Final flickers: 35MM film calendar for March-April


—A movie theater is more than a giant TV screen–or at least, it used to be.  Most New York theaters no longer project movies the old-fashioned way, on film. But there are still a few that do, with some classics and a few new projects showing this month.

Most cinemas show movies in the form of “digital cinema package,” essentially a computer file, a giant collection of compressed pictures and audio and data. Film is analog. Film stock is made of celluloid and painted with light-sensitive chemicals. When a reel of film is placed on a spinning projector, twenty-four still photographs per second flick by, and when light shoots through this material, it projects the colors and shapes from the film onto the screen.

In New York, unlike most of the country, it’s still possible to see movies projected on film at a number of art houses, though many theaters, even midtown’s grand Ziegfeld, have moved over to all-digital projection. Anthology Film Archive, Film Forum, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, IFC, The American Museum of the Moving Image and the Museum of Modern Art often show classics and new films in 35. 

Check out some of the classics on this calendar before it’s all fin.


New Yorkers saw their first projected film in 1896, at the site of what’s now Macy’s Herald Square. Many born a century later will never see a celluloid film projected, the industry’s transition to digital video having been so rapid and near-complete.

While most movies through the early 2000s were originally filmed on old-school cameras with actual film stock, they are now often projected digitally, and sometimes even shown on DVD.

Nicholas Elliott, film critic for the French magazine Cahiers du Cinema, says a careful eye can tell the difference between a 35 mm print and DCP projection. “The whole image is alive with movement and flicker. It’s the actual texture of the celluloid with light going through it,” he said.

“For me, film is literally a reflection of reality. Digital is an interpretation of reality,” says Elliot. “Film is light that has reflected off of actual people and objects and made an impression on a chemical surface. It’s true to the pure source.”

One Comment

  1. I had the privilege of projecting two 35mm prints in Memorial Hall at Pratt Institute Brooklyn in the 70’s. The first was “The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie,” I think it was a premier, and Cassavetes spoke afterword.
    The second was a film called “Angels,” a really bad movie that I only remember because Vincent Schavelli was one of the leads, and I remembered him from Cukoo’s nest which had come out the year before.