Cornell Cinema inaugurates a new 3-D projection system Friday night with the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road.
In 2016, Cornell Cinema received a capital equipment grant from the New York State Council on the Arts offering the campus theatre half of the installation cost for a 3-D system. A crowdfunding campaign launched in November matched the funds — remarkably quickly — and the Friday night show will be its first run.
For many people, myself included, 3-D film still feels new. Cornell Cinema hopes to share the medium’s weighted cinematic history. The first 3-D exhibition dates back to 1915 and, since that time, the stereoscopic method attracts Hollywood, independent, documentary, foreign and experimental film productions.
Cornell Cinema dedicates itself to a holistic view of cinematic entertainment, and its lack of 3-D offerings represented a void in the theater’s mission. The upgrade will, according to a Cornell Cinema press release, “close the gap in their exhibition capabilities and enable them to fully accommodate its mission to offer selections from the full spectrum of film and electronic media.” With the way art-house, foreign films and cinematic restorations have been moving in the last several years, Cornell Cinema’s Manager, Douglas McLaren, says that “3-D film was something that we needed to include in our programming.”
Until recently, filming, producing and screening 3-D films was expensive and difficult. Cornell Cinema watched and engaged with this developmental history firsthand. Since its founding in 1970, Cornell Cinema showed most films on reel-to-reel 35 mm projectors. Reel-to-reel, despite its seemingly antique form, allowed for some very limited exploration into the third dimension. For the first time in 1998, and a second time in 2004, Cornell Cinema invested in special lenses, rented a silver screen to put in front of the regular one and bought disposable glasses to offer Cornell students a rare, but viable, 3-D experience. Each effort added up to a total of nine sold-out shows.
3-D film engages patrons. It offers something more real than regular film, yet it provides an escape from an individual reality. McLaren contends that “3-D cinema, when well executed, creates an immersive you-are-there experience.” The 3-D technique, more so than any other style, gives viewers the power to forget where they actually are and engage with the “you-are-there.”
3-D cinema encapsulates the tension between the traditionalist’s affection for reel-to-reel film as opposed to new digital technology. The reel-to-reel format ruled Hollywood cinema entirely until the early 2000s. In 2005, many theatres shut off the lights on 35 mm projectors and bought into drip feed digital formats. In 2013, Cornell Cinema, too, added digital projection to its theatre menu.
Digital film allows for easy screening in the 3-D. It makes film feel touchable and so it makes it more real. Old time…