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Edmonton IMAX took months to prepare Oppenheimer screening ‘as it was meant to be seen’

Click to play video: 'Barbenheimer: ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ raise the profile of each other in Edmonton'
Barbenheimer: ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ raise the profile of each other in Edmonton
It's Barbenheimer weekend, when both 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' open in theatres. They're vastly different films but many movie fans are taking both in - in some cases, as a double feature. Oppenheimer is meant to be seen on Imax and as Quinn Ohler reports, people are also coming from far and wide to Edmonton, which is home to one of only 30 such theatres in the world. – Jul 21, 2023

A pop culture phenomenon, Barbenheimer, has taken Edmonton by storm.

Hundreds of fans dressed in pink and black at the South Edmonton Common Cineplex theatre Thursday to be one of the first to watch the Barbie movie on the big screen.

“One of our friends got a group of us tickets several months ago,” fan Holly Jackson said. “It’s been fun to make an event of it.”

But instead of staying put at one theatre, Jackson and her friends made the trip across the city to West Edmonton Mall for the second half of the Barbenheimer experience: Oppenheimer.

Click to play video: '‘Barbenheimer’ provides boost to box office'
‘Barbenheimer’ provides boost to box office

The Christopher Nolan film about Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist who played a leading role in the United States’ Manhattan Project during the Second World War, hit Canadian theatres Friday.

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“I think it’s going to be just a really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it in the IMAX theatre,” Jackson told Global News.

Although the juxtaposition of the comedic Barbie and Second World War drama Oppenheimer is a big enough draw for movie fans, the old-school film technology at the Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall has captivated the more hardcore Nolan fans from across the province.

Click to play video: 'Minute at the Movies: July 21'
Minute at the Movies: July 21

The Cineplex theatre is one of only four in Canada that still has a 70mm IMAX film projector to showcase Oppenheimer the way the filmmaker wanted it to be seen.

“(Christopher Nolan) uses film IMAX cameras. He wants it to be seen in IMAX film,” said Jeffrey Simmons, the general manager of Scotiabank Theatre.

“In the digital world, there’s only 30 locations that can play it and we are one of them.”

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Oppenheimer is the longest IMAX film ever — both in runtime and physical length.

The reel for the three-hour-long film weighs more than 600 pounds and stretches more than 11 miles.

It took six months of work to bring it to life on the big screen in Edmonton.

“It’s been a team effort from across North America to get it on the screen,” Simmons said.

Digital viewings cut off some of the image because of a different aspect ratio — most films are 16×9 but IMAX is 1.90:1.

When Oppenheimer is viewed on 70mm film, the IMAX screen is filled from top to bottom.

The last time the projector was used at West Ed was back in 2017, for Nolan’s film Dunkirk.

Grande Prairie resident’s Cooper Morrison and Michaela Huber drove down to Edmonton Thursday night, to ensure they would be one of the first to see Oppenheimer — the way it was intended to be seen.

Morrison said he missed Dunkirk on 70mm and didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

“It was worth every second,” said Morrison immediately following the showing.

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“We will probably never be able to see another film like that (in theatres),” Morrison said.

Click to play video: '‘Barbenheimer’ craze puts film industry, fans into frenzy'
‘Barbenheimer’ craze puts film industry, fans into frenzy

Simmons told Global News tickets went on sale for the IMAX experience nearly a month ago and sold out within a week.

The theatre has extended viewings of the Oppenheimer in the IMAX theatre until August 9.

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