weather icon Overcast

Size matters when it comes to Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

From blockbusters to Oscar bait, the next two months will unleash a torrent of high-profile movies, but writer-director Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is guaranteed to be the biggest of them all.


The 70mm Imax print that will begin playing at Brenden Theatres at the Palms at 8 p.m. Tuesday tips the scales at a staggering 800 pounds.

This high-end version of the space odyssey starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine weighs significantly more than Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.

And in doing so, “Interstellar,” which follows a group of intergalactic explorers searching for a new home to replace a dying Earth, offers a moviegoing experience that’s a dose of nostalgia while it tests the limits of technology.

Nolan, the mastermind behind the “Dark Knight” trilogy, has long been an advocate of Imax technology as well as making movies on film as a general principle. And Brenden’s Palms location is one of just 37 theaters in the country — a third of which are in museums, science centers, even the Minnesota Zoo — where moviegoers can see “Interstellar” the way he prefers they watch it: on 70mm film.

“It’s exciting, because it’s one of the best formats you could ever see a movie in,” says Jay Jay Coulter, the theater’s general manager. “The digital is beautiful. It’s pretty. It’s crisp, clean and bright. But it’s just not the same as film. When they make a movie using Imax cameras, to put that on a digital projector, it just seems like it’s not utilizing it the way it was intended. So we really like to take what the director wanted and kind of make that as pretty and clear as we can onscreen.”

Pretty and clear shouldn’t be a problem. This isn’t a case of listening to an album on vinyl and convincing yourself it sounds better than whatever’s in your iTunes account. According to David Keighley, chief quality officer for Imax, the 70mm version of “Interstellar” offers 100 times the resolution of your HDTV.

You’ll also see more of the movie that way.

As he did with “The Dark Knight Rises,” Nolan filmed more than an hour of “Interstellar” using Imax cameras, which are still too cumbersome and noisy to use for an entire movie. Those scenes will expand from a letterbox-style ratio to fill the entirety of Brenden’s massive 70-foot-tall screen, which accounts for about 40 percent more content than you’d see in a traditional theater. (Digital Imax screens, like those at Aliante, Red Rock Resort and Sunset Station, will offer 26 percent more footage.)

“It’s a way from a directing point of view to say to moviegoers, ‘You are now about to be transitioned into a moment that is highly cinematic, where you’re about to see something that you can’t see anywhere else,’ ” says Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment.

What you’ll see onscreen is certainly impressive. Brenden’s 165-seat Imax theater has just nine rows, making the overall effect a bit like watching a 42-inch TV in a closet. But what you won’t see is every bit as interesting.

Spurred by the success of 2009’s “Avatar,” many movie theater owners began running away from 35mm film prints, the cinematic standard for more than a century, with digital dollar signs in their eyes. Brenden’s Imax theater was forced to go digital in February 2011 when the company stopped releasing prints, and its Zamboni-looking film projector was shuttled into a corner underneath blankets.

“We just kept it here hoping one day that we could use it again,” Coulter says.

It didn’t stay under wraps for long. The next summer, Nolan trotted out “The Dark Knight Rises” on 70mm film, and Imax debuted a rail system that allows the digital projectors to slide out of the way to make room for their predecessor. But, aside from a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Batman, the film projector hasn’t been used since.

“This is a movie we’ve been planning on, and spending time planning for, for three years,” Foster says of “Interstellar.” As part of that preparation, a technician arrived in town Tuesday to lead a four-day boot camp, starting with the basics of how to thread the film through the projector’s maze of whirring sprockets.

Aside from Coulter and booth manager Shane Kaiser, only one other employee at the Palms location has ever touched film. And Kaiser is the only one experienced with 70mm, which is both unwieldy — it’s 10 times the size of 35mm — and delicate.

“I had to work my way up to get to 70(mm). I had to start from the bottom. They’re just going to the hardest one right away,” Kaiser says of the four employees who’ll man the projector.

With digital projectors, movies arrive on a small hard drive that’s roughly the size of a paperback book. Once they’re loaded, the screening process has been automated to the point that projectors can start on a timer, eliminating the need for employee involvement.

“The way we run 70mm, we have to have somebody in that booth at all times,” Coulter says. “They need to be there to make sure that nothing goes wrong, because that print is very, very valuable.” If that employee needs so much as a potty break, he has to radio for a replacement.

And the equipment, which was designed to play documentaries in the 45-minute range, not Hollywood spectacles pushing the three-hour mark, is being tested like never before.

“This is about the maximum capacity we can handle,” Imax’s Keighley says.

The platter the film rests on had to be modified to fit a movie the length of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Interstellar” runs four minutes longer. With the film reel coming perilously close to the edge of that platter, there’s not even room to fit a trailer in front of the feature.

But again, you won’t see any of that.

What you will see, though, whether you’re a film geek or just looking for a way to kill three hours, is an event. Or, as Imax’s Foster calls it, the “kind of amped-up, ramped-up experience that is everything our company is about.”

■ Special screening: The PollyGrind Film Festival comes to a close with the world premiere of local B-movie maestro Albert Pyun’s “The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper,” an awards ceremony and a best-of-the-fest block. See it at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Galaxy Green Valley Luxury+, 4500 E. Sunset Road. For more information, visit PollyGrind.com.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of Las Vegas theater talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)