Last of the Projectionists: “The Wolf of Wall Street” is Not the End of 35mm Film

A few days ago, a story from the L.A. Times announced Paramount Pictures had become the first Hollywood movie studio to release a film in an all-digital format. No 35mm copies were produced. What is even more interesting was that the film- “The Wolf of Wall Street-” was directed by Martin Scorsese, one of the highest-profile proponents of film preservation. Has the “end of film” arrived? While it certainly looks grim for film, I believe that it will survive.

I am a film buff and a filmmaker. I have also been a film archivist and a projectionist during the last decade when 35mm was the main format for commercially releasing films in movie theatres.

The way films are going to be released, and the public is going to see them has completely changed in the last five years, and not always for the better. Sure you can see live events in movie theatres but the sound and picture quality are not the same as 35mm. I am certain that just as records nearly died but did not because there were aficionados who kept the format alive long enough for a new generation to discover it, so will film.

I will continue to write about the topic of the transition of 35mm to digital in movie theatres in this space. In particular, I will look for stories from the perspective of the projectionists and the theatres on the margins that may not be able to/don’t want to make the transition, the aesthetics of film and moviegoing, and why this matters in the 21st century.