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Explained: IMAX? Laser?? 70mm??? How and Where to Watch Nolan's 'Oppenheimer'

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

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Oppenheimer season is here – and in true Christopher Nolan fashion, the hype is real. The film has opened with mostly positive reviews.

Now if you're wondering where and when to watch it, online ticketing apps can get overwhelming. You'll be flooded with a number of options – there's 2D, IMAX 2D, IMAX with Laser, and whatnot. And if you're outside India, good luck choosing between 70mm, 35mm, and IMAX Xenon options.

So let's dive deep into Christopher Nolan's cinema and understand how to watch his 12th feature film about the 'father of the atomic bomb'. And not just from a film format POV, we'll look at how to view Nolan's filmmaking style to make the most of your time in the theatres.

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

Different viewing formats for Christopher Nolan's  Oppenheimer.

Photo: Bookmyshow

Explained: IMAX? Laser?? 70mm??? How and Where to Watch Nolan's 'Oppenheimer'

  1. 1. To IMAX or not to IMAX?

    Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Which theatre should you watch Oppenheimer in?

    Short answer: Just book whatever theatre that's close to your house, IMAX doesn't really matter. Okay, before you cinephiles lynch me, let's talk about this fascination with IMAX. IMAX, which literally means 'maximum image', is a film and film projection format developed in the 1970s in Canada.

    Notice the word 'film'. As in, the reel that goes into a camera. You see, once upon a time, movies used to be shot on actual film stock. But not anymore. Anything you see in a theatre or on screen today has been shot on a digital camera. In fact, 2014's PK was one of the last Hindi films to be shot on film.

    In 2023, shooting on film is a purist infatuation. Only directors like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan still shoot on film stock. But our guy Nolan takes it a step further.

    The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

    A still from Oppenheimer's trailer.

    Photo: Universal Pictures

    Expand
  2. 2. Nolan Main Hoon, 70mm IMAX Idhar Hai

    But Christopher Nolan is far from the only director who uses IMAX cameras to shoot his films. In the recent past, movies like Dune and Jordan Peele’s Nope were shot on IMAX cameras. But then, why is there so much hype around Nolan's use of IMAX?

    The reason for this hype is Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

    Expand
  3. 3. Ek IMAX Theatre Ki Keemat Tum Kya Jaano Nolan Babu?

    When it comes to Indian theatres, sadly, we don’t have any theatres which screen 70mm IMAX. Or any IMAX for that matter. At one point in time, India had three IMAX theatres in Hyderabad, Chennai, and Mumbai. Prasad Cinema in Hyderabad actually screened 70mm IMAX. But eventually, all of them got converted into digital.

    But then, you might ask, why do ticketing apps say IMAX 2D? And IMAX Screen? Are they scamming us? Shall we lawyer up? Well, not so soon.

    As we understood in the beginning, IMAX is a film projection format. But most theatres in India have switched to digital because that's how all movies are shot. The IMAX we see on Indian screens is a digital downgrade of the actual 35/70mm IMAX projection. Film purists even call it 'LIEMAX'.

    So if you're in India, you're anyway not watching the film exactly how Christopher Nolan has shot it, no matter how expensive your ticket is.

    The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

    PVR Logix in Noida is considered to be one of the biggest IMAX screens in India.

    Photo: Twitter/@reviewcocktail

    Expand
  4. 4. Karein Toh Karein Kya? 

    If you're a true cinephile, you should probably fly down to your nearest IMAX theatre, which would be in Japan or Australia. I think even Kuwait has one. But if you're like me and you don't want to take a 10-hour flight to watch a movie for the 'real experience', just book any theatre that's close to your house, which has a large screen.

    Make sure that the screen is bright and the speakers etc. are in order. If you have some extra bucks to spare, you can get an IMAX ticket, preferably with Laser. But don't expect anything path-breaking. Understand that the upgrade is only a marginal one. You'll be watching a bigger image, but the image texture would still be digital.

    Expand
  5. 5. Kissa Kursi Ka

    Now let's come to the seating. If we were to go by director Christopher Nolan's idea of the 'perfect seat' for Oppenheimer, there'd be only 8-9 seats in a theatre to choose from.

    By the way, it's genius marketing to drive interest for the advance booking. But should you miss the movie if you don't get the perfect seats? Absolutely not!

    The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

    In a viral interview, Christopher Nolan said that the right spot to watch Oppenheimer is 'third of the way down from the top'.

