Releasing the gripping WWII film Dunkirk in 70mm took more than sourcing, refurbishing, and installing projection equipment. It also involved hiring projectionists to run the film at more than 125 theatres across the country and internationally. We sat down with one of the projectionists, Mark Davenport, to hear about his experience working on the Dunkirk film premiere with BL&S.
I worked as a projectionist in the 1980s. Bill Taggart, who is a member of the Projectionists Union, introduced me to Boston Light & Sound (BL&S). I worked with BL&S on The Hateful Eight release in 70mm over Christmas of 2015. When I was asked by Warner Brothers to work on the 70mm release of Dunkirk, I said absolutely!
The difference is like night and day. With 70mm, the picture was brighter, sharper, and our colors were much more vivid than with they were with a digital cinema projector. There’s just something about the way a movie looks on film. There’s an organic quality to it. When film is done well, there is no substitute for it.
We bring entertainment to people. People want to be transported to some place or immersed in something. In that way, projectionists get to be more than technicians. We’re the last step to making sure a film is shown in the way it was intended. In our own way, we feel very connected to everyone involved in the process of creating the film.
It’s exciting introducing a new generation to 70mm. The other projectionist working with me on the Dunkirk release was Adam Whitmer, a young man who works in the film preservation program at the University of North Carolina’s College of Arts, which has one of the best film preservation labs in the country. He handles rare film prints every day, so we bonded over our reverence for moving images on film.
The specialness of 70mm really resonates with true cinephiles. There’s quite a spectrum of people looking into new projects on film, and I hope there will continue to be special releases in 70mm.
They’re the best in the world at film presentation. It was a privilege to work with them.
Learn more about BL&S’s role in the 70mm film premiere of Dunkirk.