‘Oppenheimer’: Christopher Nolan Sets CinemaCon Ablaze With Sneak Peek

Famed director says that the story of “the most important man in the human history” must be seen on the big screen

Christopher Nolan, Cillian Murphy and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema on the set of "Oppenheimer" (Universal Pictures)

Christopher Nolan has brought millions to theaters with stories about World War II, space travel, dream worlds and the Dark Knight. Now he’s asking theater owners at CinemaCon to help him bring them back for his most ambitious film yet: “Oppenheimer,” a biopic about the inventor of the atomic bomb.

Nolan came onstage at the movie theater trade show in Las Vegas with his wife and producing partner Emma Thomas, with whom he is receiving the CinemaCon Spirit of the Industry award. The acclaimed filmmaker told the audience about how he designed the film, like all of his past works, to be seen in the big screen as he shot the picture with Imax cameras and will make the film available not only in premium formats but also in 35mm and 70mm reels.

Nolan described J. Robert Oppenheimer as “the most important man in human history” for his society changing discovery, and he believes that his story is one that is best told on the big screen.

“I know of no tale with more dramatic stakes and paradoxes and ethical dilemmas,” Nolan told the Vegas crowd. “Imagine the world’s brightest minds in a race against the Nazis to harness the power of the atom, and when they come to test that first device, there is a possibility that when they detonate the device, they could ignite the entire atmosphere and destroy the entire world.”

Nolan and his team put together a special reel to showcase the sights and sounds of “Oppenheimer,” showing off the black-and-white footage shot on Imax film made specifically for the film. We see Oppenheimer and his team racing against the Soviets and Nazis to develop the atomic bomb.

As Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy stresses the importance of their mission to his team while getting pressure from Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), head of the Atomic Energy Commission, who believes that the Soviets are somehow getting information from Oppeheimer’s team via espionage. Fitting for a film about a bomb, the movie has a ticking clock atmosphere as Oppenheimer weighs the impact of what his team may unleash upon the world.

Few directors have gone to the mat for the theatrical experience in the way that Christopher Nolan has. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, even before a vaccine was made available to the public, he worked with Warner Bros. to release his sci-fi epic “Tenet” in theaters, giving cinemas that could reopen an opportunity to test COVID safety protocols that later became critical to the industry’s full reopening process in spring 2021.

Now, with “Oppenheimer,” he is taking his most ambitious box office leap yet as he and Universal are banking that there’s a sufficient audience ready to see the story of the creation of mankind’s most horrific weapon on the big screen. For cinephiles, the film is at least creating plenty of memes as the movie will be released on the same weekend as “Barbie” in one of the most prominent displays of theatrical counterprogramming in recent years.

“Oppenheimer” hits theaters on July 21.