The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — In some way or another, you’ve likely been drawn in by the “Barbenheimer” hype.
Summer blockbusters “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” reached historic box-office figures on opening weekend, raking in a combined $235.5 million in domestic sales.
While the Greta Gerwig-directed “Barbie” edged out the Christopher Nolan-directed film, Nolan fans are crossing state lines to experience “Oppenheimer” on 70 mm.
“Oppenheimer’s story is one of the biggest stories imaginable. Our film tries to take you into his experience, and IMAX for me is a portal into a level of emotion that you can’t get from other formats,” Nolan said in a video urging audiences to watch a 70mm film projection of the film in an IMAX theater. “It allows you to fully immerse yourself in the story.”
The only IMAX theater in Philadelphia showing the 70mm version of “Oppenheimer” is the Regal King of Prussia, and seats beyond the first two rows are booked up through mid-August.
To avoid the neck-snapping view, Center City resident Nick Greco has bought tickets to Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theater to watch the film that stars Cillian Murphy.
“I was already going to [Los Angeles] to meet up with some of my friends,” Greco, 26, said. “Since L.A. is the place to be for movies, of course, they had openings at some of the most well-known theaters in the world. If I didn’t have tickets to L.A., there is probably no way I could have seen the movie in 70 mm IMAX. I was even looking in New York to drive up there and see the film there.”
Which is exactly what South Jersey resident Zach Marsh, 26, did. He traveled more than two-and-a half hours to catch a showing at the AMC Lincoln Square 13 theater in New York City. The “nearest” 70 mm IMAX experience after New York is the AMC Waterfront 22 outside Pittsburgh — a five-hours-and-more drive from Center City.
“When I’m in a theater that’s Cinemascope ratio, I like to be right near the front, middle of the third row,” Nolan said to The Associated Press. “When I’m in a stadium, IMAX 1.43:1, then I actually like to be a little behind the center line right up at the middle. So, a little further back.”
Marsh could’ve grabbed center-seat tickets at the King of Prussia Regal, but he decided to see the film on the Lincoln’s 100-foot IMAX screen instead.
“It was so surreal,” he said. “It was cool to see the hairs on the screen every once in a while. There’s just something about film that’s really special, and there’s nothing like IMAX. The quality is insanely high quality.”
Tyler Johnson of Fishtown doesn’t mind a little discomfort — or being the butt of his friends’ jokes.
After searching for 70 mm showings for a week, Johnson settled for front-row tickets at the Regal, and he plans to lay back as far as his seat will allow to enjoy the three-hour movie, on Wednesday night.
“I was like, whatever, let’s do it,” he said. “My friends have been sending me memes of what it’s going to look like sitting [in] front row. They’re all pictures of a giant chin of Cillian Murphy. But like, this version [of the movie] is playing in 19 theaters in the U.S., so I figured I might as well give it a shot.”
While Marsh enjoyed the film, he said Philly should have more IMAX theaters, especially with the Franklin Institute closing its doors. “There are a lot of film buffs in this general area, and many of them would love to see these movies the way the filmmakers intended them to be shown. Unfortunately, because of the way certain buildings are built, or the way the economy has gone, there doesn’t seem to be any push to build a single-screen IMAX theater [in the Philly area]. If a building was able to get like an 80-foot screen, that would be ideal.”
Johnson doesn’t mind the drive to King of Prussia. His friend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he said, doesn’t have the option to go to an IMAX nearby because there aren’t any. So “King of Prussia feels like a luxury. Having one in Philly would be nice, but I’m happy to take the 35-minute drive if that’s what I’m going to do.”
In the future, Greco said he’s hopeful more cinema houses capable of playing 70 mm films pop up in the city. “It’s nice that King of Prussia has a huge theater, but that’s not Philly,” he said. “We can and should have nice things, too. Who doesn’t want dinner and movie in the city? It’s like peanut butter and jelly.”