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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Hollywood’s Historic Egyptian Theatre Undergoes Retrofit For “Rare” 35mm Nitrate Film (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Hollywood’s Historic Egyptian Theatre Undergoes Retrofit For “Rare” 35mm Nitrate Film
Paul Mayer
Oh get out of it Melvin, before it pulls you under!

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 - posted 07-27-2016 11:35 AM      Profile for Paul Mayer   Author's Homepage   Email Paul Mayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I seem to recall that this theater had, at least temporarily, nitrate capability installed back in 2000/2001 for a nitrate festival they were running. Looks like now they will have nitrate capability as a permanent feature in their new booth.

From American Cinematographer and Deadline Hollywood:

quote:

Hollywood’s Historic Egyptian Theatre Undergoes Retrofit For “Rare” 35mm Nitrate Film Projection

By Greg Evans

July 26, 2016

Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre will soon have the capability to screen “rare and fragile” 35mm nitrate film prints thanks to a film preservation project undertaken by The Film Foundation, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Turner Classic Movies, in conjunction with the American Cinematheque.

“When I was told that one of the most beautiful movie theaters in the country could be retrofitted for nitrate projection, I was overjoyed, moved, and excited by the potential,” said Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation. “I hope that this is the beginning of a trend.”

Cellulose nitrate was the standard film stock in commercial use prior to 1951. Though beloved by buffs for its vivid image quality, cellulose nitrate is flammable and was replaced by cellulose acetate safety film. Though old nitrate prints survive in controlled vault environments, few theaters are equipped to screen them.

Scorsese praised the stock for its “luminosity and a richness that was never quite matched by the safer stocks that followed or their digital reproductions.”

Rick Nicita, chairman of American Cinematheque, which owns the 1922 Egyptian, said the project will enable the theater “to show every film format possible. A state-of-the-art digital projector will sit side-by-side with our 35mm/70mm machines – representing the rich history of cinema, as well as the future of the art form.” The new nitrate-safe projection booth at the Egyptian, designed by BAR Architects, has begun construction, with the retrofit scheduled for completion in fall of 2016.

“Needless to say,” said Scorsese, “I’m eager for the completion of the necessary work so that I can see those glorious images projected in that one-of-a-kind theater.”


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Leo Enticknap
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NFPA 40 was significantly revised in 2007 to toughen up the rules for any facility where nitrate is stored and used, with the result that the Egyptian's booth was no longer nitrate legal. Making it legal per the 2007 version would simply not have been possible (it basically calls for a nuclear bunker-type facility, something which the UCLA folks at Santa Clarita must now be very grateful for, given the fire that is taking place around them), but the code was revised again this year. In the 2016 version, the requirements for theaters aren't as stringent as those for archive facilities, reflecting the fact that a projection booth containing 6 reels of nitrate is less of an inherent danger than an archive vault containing 600,000. The 2007 NFPA 40 made no distinction between the two. Without that revision to the code, we simply could not be doing this.

Mainly what is being done is to upgrade the walls of the booth for enhanced fire resistance, and upgrade the HVAC in the booth in order to isolate its air supply from the rest of the building. The schedule is for the booth to be handed back to us for re-installation of equipment in late August (absolutely everything had to be taken out, Norelco AAIIs included!), and for us to be back up and running for Cinecon. In the meantime, we're playing DCPs from a loaner Barco 32B perched on the balcony.

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Scott Norwood
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Interesting. They definitely projected nitrate films at the Egyptian in 2000 for the Technicolor Festival. I was there and had a great time. Jeff Joseph would have more information on what was done to the booth. I believe that they had three operators and a fireman in the booth for those screenings. Fortunately, there were no issues.

It is interesting to see the increased attention that is being paid to nitrate screenings. The Eastman House museum in Rochester, NY. has done a nitrate weekend for two years in a row, with good attendance both years (I went the first year, but was unavailable this year). They have another nitrate weekend scheduled for next spring.

Nitrate looks gorgeous, and it makes me happy to know that more people will get to see it projected in venues that are properly equipped to show it.

