The Oppenheimer 70mm Film Reel Weighs 600 Pounds and is 11 Miles Long

Oppenheimer film print
The 600-pound, 11-mile long film reel for Oppenheimer.

Christopher Nolan’s new Oppenheimer movie about the theoretical physicist who helped to make the nuclear bomb will be presented in select theaters on a film reel that weighs some 600 pounds and is 11 miles long.

The 70mm film print made for IMAX theaters consists of a staggering 53 film reels that make up the full print. To ship the mammoth movie, nines boxes are required with six reels in each box. The boxes are then shipped to the individual theaters showing the 70mm version.

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The IMAX 70mm film gives a specific grain and texture that Nolan is a fan of. Selected theaters will show the film in “15 perf” IMAX 70mm which means the perforations on the film are at the top and the bottom rather than on the side, widening the aspect ratio even further to 1.43:1 for a grand theatrical experience.

Nolan Wants You to See Oppenheimer in 70mm Film

Oppenheimer was shot entirely on large format film stock; a combination of IMAX 65mm and Panavision 65mm which is projected in 70mm.

The 5mm difference goes back to when extra space on film had to be reserved for the soundtrack. Nolan explains that because audio is now digital, the extra space is “purely a visual enhancement.”

“The sharpness and the clarity and the depth of the image is unparalleled,” Nolan tells AP.

“The headline, for me, is by shooting on IMAX 70mm film, you’re really letting the screen disappear. You’re getting a feeling of 3D without the glasses. You’ve got a huge screen and you’re filling the peripheral vision of the audience. You’re immersing them in the world of the film.”

The IMAX film resolution is almost 10 times more than a 35mm projector and each frame has some 18,000 pixels of resolution versus a home HD screen that has 1,920 pixels.

Clearly, Nolan favors the IMAX 70mm film format but is conscious that it still has to be translated into different aspect ratios.

“We have to plan very carefully because by shooting an IMAX film, you capture a lot of information,” he says.

“Your movie is going to translate very well to all the formats because you’re getting the ultimate amount of visual information… What you have to plan is how you then frame your imagery so that it can be presented in different theaters with equal success.”

To see which IMAX theaters are showing Oppenheimer in 70mm, head to the IMAX website.