interstellar also help boost the prospects of other titles released during the rest of the year, said Preetam Daniel, IMAX’s director of sales for India and South-East Asia. “The buzz around Interstellar is very strong, both in the film fraternity and among audiences,” he said. “We programme only big-name movies such as superhero titles, and when a movie like Interstellar comes along, it somewhere drives the traffic for the rest.”
IMAX Corp set up its first theatre in India in Mumbai in 2001. Since then, apart from Prasads in Hyderabad, two more screens have been added in Mumbai and Bangalore. At least four more screens are ready, and are waiting for government permissions – one in suburban Mumbai and three in Chennai. At least two more screens are planned in Bangalore and the Delhi-Noida region, Daniel added.
For those who aren’t purists about cinema formats, Interstellar will be released on the rest of the IMAX screens and regular cinemas through digital means. The movie will open on anywhere between 300 and 500 screens, and won’t be dubbed into any Indian languages, said an executive with the movie’s Indian distributor, Warner Bros on condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to talk to the media.
“Expectations are huge, and Interstellar could go anywhere in terms of the box office,” he said. The movie’s marketing campaign is restricted to hoardings and trailers on television and the internet. After all, a Christopher Nolan movie is never just a Christopher Nolan movie. It’s a sermon from the Mount, awaited avidly and feverishly by his legions of devotees. Some of them will be making their pilgrimage to Hyderabad next week, waiting for a glimpse of their Lord and his mysterious ways.
This post originally appeared on Scroll.in.