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Monte L Fullmer
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quote:
Nitrate looks gorgeous,...... and more people will get to see it projected in venues that are properly equipped to show it.


How, have to be a newbie in this department on this: Even though I started projecting in 1969 at a drive in, we did have a 10 min B/W, nitrate clock reel we would use towards the end of the season.

It looked good on the screen and had no issues with running this flammable stock, outside of keeping the extinguisher close by since I was using 11mm carbons in an Ashcraft Corelite lamphouse.

Afterwards, worked in indoor houses where I did project B/W acetate safety prints, and to my eyes, these B/W features looked real good by themselves.

Thus, the simple question would be: what is the presentation differences between a Nitrate and Safety print?

thx-Monte

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Scott Norwood
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quote: Monte L Fullmer
Thus, the simple question would be: what is the presentation differences between a Nitrate and Safety print?
For me, it is the clarity of the base material. For example, a shot of a woman wearing a white dress will "pop" on screen in a nitrate print, whereas the same shot might look a bit dull on a safety print, where "clear" film is somewhat less than clear. Actually, DLP has some of the same qualities as nitrate, since "white" really shows up as "white" on screen.

Also, there are some non-nitrate-specific characteristics of these prints as well, such as the silver content of the the film, prints made from camera negatives, and generally high quality lab work.

Perhaps others can comment further on the nitrate look.

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Monte L Fullmer
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Did they use wet gate printing, contact printing, or similar from the transfer to the positive stock?

I can see wet gate printing be the more optimal.

thx -Monte

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Simon Wyss
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Better clarity with nitrate base compared to acetate base is plain nonsense. Scorsese mixes up memories which have to do with how silents were processed and handled in contrast to 1) sound film and 2) machine processing. Until the last fresh nitrate-base prints had rolled over screens, xenon-arc light began to replace carbon-arc light and there lies one of the differences.

Nothing changed with the gelatine that embeds the picture and it is still today possible to produce prints as beautiful and “rich” as in 1920 on polyester-base stock. Taking lenses have changed, lighting has changed even more, and some laboratory practices, too.

Nothing against the initiative, on the contrary, I applaud this, but good cinema photography is independent of the 0.05 log difference in density between nitrate and triacetate bases. If at all, one should consider the refractive index of base materials where PETP has one of 1.64 besides cellulose triacetate and cellulose nitrate, both 1.48. But even that doesn’t make a difference.

Crispness and stuff that’s being talked about happens about the silver on the film. Old negative stocks had thicker layers, more silver, were exposed and developed to more density. Prints used to be made in different versions, a bit lighter for large screen presentation or a tad denser for smaller screens. Tessar-type lenses were often used, stopped down to f/5.6 and more, if possible. Petzval projection lenses of relatively longer focal length were in use. The main point is the light source, again. A print has two looks when projected with high-intensity carbon arcs and xenon arcs.

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Tom Ruff
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Just curious. The 2000 seat 1930 theater that I work in in downtown Los Angeles still has the working steel shutters on the front wall in front of all of the ports, the projectors still have magazines with fire traps and the booth has a separate ventilation system. the booth has two exit doors with the pull in case of fire rings at each one. The buildup bench has separate steel enclosures for each reel. What has changed in the rules since 1930?

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Monte L Fullmer
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quote: Simon Wyss
xenon-arc light began to replace carbon-arc light and there lies one of the differences.
Which this is easy verification for me: Go back 35 yrs to 1981 - Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Experienced this at the Villa in SLC in 70mm.
Booth had JJ's with Ashcraft Super Corelites and 11mm positive rotator carbons.
Wonderful bright picture with an even field of light

Move up to 1984 Temple of Doom at the same location: Ashcrafts were pulled for two Xetron lamphouses running 4K lamps and still firing behind the JJ's.
Picture quality took a nose dive. Image lost a lot of clarity, contrast and brightness, plus corners were slightly dark than the center of the image, like the reflector focus wasn't set to par.

Agree: carbon arc light prob will make this nitrate event worthwhile.

