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The Quest For Oppenheimer In IMAX 70MM

VSiN’s Brian Ortega shares his experience of seeing Oppenheimer in IMAX 70MM and discusses if it is worth it or not.


It has become a pilgrimage for many movie lovers to travel many miles by car or plane to watch this sprawling epic on a massive IMAX screen. It has become almost a rite of passage for moviegoers to trek across many states to watch Christopher Nolan’s epic Oppenheimer. So I thought to myself is it really worth it to travel to just see a movie? So with that question in mind, I bought my ticket for Oppenheimer two weeks out in California at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

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The Quest Begins - August 10th - 6:00 AM PT

After two weeks of planning, the day had come. I might have planned more than my other cinephiles, but I wanted to make the most out of this 24-hour trip. The day started bright and early producing a 6 a.m. show with VSiN. After the two-hour show, it was off to the airport where I flew to LAX to pick up a rent-a-car then off to a quick pit stop at the Academy Award Museum to see where Oppenheimer will one day be on display amongst the greats like Casablanca and The Godfather.

The Academy Award Museum - 3:00 PM PT

Walking through The Godfather & Casablanca exhibits was a subtle reminder of why so many people travel to see transcendent films. Walking through the museum was a great way to understand what makes a great movie and why so many people are captivated by this one. Many people are calling this film a technical achievement and to really understand that achievement, I believe you have to try to see it in the format the filmmaker intended it for. The problem is that format is only available in 30 locations in the entire world with only 19 available in the United States. After walking through the facility it only got me more jacked up to see this film on such a grand scale at a historic venue, The TLC Chinese Theater.

Outside The TLC Chinese Theater Lobby - 9:00 PM PT

After checking into the hotel and getting dinner, I made my way down Hollywood Blvd to the Chinese Theater. If the name is familiar, it should be. The Theater opened in 1927 and has served as the backdrop to countless movie premieres and three Academy Awards. One of the reasons I chose the Chinese Theater was because of the availability. The most popular theater showing the IMAX 70MM print is by far the Universal City Walk near Universal Studios but since that location was sold out, I chose the next best location and that was the Chinese Theater. One of the reasons this theater had the availability was because it currently is the largest IMAX Auditorium in America. With a capacity of 932 seats, I was able to get a seat in the center section midway up next to the aisle.

TLC Chinese Theater - 9:55 PM PT

Walking into the theater you learn right away that you’re not at your local Cineplex — with the ornate decorations, the Chinese-inspired decor draped from the pillars and huge 1930s Asian chandeliers lighting the lobby. The lobby doubled as a concession stand and museum with costumes from Toby McGuire’s Spiderman and Vivien Leigh’s dress for Gone Win The Wind.

Entering the theater, there are no doors as you enter from the lobby right into the theater. The first thing you see is a huge red theater with the Chinese decor splashing from the lobby to the entire theater. The curtains were drawn in front of the huge IMAX screen with a projection of OPPENHEIMER: Presented in IMAX 70MM Film. The chairs are more similar to Broadway musical seats than your average Cineplex loungers. I had never seen people arrive so early and take pictures just like me of the theater itself. The huge ornate centerpiece that hung over the audience along with the intricately painted walls and Asian frescos simply decorated this movie palace.

Everyone was beaming with anticipation just like me. The beautiful red curtains with golden palm trees begin to open revealing the massive IMAX screen behind it. The lights went down to about as pitch black as I’ve ever seen a movie theater be and then the 70mm projector began to churn and the previews rolled.

Is Oppenheimer 70MM Worth The Trip?

You might ask yourself is it worth it to travel huge distances to see Oppenheimer in IMAX 70MM? I had the same questions, but now that I’ve watched it in both standard IMAX and IMAX 70MM, I can say it certainly is. There is a caveat, however. If you don’t live in one of the 19 locations in the US that has the ability to show this film, this will probably be the most expensive movie you’ll ever see. All in all, I probably spent around $400 on travel and hotel expenses not including the $30 ticket for the movie itself. So, let’s call it $430 or you can make it more affordable by driving. One recent story had someone making a 14-hour round trip to see the film.

Once the movie began to roll, whether you’re a cinephile or not, you’re able to notice the difference. The sharpness and clarity of the film along with the field of view that you see really demonstrates what Nolan said when he commented, “It’s like 3D without the glasses.” It’s everything you want when you watch a movie. Not just to watch it, but to feel like you’re immersed in it. After the explosive climax of the film, the mushroom cloud stretched towards the top of the screen and it still could not reach the top, which really added to the massiveness of the experience. Overall, the experience from the screen to the exceptional sound makes it worth it for any cinephile to make the hours-long trip across state lines to see this extremely rare film print in 70MM IMAX.

—Written by VSiN’s Brian Ortega

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