Movie-theater owners are being besieged on all sides this week. First Netflix threatened them with the future by attempting to release a Crouching Tiger sequel in theaters and online on the same day, and now Paramount is threatening them with the past by releasing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar two days early to theaters still capable of projecting 35mm film.
Now some theater owners, who say they went digital under intense pressure from Hollywood, are expressing their displeasure with Interstellar’s advance release. Joe Paletta, the owner of a small theater chain in Georgia, tells The Hollywood Reporter that Nolan’s pro-celluloid bias “devalues” the time and money he spent converting his theaters to digital. “I can’t afford to get the projectors out of the warehouse for two days, and I don’t even have anyone to operate them,” he says.
Byron Berkley, the president-CEO of Texas-based Foothills Cinemas, agrees. “It makes no sense to step back in time,” he argues. And while dismissing celluloid as “the past” makes cinephiles’ blood boil, Paramount stopped distributing film prints for new movies (albeit with a caveat that they could send prints in “certain instances”) earlier this year. That effectively forced theaters to go digital, and to owner-operators not inclined to keep 35mm facilities on principle, does send something of a mixed message.