    Photo: NowThis News

    Expand
  6. 6. Final Thoughts

    The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

    A still from Oppenheimer

    Photo: Universal Pictures

    After talking about film formats and specifics of a theatre, let's talk about how to view a Nolan film.

    Whether you think he's a cinema god or a purist hack, Christopher Nolan puts a lot of effort into making his movies. Yes, they do have some plothols and he's quick to use tropes and unnecessary exposition to move the plot forward. But as a dialogue goes in Tenet, 'Don't try to understand it, feel it'.

    So if there’s one thing I can tell you about watching a Nolan film, it’s that you’ve got to let go of your brain’s natural urge to think. It’s okay if you don’t understand it. You’re not stupid for not getting it. And if you do understand the logic, you’re not necessarily smarter than everyone else. Watching a movie is not a competition.

    Try and invite the director into your mind. Again, not your brain, your mind. Try and make friends with the movie. IMAX or not, great storytelling always touches a chord in our hearts, and Oppenheimer promised nothing else.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

To IMAX or not to IMAX?

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Which theatre should you watch Oppenheimer in?

Short answer: Just book whatever theatre that's close to your house, IMAX doesn't really matter. Okay, before you cinephiles lynch me, let's talk about this fascination with IMAX. IMAX, which literally means 'maximum image', is a film and film projection format developed in the 1970s in Canada.

Notice the word 'film'. As in, the reel that goes into a camera. You see, once upon a time, movies used to be shot on actual film stock. But not anymore. Anything you see in a theatre or on screen today has been shot on a digital camera. In fact, 2014's PK was one of the last Hindi films to be shot on film.

In 2023, shooting on film is a purist infatuation. Only directors like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan still shoot on film stock. But our guy Nolan takes it a step further.

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

A still from Oppenheimer's trailer.

Photo: Universal Pictures

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For the longest time, the 70mm film was the default in the industry. It was a staple whenever directors needed to make their visuals looks grand, with a large area on the film.

But watch what happens when you stack three frames of 70mm film. You get something known as the 70mm IMAX film. That's three times the real estate on the film. Or three times more things that you can show on screen. And that's why Nolan loves shooting on 70mm IMAX film.

These IMAX films can only be shot through specialised IMAX cameras, which are available only on rent. They’re too expensive, too noisy and cumbersome to shoot a complete film with. Which is why in a lot of Nolan films, you'll see the shots switch from full-screen to black bars on the top and bottom.

Some viewers say its annoying, but I think it's a small price to pay for the full IMAX experience.

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

Different formats that Oppenheimer is being screened in.

Photo: IMAX Corporation

0

Nolan Main Hoon, 70mm IMAX Idhar Hai

But Christopher Nolan is far from the only director who uses IMAX cameras to shoot his films. In the recent past, movies like Dune and Jordan Peele’s Nope were shot on IMAX cameras. But then, why is there so much hype around Nolan's use of IMAX?

The reason for this hype is Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Usually, a film is scanned digitally, even if it is shot using an IMAX camera. This is done for editing and colour grading, which are done on computers. Also, for films requiring a lot of VFX, scanning and converting them to digital frames becomes essential.

But Nolan is different. For one, the man just doesn't use VFX. All his films use practical effects to achieve the most enthralling visuals. In 2010's Inception, he created a specialised rig to film the anti-gravity hotel scene. In Tenet, he actually crashed a full-size 747 plane.

This is why fans were worried about what he will do to film an atomic bomb in Oppenheimer. Fun fact, while filming the batmobile chase in 2008's The Dark Knight, he damaged an IMAX camera, which cost around $500 Million. That's how crazy the guy is.

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

A still from Christopher Nolan's Tenet. 

Photo: Warner Bros.

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Also, his films are never scanned digitally for editing or colour grading. All the processing happens on the reel itself, so that the 'purity' of the shot remains intact. Add this to the whole 'no VFX' trip, the film mostly never enters a computer. This is why it's best to watch any Nolan film in the format that he has shot it in, to make sure you’re watching exactly how he intends you to.

So that means, we should watch it in 70mm IMAX, right? Umm, theoretically, yes! But...

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Ek IMAX Theatre Ki Keemat Tum Kya Jaano Nolan Babu?