-Monte

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Mark Ogden
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quote: Tom Ruff
What has changed in the rules since 1930?
What is the physical position of the booth to the rest of the structure? In the early day of cinema, the rear wall of the booth (the "blow-out wall" it was called) was required to both face the street and be structurally weaker than the rest of the building. The idea was that in the event of a fire or explosion, the rear wall would buckle and vent the flames out to the air, as opposed to the auditorium. This is why most theaters of the era had the booths high and in the absolute back of the balcony. When this got dropped as a building code (and whether it was true in all municipalities) I have no idea, but I've seen that design in theaters constructed as late as the 1950s.

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Steve Guttag
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I've seen nitrate projected off of xenon, carbon and even incandescent and it ALWAYS seems to look better. Regardless if it is color or B&W. So I think the reason isn't the light source. I can believe that the high silver content has something to do with it It just has a very rich look about it. It would not surprise me if the reason is not any single one thing but the cumulation of everything about how the nitrate prints were made.

Generally speaking, people tend to prefer the look of nitrate prints, once they see them.

I do agree that carbon arc is a better light source than xenon for attaining the full spectrum of light and it is smoother but that isn't necessarily the look of nitrate. The vast majority of the nitrate I've seen was projected xenon.

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Rick Raskin
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I do remember a sign on the Norelco fire trap to use red fire trap rollers when running nitrate film. I never ran nitrate on one though.

I agree the look of nitrate to me was preferable to acetate, especially with color film. I have seen cartoons projected from nitrate and the colors seemed much richer.

We used to have a venue at L'Enfant Plaza that had JJs and if I remember correctly, CoreLites. AFI had their theatre there before their move to the Kennedy Center (they are at the Silver now) and regularly projected nitrate.

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Leo Enticknap
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quote: Tom Ruff
What has changed in the rules since 1930?
NFPA 40 would give you the chapter and verse (although looking up precisely what the rules were in 1930 would be a bit more of a research challenge), but essentially, and at a guess:

1 - The volume of nitrate you're allowed to store in the booth at any one time;

2 - The requirement for an automated fire alarm/suppression system with specific functions (e.g. triggered by smoke and rate-of-rise heat detectors in the booth, automated call to fire department, alert other parts of the building, etc. etc.);

3 - The time requirement that a booth has to contain any fire without any fumes being able to escape;

4 - Various electrical and systems insulation requirements.

But, IMHO, the issue here is not so much one of rules, but of culture. In 1930 nitrocellulose was an everyday substance, in widespread use. Just as anyone working in a gas station today has received training and uses it in minimizing the risk of accidental ignition, so did all projectionists in 1930 on how to prevent the accidental ignition of nitrate and manage the danger if it did happen. Only a tiny handful of film archivists, collectors, and workers in cinematheque-type venues have ever handled the stuff today, and public knowledge of fatal accidents such as the Glen Cinema fire and the Cleveland Clinic fire* is almost non-existent. Any competent projectionist working in 1930 would have known all about them.

So for a theater such as mine, which is preparing to show nitrate for the first time since the early '00s, and for the first time regularly since around 1950, we're having to educate ourselves from the ground up.

* This is one that is worth taking very careful note of. The fire killed 123, but caused only minor damage to the property. Nitric acid fumes were the reason why. The fumes from around 100 feet of burning 35mm are enough to kill you if inhaled - the inflammation in your windpipe caused by the acid will asphyxiate you. That's why the direct exit from the booth to fresh air is so important - you need to be able to exit the building in the time that you can hold your breath.

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Steve Guttag
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Absolutely, One must be able to exit either way from a booth too. My most recent Nitrate booth was at the Library of Congress Culpeper facility.

Here is the one that gets me. At the time of when it was designed and went in, NFPA40 stated that the film cannot be shielded from the sprinkler system. What that means is that if you put your film in a film cabinet, then you also must have a sprinkler head in there. Otherwise, it is to be out in the open (within the restrictions of how many feet can be in the booth at one time) and under the sprinkler heads.

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Dustin Mitchell
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Doesn't nitrate produce oxygen as it burns, fueling the fire in the process. I seem to recall someone posting a video here of a chunk of nitrate film burning under water.

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