'Hateful Eight': Which version should you see?

"Hateful Eight": Better to see it in digital format or 70mm? Michael Phillips explains.

Last month filmmaker Quentin Tarantino spoke out against police brutality at a New York City protest, and it’s been a rough news cycle for the “Pulp Fiction” auteur ever since.

Law enforcement unions and the Fraternal Order of Police have vowed a boycott of Tarantino’s new film, “The Hateful Eight,” a post-Civil War Western about a passel of scoundrels, snowbound and dangerous, in a Wyoming stagecoach stopover. Starring Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tarantino’s eight feature opens in limited release Dec. 25 and in wide release Jan. 8.

Let’s leave the off-screen controversy aside for now. Let's talk about aesthetics. Here’s the latest on the Chicago “Hateful Eight” 70 millimeter engagements.

The now-customary, less lustrous digital projection edition, or “multiplex” version as Tarantino calls it, goes into circulation Jan. 8. Hopefully it'll look good. But prior to that ...

For two glorious weeks around the holidays ...

The first Ultra Panavision 70 feature since “Khartoum” in 1966 will be available for cinephiles who’ve been dreaming in 2.76:1 widescreen aspect ratios since Tarantino announced he was shooting “The Hateful Eight” on 65mm film stock, to be projected in 70mm on actual film.

Subject to change the so-called roadshow 70mm edition of “The Hateful Eight” opens at at least five Chicago area theaters. They are: The Music Box Theatre; the Kerasotes Showplace Icon and three AMC venues, the River East 21, the Barrington 30 and the Crestwood. If there's a sixth, according to the Chicago office of Allied Integrated Marketing, it'll likely be the Evanston Cinemark Century 12.

A deliberate, enticing throwback to the 1960s, the roadshow edition of "The Hateful Eight" includes an overture (from composer Ennio Morricone, of "Once Upon a Time in the West" and so many more) and an intermission. It runs 182 minutes, Tarantino told Variety.

The Jan. 8 general release version, he said, is six minutes shorter and has no intermission, so expect a 164-minute "Hateful Eight" under those circumstances. Weinstein has committed to showing the longer 70mm roadshow version at about 100 theaters nationwide. In a refreshingly self-deprecating fashion, Tarantino acknowledged to Variety that the somewhat shorter version is "a little less precious about itself.”

So: Where, and how, to see this thing?

I haven't seen "The Hateful Eight" yet. But as a civilian, given the Chicago roadshow version options, I'd catch it at the Music Box. In 2012, that's where I saw the 70mm advance screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s gloriously bizarre “The Master."

For "The Hateful Eight" the Music Box is renting a 40-ft. screen, optimal for cinematographer Robert Richardson's widescreen imagery. The theater has also invested more than $40,000 in new sound equipment and speakers, according to general manager Ryan Oestreich. The projectionist in charge, Julian Antos, one of the founders of the Northwest Chicago Film Society, is a wizard.

“Basically, it’s going to be awesome,” Oestreich says.

With the new “Star Wars” picture (Dec. 17) sure to dominate the multiplex action in December and early next year, it's unlikely Tarantino’s film (a far dicier commercial bet than “Star Wars,” but what isn’t?) will play the largest screens available at the theaters committing to the two-week roadshow engagement.

The Music Box will be tough to beat for those who want the full “Hateful Eight,” however the movie itself turns out. I can’t wait to hear the opening bars of Morricone’s overture.

mjphillips@tripbub.com

Twitter @phillipstribune

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