Christopher Nolan‘s sci-fi epic “Interstellar” launches its box-office journey Wednesday with special early runs in roughly 240 specially equipped theaters across the country.
Paramount’s space saga starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain will screen in 77 markets on 41 IMAX screens, 10 in 70 millimeter film and 189 in 35 millimeter. By Friday, it will be in roughly 3,500 theaters nationwide.
The special screenings are at the behest of the director Nolan, an outspoken advocate for the preservation of film as digital increasingly dominates today’s movie production and projection landscape.
“They’re certainly not chasing box office with this,” Rentrak Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “In scale, the early release isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s huge in terms of the goodwill that it brings between the filmmaker and the studios and tastemakers. Moviegoers who really love cinema have to appreciate a studio taking that kind of care.”
Nolan shot “Interstellar” with both 35mm anamorphic film and, as he did on the “The Dark Knight” movies, 65mm IMAX film. The 70mm and 35mm film provide sharper, brighter images, its advocates maintain.
“I really think the technical aspect of how this film is presented is going to be more important than on any I’ve done before,” the director told this spring’s CinemaCon audience.
It’s not nostalgia that’s driving Nolan’s passion for film, however.
“I am in favor of any kind of technical innovation but it needs to exceed what has gone before and so far nothing has exceeded anything that’s come before,” he said.
“Interstellar” will not be screened in 3D, as most modern blockbusters are, and again Nolan maintains that it’s not simply because he’s a purist.
“It’s just not right for films I want to do,” said Nolan, who called the dimness of the 3D images “extremely alienating.”
The decision to skip 3D can affect a film’s bottom line, since it means that it won’t bring in the upcharges that come with rose-colored glasses. Some money will be left on the table, particularly overseas where Warner Bros. is distributing and 3D is more popular than in the U.S.
But that was true of 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” and those both grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. And the fact that IMAX, which is sure to provide the bulk of grosses from Wednesday and Thursday’s early screenings, is giving “Interstellar” a full run for the next several weeks and could also help offset the lack of 3D.
The early Wednesday launch will give “Interstellar” the jump on what’s expected to be a close and high-stakes battle between the space epic and Disney Animation’s “Big Hero 6,” which will open in around 3,700 locations on Friday.
Watch the video clip below in which Nolan, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and the IMAX team discuss the process involved for the IMAX 70mm film release of “Interstellar.”