Audiences came out in droves to see John Carpenter’s “The Thing” when it returned to theaters Sunday to mark its 40th anniversary, but many left the Fathom Events screenings disappointed: Many reported that the film was cropped from its original aspect ratio and the picture quality was bad. Fathom responded to the outcry with a fix. A second round of nationwide screenings on Wednesday will be in the film’s original widescreen format — which Carpenter considers a “happy ending.”
“It’s distressing, it’s horrible,” the director told IndieWire Tuesday, after several viral Twitter threads detailed the film’s subpar presentation. Among them was posts from director and podcast host Mick Garris, who vowed he would “never EVER” see a Fathom screening again, and encouraged his thousands of followers to do the same.
He said the film was shot in the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, but the version Fathom showed to some 730 theaters was 1.85:1 — meaning that one-third of the image was cut out (think back to the way some movies were cropped to fit square TVs before HDTV became commonplace).
This type of presentation incenses many filmmakers, but it’s a particularly sore spot for Carpenter. He’s long been a vocal proponent of widescreen formats and he made a point to shoot most of his movies in Panavision and in the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, which offers a broad canvas to stage complex shots with depth seen in classics like “Cool Hand Luke.”
“My visual collaborator was Dean Cundey, he and I had worked together before, this was the fourth time. I trust his lighting, it’s just gorgeous,” Carpenter said. “Widescreen is something I’ve done since the mid-’70s. I love widescreen, I’ve always loved it. Composing a movie in widescreen is tricky, but it’s beautiful.”
Producer Stuart Cohen told IndieWire “The Thing” was a passion project for him and that he fought to get it made and exhibited the way the director envisioned. The film’s critical reexamination, cult status, and return to theaters — after it was panned by critics and audiences alike in 1982 — should be a celebration, he said.
“It was always about the big screen, and the biggest screen imaginable and we fought for those privileges. We fought to get 70mm prints made for that purpose,” Cohen said. “It was particularly galling, after the film unceremoniously left theaters 40 years ago, that for its return to the big screen they played it in 1.85 — which John called a ‘bastard ratio,’ because you really couldn’t compose with it, because the sides were too wide and there was too much headroom.”
Carpenter, however, said he has accepted he has little say in how his work is presented after its original run. “I can’t control what they do on TV. I’ve learned over the years, in a sense, not to obsess over it. It makes life a lot easier,” he said.
Fathom released a statement to fans late Monday night after the outcry.
“Your patronage and trust are of utmost …read more
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