Christopher Nolan, the renowned filmmaker known for pushing the boundaries of cinema, faced a significant challenge with his latest film, Oppenheimer. The movie was so long that it almost exceeded the capacity of IMAX film projectors, posing a potential problem for its screening.
IMAX projectors utilize a platter, a mechanism designed to securely hold and feed large-format film reels during projection. This circular plate rotates the film reel as it is projected onto the screen, ensuring smooth playback and an immersive viewing experience. However, given the size of some film reels, accommodating an exceptionally long film becomes a precarious task. In the case of Oppenheimer, Nolan pushed the limits with a film reel weighing 600 lbs and stretching 11 miles in length. Having already collaborated with Kodak to develop a new camera for monochrome black-and-white shooting, the director found himself faced with an overwhelming challenge.
During an interview with Steve Weintraub from FilmSweep, Nolan shared his experience. Weintraub had seen images of the almost-overloaded platter and wondered if the film’s runtime was dictated by the physical constraints of the projector. Nolan revealed that he had previously engaged in discussions with IMAX for his other films, seeking to widen the platter beyond its previous limits of 150 to 167 minutes for Interstellar.
With Oppenheimer, the weight of the film pushed the projectors to their maximum capacity for movies shot on film. The projector arm couldn’t support any additional weight. Nolan explained that the platters had been gradually engineered to be wider over the years, expanding from the initial two-and-a-half-hour limit when he started working with IMAX film. This progression allowed for longer runtimes, with Interstellar clocking in at two hours and forty-seven minutes. However, with Oppenheimer’s three-hour runtime, Nolan approached IMAX with a 180-page script and asked if it could be done. After careful evaluation, they determined that it was possible, with the platter’s arm reaching its outermost limit. This film represents the ultimate threshold for the duration of an IMAX film print.
Aside from Cillian Murphy, who portrays the titular character, Oppenheimer boasts an impressive cast. Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Jack Quaid, Benny Safdie, Rami Malek, Dane DeHaan, Josh Hartnett, Matthew Modine, Kenneth Branagh, David Krumholtz, Michael Angarano, and Alden Ehrenreich also star in the film.
Oppenheimer is set to hit theaters on July 21. To watch the full interview with Nolan, please refer to the video player below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about IMAX projector limits
What challenges did Christopher Nolan face with his film Oppenheimer?
Christopher Nolan faced the challenge of Oppenheimer being so long that it almost didn’t fit on IMAX film projectors. The film reel weighed 600 lbs and stretched 11 miles, pushing the limits of the projector’s capacity.
How do IMAX film projectors work?
IMAX film projectors utilize a platter, which is a circular plate that securely holds and feeds large-format film reels during projection. The film reel is rotated as the film is projected onto the screen, ensuring a smooth and continuous playback.
Did Christopher Nolan have previous discussions with IMAX about runtime limits?
Yes, Christopher Nolan had discussions with IMAX regarding widening the platter for his previous films. The platter’s width had been progressively increased to accommodate longer runtimes, such as Interstellar, which reached two hours and forty-seven minutes.
What is the runtime of Oppenheimer?
Oppenheimer has a runtime of three hours, as indicated by the 180-page script. It represents the outer limit of running time for an IMAX film print, reaching the maximum capacity of the projector’s platter and arm.
Who stars in the film Oppenheimer?
Oppenheimer features a star-studded cast including Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Jack Quaid, Benny Safdie, Rami Malek, Dane DeHaan, Josh Hartnett, Matthew Modine, Kenneth Branagh, David Krumholtz, Michael Angarano, and Alden Ehrenreich.