For Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg, the bigger the tale, the better.
Spielberg built his career on larger-than-life epics. His first blockbuster, “Jaws,” defined the event film, a movie that becomes a hot topic of conversation. He followed up with sci-fi classics such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and box office behemoths such as “E.T.”
One of his larger-than-life epics is about to become a lot bigger this week.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Spielberg’s homage to the Saturday afternoon matinees of his youth, will be released into large-format IMAX theaters Friday through Sept. 13. IMAX screens are twice the size of traditional movie theater screens, and the auditoriums that house them are given state-of-the-art surround sound systems to provide an optimal experience.
During the 20th anniversary of “E.T.,” Spielberg released the sci-fi film back into theaters with never-before-seen-footage. Next year, Spielberg will release “Jurassic Park” in 3-D to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary.
As far as “Raiders” goes, though, Spielberg is taking a simpler approach.
In an interview with The New York Times, Spielberg said no aesthetic changes have been made to “Raiders;” only the sound and picture have been re-mastered.
“I’ve resigned myself to accepting that what the film was at the time of its creation is what it always should be for future generations,” Spielberg told The Times.
The director said watching “Raiders” in IMAX took him back to his youth. When he first watched the movie in the new format, he said, it reminded him of the days he would visit Cinerama Domes to watch epic films.
The screen size is “the only marked contrast we have to the generations that are seeing our movies on phones and hand-held platforms,” Spielberg said.
As Hollywood looks to find the next big thing to keep patrons in theaters rather than at home on weekends, Spielberg is joining an expanding group of directors who are converting their films into the IMAX format.
Joss Whedon’s “Marvel’s The Avengers” and Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” were both screened in the premium format.
Director Christopher Nolan, who was behind this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” chose to shoot much of his film with actual IMAX cameras. Only several theaters across the country were able to run the film in this format, but for the lucky few who could watch it in full IMAX picture, the film’s image was more than six stories tall for almost half of the running time.
Spielberg let fans see what some of the most famous sequences in the movie would be like using the IMAX conversion process. One such sequence is a scene that involves Jones running away from a giant boulder.
“You kind of feel the sound in your chest, like when the boulder is rolling, chasing Indy through the cave,” Spielberg said. “You really feel the boulder in your stomach, the way you do when a marching band passes by and you’re standing right next to it.”
In our area, watching “Raiders” in IMAX will be a bit of a drive. The closest theaters to present the film are the AMC 12 in Edwardsville and the AMC Chesterfield 14 in Chesterfield, Mo., about 20 minutes west of St. Louis.
If you can’t make it to see the one-week event, never fear; you can still see the picture conversion. Spielberg will release the original film trilogy on Blu-Ray Sept. 18.