Oppenheimer made 70mm a star

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The Future. While Christopher Nolan isn’t the first modern filmmaker to make 70mm exhibition a major selling point of their movie, he may be responsible for sparking a newfound cultural fascination for the premium format, thanks to his outsized critical and commercial influence. While studios may try to eventize auteur-driven projects by supporting their use of the large and expensive film stock (if that’s what the filmmaker wants), the lack of screens and projectionists who know how to properly handle 70mm may require a fresh wave of investment.

The big, big screen
Having shot the whole film in IMAX 70, Nolan touted the format was the best way to see the starry drama — highlighted by viral clips of the 600-pound, 11-miles-long film reel. People were psyched.

  • Not only did his passionate fanbase heed the call, but so did a lot of people who hadn’t been back to the theaters since before the pandemic — many of them even drove or flew hours to catch a showing.
  • Why? There are only 30 theaters in the world that can show IMAX 70mm (19 of them in the US), which drove up demand at those theaters so much that they had to add screenings 24/7 during the first month of release.
  • 70mm ticket sales were so high ($183 million worldwide) that IMAX reported a 51% increase in revenue compared to the same period last year.

It’s no wonder Universal is bringing Oppenheimer back for a limited IMAX engagement. People crave a premium, special experience, and Universal knows there’s still money left on the table (the studio really wants this movie to hit $1 billion in ticket sales).

And if it does hit a billion dollars at the box office and goes on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, it’ll be the first film to accomplish those milestones since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.


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