The Somerville’s Theatre’s 70mm Film Fest – A Brief Interview with Projectionist David Kornfeld

Photo: CinemaNitrate
Photo: CinemaNitrate

Silverado is going to play over at the Somerville Theatre on September 21st at 7:30 PM, and won’t be projected digitally, the way most theaters do things. It won’t be projected from a 35mm print either; which, from a cinephiles’ perspective, is a more preferred way. It will projected from a 70mm print with 6-track Dolby Stereo sound, the best possible way a film can be experienced – that’s what the Somerville’s committed to.

Their 70mm and Widescreen Festival begins tonight with Lawrence of Arabia at 8 PM and runs through September 25th.

I spoke with projectionist David Kornfeld about putting the event together.

CINEMA NITRATE: You’ve been wanting to do this festival for a long time, and it was a matter of finally getting all of the equipment together, and you were very particular about it. How long did it take you to get all of this stuff?

KORNFELD: It’s been in the making for 12 years. I think with getting all the sound system elements, that took me something like 6 to 8 years.

CN: The Somerville showed some 70mm titles last year, like The Wild Bunch and 2001. Were these a sort of test-run for the festival?

KORNFELD: Yes, the system went active last year and we ran a bunch of 70mm movies over the course of the year. I wanted to be sure that if there were any glitches or bugs in the system, we could take care of them before the festival. I’m cautious. I don’t want to have this big festival, and all of a sudden in the middle of it discover this gigantic glitch. It would be embarrassing.

CN: You ran The Untouchables in 70mm earlier this year, and I must say, the sound was impressive.

KORNFELD: Well, in my opinion we have the best sound system in New England – the right speakers, the right amps, the right processors. We did everything right here.

Photo: CinemaNitrate
Photo: CinemaNitrate

CN: Looking at the list of films, there are some real gems, particularly in my opinion Sleeping Beauty and Mad World. Which films are the one’s that you think people really need to see?

KORNFELD: I wouldn’t miss Lawrence of Arabia, and I wouldn’t miss Lord Jim, because Lord Jim never screens. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was of course filmed in Ultra Panavision and needs to be seen this way. And Sleeping Beauty is the only existing 70mm print.

CN: Wasn’t Sleeping Beauty the first widescreen animated feature film?

KORNFELD: No, that would be Lady and the Tramp. Sleeping Beauty was the first of the animated feature to be shot in Technirama, which is anamorphic VistaVision.

CN: Being one of the few films shot in Ultra Panavision, Mad World has a certain preeminence in the history of this format.

KORNFELD: It was designed to be seen on the big screen, as were all of the things we’re running. These films were made it without even the thought of ever being seen on a home system or something like an iPhone. They were made to be seen big. And with an audience. You don’t even get a fraction of the picture information on something like an iPhone or any home media. The resolution, the detail and the color spectrum are reduced or missing. Comparatively it’s embarrassing.

CN: Have most of these films not been seen in this format in Boston since their original release?

KORNFELD: Lawrence of Arabia has, and Sleeping Beauty has. The last time Sleeping Beauty ran around here was in the 1980s.

Photo: CinemaNitrate
A gorgeous 70mm print of ‘West Side Story’ will screen twice: Saturday, September 17th at 8 PM and Thursday, September 22nd at 8 PM. Photo: CinemaNitrate

CN: How long do you think the area is gone without 70mm capability?

KORNFELD: It’s been some time; most of the theaters that could run the format have long since closed. Right now, the Somerville is the only venue in the area that can run the format without needing any equipment or modifications. We have the only permanent installation.

CN: Considering the really great turn-outs the Somerville had for The Wild Bunch and 2001, are you confident the festival will attract similar attendance?

KORNFELD: I don’t know how well we’re going to do with this. I hope it does well. If it does well then we get to do another one next year. This was a long time coming, and it’s very expensive, and we’re hoping that the audience does show up!

CN: Is al it worth the work?

KORNFELD: Well, yeah, it’s a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it because it’s the best way to see a movie.

CN: It is. I think Boston moviegoers are pretty fortunate to have the opportunity see films presented this way. Unfortunately there aren’t many theaters around anymore that can offer this sort of viewing experience.

KORNFELD: There aren’t many people left around who actually understand and really know how to run this format. The experts in projecting this format have mostly retired or passed away. It’s a perishable skill. Next year, theaters are going to run straight into this problem when Dunkirk is released; the film that Christopher Nolan shot in 70mm. But everything will be fine here, so watch that here.

About Stephen Slaughter Head

Stephen Slaughter Head co-founded the much-loved movie news website IGN FilmForce. He has more than 2,000 published articles at IGN.com. His filmmaking interviews, reviews and features have been published at AOL, Script magazine, Esquire magazine and the Boston Phoenix. He is also the host of the Diabolique Webcast at DiaboliqueMagazine.com. You can contact him directly on Twitter at twitter.com/stevehead.