Preview: The Music Box 70mm Film Festival Opens Friday

Image courtesy Music Box Theatre. The Music Box Theatre loves to find reasons to play films in 70mm. In the last year, the venue has done one-off screenings of both Streets of Fire and Howard the Duck in the format, which offers much-improved sharpness and clarity—as much as four times the resolution of 35mm and digital projection. The film itself runs through the projector at 112 feet per minute and weighs about 40 pounds per reel. But the truest showcase of the Music Box’s presentation capabilities is during its 70mm Film Festival, which returns this Friday, September 14, and runs through the 27th. The theater (located at 3733 N. Southport Ave.) will again provide the most immersive viewing experience of the best prints—12 in total, including eight that have never before screened at the Music Box—available of works both shot in 70mm and ones offered as 70mm blowups—all projected onto a massive, temporary, 16x36 foot screen. Festival passes are available for $70 for general audiences and $60 for Music Box members; individual tickets are $14 GA, $12 for students and seniors, and $10 for members and kids. The full lineup, showtimes, and information on preordering tickets can be found at the Music Box’s Event Page.  The films this year include: 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968, 70MM with DTS Sound from Warner Brothers Stanley Kubrick’s Academy Award-winning achievement is a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke) first visits our prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia (via one of the most mind-blowing jump cuts ever) into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted space, perhaps even into immortality. This is the same “unrestored” version that played at the Music Box earlier this year The Dark Crystal 1982, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Universal A young Gelfling named Jen sets out to restore order to his planet by recovering a glass shard from the broken and powerful Dark Crystal. A delightfully creepy collaboration between Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the movie presents a darker side of the Muppets and features some of the best animatronics of the ’80s (which still hold up beautifully today). Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Paramount In the third entry in the Indiana Jones series, Harrison Ford has to rescue his father, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery), from the Nazis before they get to the Holy Grail. Beautifully shot in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Jordan, the film is genuinely thrilling entertainment that still makes time for Steven Spielberg’s patented deadbeat-father-and-son dynamics. Featuring River Phoenix as a teenage Indiana Jones. Lawrence of Arabia 1962, New 70MM Print with DTS Sound from Sony Pictures Repertory An account of the life and adventures of T.E. Lawrence (piercingly blue-eyed Peter O’Toole), David Lean’s finest film is the rare historical epic that works on nearly every level, combining awe-inspiring production values with a genuinely moving story of a deeply imperfect man. Presented in a brand new, fully restored 70mm print and made by people who really meant business, the film featured locations that were so hot and dry that they caused cracking in the emulsion of the camera negative. Patton 1970, Archival 70MM Print with DTS Sound from Twentieth Century Fox George C. Scott stars as the controversial WWII general, "Old Blood and Guts" George S. Patton, in a performance so crazed and immersed, it’s hard not to believe he’s the man himself. A personal favorite of Roger Ebert, who called it “not only one of the best American movies, but one of the best uses ever made of 70MM widescreen photography … it is startling to see how good a movie can look.” The Remains of the Day 1993, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Sony Pictures Repertory Adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Merchant-Ivory’s exquisite follow-up to Howards Endreunites Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in another understated and adult romance. A tale of compromise and complicity in interwar England, the story follows housekeeper Miss Kenton (Thompson) as she waits for unflappable head butler Stevens (Hopkins) to think above his station and express his feelings while their employer Lord Darlington (James Fox) pursues a separate peace with Nazi Germany. The only Merchant-Ivory production to receive a 70MM release. Silverado 1985, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Sony Pictures Repertory Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of Raiders of the Lost Arkand The Empire Strikes Backas well as an Oscar-nominee for The Big Chill, uses his industry clout to assemble a star-studded cast for this old-fashioned Western. Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and Kevin Costner (in his breakout role) are four drifters who arrive in a small town overrun by a corrupt sheriff and his mercenaries. Kasdan pays tribute to the cowboy films of the past, with thrilling gunfights, horseback chases, jailbreaks, dishonorable men doing honorable deeds, and fills the 70MM frame with the sun-drenched vistas of the old west. All this, plus Jeff Goldblum as a lowlife gambler named Slick. The Sound of Music 1965, Archival 70MM Print with DTS Sound from Twentieth Century Fox Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer star in the beloved classic, based on the real-life Von Trapp family’s escape from Nazi-annexed Austria. With music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, was enormously popular on its original release, with many 70MM engagements running more than two years straight (the run at the Michael Todd Theatre in Chicago was 92 weeks). Patrons please note, this is NOT a Sing-A-Long. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 1991, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Paramount The final entry in the Star Trekfranchise starring the cast of The Original Series (and the last Star Trekfilm to receive a 70MM release), the movie is a still-timely Russian/American allegory that borrows heavily from Shakespeare and finds the crew of the Enterprise gracefully confronting old age. Featuring an earth-shattering Dolby SR soundtrack and Christopher Plummer. The Thing 1982, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Universal Master of horror John Carpenter and frequent collaborator Kurt Russell take you to a remote outpost in Antarctica, as a group of American research scientists discover that a nearby camp has been destroyed and a strange craft has been found beneath the ice. Under attack by an alien lifeform that can assume the shape of its victims, the film is a harrowing combination of slow-burn paranoia and gruesome body horror. With groundbreaking creature special effects by Rob Bottin and music by the great Ennio Morricone. Please note: this print has somewhat faded color. West Side Story 1961, 70MM with DTS Sound from Park Circus Adapted from the incredibly successful Broadway play, even the magnificent 70MM frame has trouble containing its raw energy. Robert Wise (The Sound of Music) co-directed with Jerome Robbins, who had a nervous breakdown midway through production—the results are visible on screen, and it was worth it. For our money, this is one of the best-looking prints of the festival; it also has the best end credits sequence by Saul Bass. Year of the Dragon 1985, 70MM Blowup with Magnetic Sound from Private Collections, permission Warner Brothers Director Michael Cimino’s first film after the infamously disastrous (and quite beautiful) Heaven’s Gatestars Mickey Rourke as Vietnam war veteran Stanley White, a police captain hell bent on cleaning up organized crime in New York’s Chinatown. Oliver Stone wrote the script and described Cimino’s obsessive directing style as follows: "With Michael, it's a 24-hour day … He doesn't really sleep … he's truly an obsessive personality. He's the most Napoleonic director I ever worked with.” The results are big-budget Hollywood filmmaking at its most personal. Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. 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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.