When it comes to Indian theatres, sadly, we don’t have any theatres which screen 70mm IMAX. Or any IMAX for that matter. At one point in time, India had three IMAX theatres in Hyderabad, Chennai, and Mumbai. Prasad Cinema in Hyderabad actually screened 70mm IMAX. But eventually, all of them got converted into digital.

But then, you might ask, why do ticketing apps say IMAX 2D? And IMAX Screen? Are they scamming us? Shall we lawyer up? Well, not so soon.

As we understood in the beginning, IMAX is a film projection format. But most theatres in India have switched to digital because that's how all movies are shot. The IMAX we see on Indian screens is a digital downgrade of the actual 35/70mm IMAX projection. Film purists even call it 'LIEMAX'.

So if you're in India, you're anyway not watching the film exactly how Christopher Nolan has shot it, no matter how expensive your ticket is.

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

PVR Logix in Noida is considered to be one of the biggest IMAX screens in India.

Photo: Twitter/@reviewcocktail

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Also, to go deeper, even digital IMAX, or 'LIEMAX' has two major subcategories: Xenon and Laser. The major difference between them is the screen brightness.

IMAX Laser is powered by a heavy-duty Laser, instead of the usual Xenon arc lamp, which gives a much brighter image. It's better for 3D films, as the glasses tend to dim the screen.

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Karein Toh Karein Kya? 

If you're a true cinephile, you should probably fly down to your nearest IMAX theatre, which would be in Japan or Australia. I think even Kuwait has one. But if you're like me and you don't want to take a 10-hour flight to watch a movie for the 'real experience', just book any theatre that's close to your house, which has a large screen.

Make sure that the screen is bright and the speakers etc. are in order. If you have some extra bucks to spare, you can get an IMAX ticket, preferably with Laser. But don't expect anything path-breaking. Understand that the upgrade is only a marginal one. You'll be watching a bigger image, but the image texture would still be digital.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Kissa Kursi Ka

Now let's come to the seating. If we were to go by director Christopher Nolan's idea of the 'perfect seat' for Oppenheimer, there'd be only 8-9 seats in a theatre to choose from.

By the way, it's genius marketing to drive interest for the advance booking. But should you miss the movie if you don't get the perfect seats? Absolutely not!

The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

In a viral interview, Christopher Nolan said that the right spot to watch Oppenheimer is 'third of the way down from the top'.

Photo: NowThis News

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Technically speaking, Nolan isn't wrong here. These are the best seats to watch Oppenheimer from. But, and it's a big but, he's talking about a 70mm IMAX GT (Grand Theatre), which is even bigger than a usual 70mm IMAX theatre.

And as we understood in the previous section, India doesn't even have a general IMAX screen, forget about a grand theatre.

Also, his idea for the 'perfect seat' is that on an IMAX GT, these seats would have the screen at an optimal eye level. And the screen would fill your peripheral vision. But that can happen in any theatre, right?

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Rather than fighting for the optimal seats, go to a theatre that you've been to before, and choose the seats which are at eye level for that particular room. One pro tip for Indian viewers, since our 'LIEMAX' screens are a bit smaller than actual IMAX screens, I prefer to sit a bit closer to the screen, so that the image fills my entire field of view.

It's a trade off on the eye level. But personally, it makes me immerse myself into the movie better.

Just keep one thing in mind, sit in the middle of the auditorium to balance out the volume from the left and right speakers. If you sit in the corner, getting out during interval would be much easier, but then you might complain that all the characters are talking only in one of your ears.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD
The reason for this hype is Christopher Nolan himself. The man is a bit weird. Let me explain.

A still from Oppenheimer

Photo: Universal Pictures

Final Thoughts

After talking about film formats and specifics of a theatre, let's talk about how to view a Nolan film.

Whether you think he's a cinema god or a purist hack, Christopher Nolan puts a lot of effort into making his movies. Yes, they do have some plothols and he's quick to use tropes and unnecessary exposition to move the plot forward. But as a dialogue goes in Tenet, 'Don't try to understand it, feel it'.

So if there’s one thing I can tell you about watching a Nolan film, it’s that you’ve got to let go of your brain’s natural urge to think. It’s okay if you don’t understand it. You’re not stupid for not getting it. And if you do understand the logic, you’re not necessarily smarter than everyone else. Watching a movie is not a competition.

Try and invite the director into your mind. Again, not your brain, your mind. Try and make friends with the movie. IMAX or not, great storytelling always touches a chord in our hearts, and Oppenheimer promised nothing else.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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