"2001: A Space Odyssey" is back in theaters
October 11, 2001 5:32 AM   Subscribe

"2001: A Space Odyssey" is back in theaters for a short year-2001 run. It is currently playing at the Seattle Cinerama October 5-18, and is next scheduled to be shown at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. (where the film had its original 1968 premeire) November 2-15. After that, it will be shown at the Castro Theater in San Francisco November 21-December 6, and at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood December 20-January 1.
posted by Potsy (14 comments total)
Contrary to what the article says, this is not the first time a 70mm print has been reissued since 1968. There were 70mm prints of "2001" in circulation for many years. In fact, I saw one myself in the early 1990s at the now-defunct Northpark theater in Dallas.

The film has also not been "digitally restored", as the article says. Douglas Trumbull (one of the FX people who worked on "2001") has stated on many occasions that the original film elements have been kept in very good condition, thus there is no restoration needed. Of course, the article could just be referring to the sound when it says "digitally restored", but according to reports I've read on rec.arts.movies.tech, this new 70mm print still has the old-style 6-track magnetic analog sound, rather than a DTS soundtrack. There will be some 35mm prints with digital soundtracks, however.

Also note that when I say "70mm", I mean 5-perforation 70mm film running vertically, with a 2.20:1 aspect ratio. Not to be confused with IMAX, which is 15-perf 70mm running horizontally, approximately 1.4:1 aspect ratio. A very good article about the history of 70mm can be found here (be patient, it can take a long time to load).
posted by Potsy at 5:41 AM on October 11, 2001

One of the most fascinating things is the rate at which past renderings of the future become dated. The original Star Trek now seems about as close to Flash Gordon episodes as the future. 2001 will take somewhat longer to reach that point, but inevitably, it will happen.

A great film, although I'm not sure my aunt should have taken me to see it when I was 6 or 7. Oy--traumatic.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:48 AM on October 11, 2001

I think the futurism of "2001" has held up better than that of just about any other science fiction film of the 20th century. Then again, it's somewhat disappointing that virtually none of the lofty predictions made in the film have come true yet. HAL still seems just as far away now as he did in the late 1960s.

Even the pay-videophone Dr. Floyd uses has yet to become a reality. True, you can use a webcam to do videoconferencing over the internet, but you still can't just walk up to a public phone with no special equipment and expect to be able to see as well as hear someone.
posted by Potsy at 6:03 AM on October 11, 2001

If you went to the original London premiere of 2001: A Space Oddyssey in 1968 you would have been handed this printed program. It's historically significant for Kubrick freaks like myself and it's a great piece of design. (Make sure to click on "contact sheets" to see the original document). Let me know if you ever see it on E-Bay. I won't stop bidding until it is ours.
posted by coudal at 6:26 AM on October 11, 2001

Great film .. of course the idea of people worshipping a black stone of extraterrestrial origin is way too far-fetched.
posted by grahamwell at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2001

Potsy, it seems they are circulating only the one 70mm print. Are they going to send out some 35mm prints as well? It seems a shame to do the DTS mix for the DVD and not send it to theatres, given... well, what year it is and all.

I was also taken to 2001 when I was a kid, at a birthday party of all things. Although in my case, the experience fostered Kubrick fanaticism, one that didn't flourish until years later.
posted by D at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2001

having just read the book for the first time I'd highly recommend reading it before seeing the movie again. There are differences (Arthur C. Clarke wrote it at the same time as the movie was being filmed and rewrote many parts of the book to more closely conform to changes in the script), but it provides fascinating insight into many of the more "obscure" things which happen in the movie.
posted by xochi at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2001

Well D, I think I was mistaken. Looking at it more closely, I see that, according to the Yahoo article I linked, they had originally planned to release some 35mm prints as well, but they have now changed to 70mm-only.

If there were a 70mm print with digital sound, it would have to be DTS, as that is the only digital sound format that has a 70mm version. And from what I have been able to find out, I don't think Warner has ever bothered to convert the soundtrack into the DTS format. For example, I have the new DVD already, and it's Dolby Digital only, no DTS. Posts I've seen on rec.arts.movies.tech refer to 35mm prints with DD tracks, but no DTS.

