Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was released this month to wide acclaim particularly for his decision to film using IMAX cameras. Dunkirk has been called a film that needs to be seen on the biggest possible screen. Nolan himself has expressed concern over how filmmaking has changed to become a digital platform with less consumers heading to the silver screen to watch films.
Dunkirk will have the widest 70mm release in 25 years. 125 cinemas will show the format on the ratio that it was filmed. The last filmmaker to push for a wide release on 70mm was Quentin Tarantino. The Hateful Eight was released on 70mm across 100 cinemas. This will be the fourth film Nolan has used IMAX cameras on. The other three were The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar.
The future of cinema has been at the forefront of Christopher Nolan’s mind for a long time. In 2014 the director wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal explaining that while the experience of film has been devalued and equalled to television and online content there is hope. Nolan believes that cinema has always overcome challenges from different platforms to be the preferred way for consumers to watch films.
Part of Nolan’s push towards IMAX comes from his worry that cinema is losing out to new digital platforms. Ticket sales are falling every year as consumers turn to home media and smart devices to watch films and TV shows on streaming services like Netflix. Film studios have tried several methods to adapt to the digital age. A Field in England, the 2013 British film by Ben Wheatley, was released simultaneously in cinema, on DVD, online and on TV in the UK. While many experts believe that this is the future of film, it has yet to catch on with only nine films in total experimenting with simultaneous release. Film magazine Variety reported that Nolan himself rejected the idea of early releases on home media stating: “the only platform I’m interested in talking about is theatrical exhibition.”
Another route that is being taken by film studios is to use digital platforms as a launch pad to promote films using non-traditional outlets. Jurassic World is the fourth highest grossing film in the world (not counting inflation) and achieved its success through a combination of nostalgia and smart digital marketing. One non-traditional outlet that promoted the film was online gaming site Slingo through the officially licensed Jurassic World slots game. Companies like Slingo allow film studios to reach out to a different target audience, namely those who aren’t necessary film fans. In the case of Jurassic World the marketing clearly worked and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see more companies use non-traditional digital platforms to promote films this way in the future.
While Nolan is enthusiastic for cinema to develop, one area that he hasn’t supported was the 3D revolution. In a 2009 interview with Collider he pointed out that filming in 3D creates limitations for the filmmaker and requires the movie be shot on video rather than film. If there is one thing that defines Christopher Nolan it is that he doesn’t do limitations. If Dunkirk is successful it could see a resurgence of consumers to the cinema.