“Apocalypse Now” 30th Anniversary
I had intended to write an in-depth retrospective on “Apocalypse Now” to commemorate the landmark film’s 30th anniversary, but for the time being this brief write-up will have to do.
On August 15, thirty years ago, Omni Zoetrope and United Artists released Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic, “Apocalypse Now.” Rather than saturating the market with hundreds or even thousands of bookings, as would be the case if released today, top-flight theaters in three large and important markets were selected to open the film. The film was shown on a reserved-performance, guaranteed-seat basis and presented in 70-millimeter and Six-Track Dolby Stereo showcasing a then-new quintaphonic “split surround” audio mix. The film was shown without opening or closing credits or any studio logos; instead, a program was handed out to moviegoers. These initial bookings were:
In late-September 1979, four more 70mm bookings were added:
Then, in early October:
Boston, MA: Cinema 57
Calumet City, IL: River Oaks
Chicago, IL: State-Lake
Evergreen Park, IL: Evergreen
Montreal, QC: York
Niles, IL: Golf Mill
Oakbrook, IL: UA Cinema
Vancouver, BC: Stanley
Washington, DC: Uptown
And, in mid-October “Apocalypse Now” was finally put into a nationwide, 35mm general release where it played in hundreds of cinemas across the United States and Canada and, eventually, the rest of the world. The 35mm version of the film was different from the 70mm version in a number of respects. Aside from obvious visual and sonic differences, the 35mm version featured a completely different audio mix, providing a less dynamic, less immersive experience compared to the 70mm version and, most notably, featured an end-credit sequence which included footage of the Kurtz compound and its destruction not seen in the original 70mm presentations.
I, myself, first saw “Apocalypse Now” in a military theater in Schweinfurt, Germany in 1980. I didn’t see a 70mm presentation until 1988 when the Cinerama Dome included the film in their 25th anniversary film festival. What a tremendous experience!
As one can glean from the information provided, “Apocalypse Now” was booked into some pretty famous and highly-regarded theaters. Did anyone see the film during its original run? Where? 70mm or 35mm? What is your recollection of the experience? Do you consider the film a classic? Where does it rank among war films? Where does it rank when analyzing the career of its filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola? Must “Apocalypse Now” be seen in a movie theater, as opposed to a home theater setting, to be appreciated?