On the other hand, I don't think it's a shame at all that the 70mm prints have analog sound. If you've never heard it, 70mm 6-track is pretty darn good. Just because something isn't "digital" doesn't mean it's going to be bad.

Also, as the article at Widescreen Review points out, while many older 70mm films had six sound channels, but they were often in a different arrangement than today's 5.1 sound. "2001" has the old-style arrangement of 5 channels behind the screen and a single surround channel. The only way to duplicate that is to use real 70mm 6-track. If it were DTS, there would be no way to get the exact channel arrangement that was original to the film.

And of course, when it comes to image quality, the 720x480 resolution of a DVD is downright pathetic compared to the image quality of 70mm film. So if you're thinking of staying home and waiting for the DVD, I'd say it's definitely worth the time to go check it out in 70mm, the way it was meant to be seen.
posted by Potsy at 8:46 AM on October 11, 2001

(Oops, remove the "but" in the middle of the first sentence in the next-to-last paragraph of my above post. It pays to proofread a little more closely...)
posted by Potsy at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2001

Potsy: "I think the futurism of "2001" has held up better than that of just about any other science fiction film of the 20th century. Then again, it's somewhat disappointing that virtually none of the lofty predictions made in the film have come true yet. "

This is a common complaint against SF, one which I feel is pointless. SF isn't "prediction", it's not saying "this will happen", it's saying "what if?". Orwell wasn't predicting 1984, he was trying to avoid it. So Clarke says: "what if we had interplanetary travel and thinking computers in 2001 and we found this big rock whose sides' proportions were prime numbers?" The fact that SF tries to be consistent and believable doesn't mean it's actually trying to predict. Nobody whines about how there aren't trolls or rings of power (well, almost nobody), because Fantasy doesn't try to be consistent with our reality. SF does.
posted by signal at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2001

Don't be concerned, potsy, I'm fully aware of the differences between a 70mm film print and a DVD. And if the 70mm print made its way to Toronto, I'd be all over it. I doubt it will, however; I figured my chances of seeing 2001 in the theatre again would be much higher if they were sending out 35mm prints as well.

Also, xochi, Clarke and Kubrick basically collaborated on the story and then took it to their respective media. It's not the usual book-to-film adaptation.
posted by D at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2001

A side note: Robert Abel, the visionary behind the "slit scan" technique used in 2001 died recently. He was 64.
posted by melgx at 3:47 PM on October 11, 2001

I am lucky enough to live in Champaign, IL, home of the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival and Roger's hometown. Last April, he somehow got the studio to send him an advance 70MM print for a one-time screening. I was even more fortunate to know one of his old Urbana High classmates (my GF's mom!) and got some tickets. 2001 has been my favorite movie since I was 12 in 1968 I must say this was quite an experience! I've seen it maybe 30 times but never quite like this. Very powerful and awe inspiring. This movie had so much right about the future of technology that one takes a lot of it for granted. Of course Kubrick, et. al. didn't get it 100%--but for the time, they did pretty damn well.

To top off an incredible screening of an equally wonderful film, Roger was joined on stage by Keir Dullea ("Dave" the astronaut) for a discussion and Q&A with the audience. If that wasn't enough, there was a phone hookup to Sri Lanka and none other than Sir Arthur C. Clark joined the fun. This was an experience that no 2001 fan could easily forget!
posted by khisel at 7:00 PM on October 11, 2001

khisel, that sounds like a truly wonderful filmgoing experience. It's great that you got to see it that way. How was it seeing Keir Dullea? I recall being struck by how in "2010" he didn't look a day older than he did in "2001". He seems to have Dick Clark-like resistance to aging.

Sorry D, I didn't mean to assume ignorance on your part. I've just found that even though 70mm was once a tremdous part of the moviegoing experience, many people nowadays aren't even aware that it even existed, despite the fact that less than 10 years ago it accounted for a significant percentage of theatrical presentations. I really, really, miss 70mm.

coudal, thanks for the link to the pictures of the program. That is a terrific example of everything I like about 1960s design. If you ever see a copy up for auction, I hope you are able to get it.
posted by Potsy at 9:37 AM on October 12, 2001

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