Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys here today breathless with semi-breaking news.
We’re no Luddites but somehow we have a mixed feeling about this month’s world premiere of “the first-ever” IMAX 3-D release of — The Wizard of Oz.
Question: Can technology of even the best sort — which we are promised this will be — improve such an established classic? Or, will it somehow diminish it?
Remember those misguided forays in the 1990′s to “colorize” hundreds of titles masterfully shot in black-and-white. Classics such as Casablanca, The Asphalt Jungle, Fort Apache, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and even The Magnificent Ambersons got the “colorization” treatment.
Fortunately, “colorizing” went pretty much nowhere. Classic movie fans for the most part rejected such experimentation done, we suspect, under the misguided view that the films would somehow play better on television.
Back to The Wizard of Oz.
The folks at IMAX tells us their big 3D version will officially open on Sunday, Sept. 15 at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s) in Los Angeles followed by a one-week engagement there and other IMAX theaters “across North America” beginning the following Friday, Sept. 20.
As fans of Oz will immediately know, Grauman’s Chinese Theater was the site of the movie’s commercial opening on Aug. 15, 1939. The East Coast came two days later at New York’s Loew’s Capitol Theater, highlighted by personal appearances by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, MGM’s biggest star at the time.
The trade news is that the now TCL Chinese Theatre is now the first IMAX theater in Hollywood. In its press release, IMAX says the newly renovated site will be equipped with ground-breaking crystal-clear digital projection, cutting edge sound technology and a curved screen spanning from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, providing moviegoers visiting this historic site the world’s most immersive cinematic experience.
But what will all this mean for The Wizard of Oz? Was it created to be exhibited in this manner? Is bigger necessarily better in the world of movie projection?
The plot thickens when we learn that the Oz print to be shown at the IMAX location has been remastered from the MGM original by Warner Bros., the studio that is working closely with IMAX.
The 3D version was a long and complex project which Warner Bros. initiated with a very high resolution (8k) scanning of the original Technicolor camera negative. The restored 2D image was then transformed by creating a depth-map of each frame to construct 3D imagery and determine distances from the viewer’s vantage point, said Warners. The 3D conversion, it proclaims, is now ‘perfect.’
The IMAX-Warner Bros. combination is a kickoff (a bit early) for the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, which was re-released theatrically by MGM in its old fashioned 2D form in 1949 and 1955. The movie’s 1956 network tv debut on CBS drew nearly 45 million viewers.
Coming on Oct. 1 from Warner’s Home Entertainment unit will be a “limited and numbered” release of The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition — a five-disc set that will include Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UntraViolet versions of the film plus a number of extras and memorabilia. The various components will also be available separately and priced according (the whole set is priced at $105.43).
How will die-hard Oz fans react? That’s the question. We shall soon have an answer.
For those of you who could use a refresher on The Wizard of Oz, don’t hesitate to refer to our 2012 blogs: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ — Casting Is Everything!, published on July 17; Debating THE WIZARD OF OZ — How Old Was Judy, Anyway, June 22; and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Quiz — Test Your Knowledge Of This Classic, May 10 with answers published on May 15.