An Interview With Jim Ward,
V.P. of Marketing, Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones - The IMAX
The 70mm Newsletter
by: William Kallay
of the Clones". © Lucas Film 2002
Jedi Knights, Imperial Storm troopers and Tusken Raiders rejoiced this
past summer of 2002, when it was announced that "Star Wars:
Episode II-Attack of the Clones", would be released in the IMAX
format. For how many years have fans of the original trilogy, and now
prequels, wished upon the stars above Skywalker Ranch for the films to be
shown on the giant IMAX screen? Perhaps many years. In 1996, Star Wars
alumnus, Ben Burtt, directed the movie, Special Effects: Anything Can
Happen, in IMAX. That was the first and only time fans of the series were
able to see galaxies far, far away on the tall large format screens, until
recently. Utilizing IMAX Corporation's new DMR (Digital Remastering)
process, which digitally augments 35mm film and 24p (digital
cinematography) into the large 15-perf 70mm IMAX frame, Lucasfilm
re-released "Attack of the Clones" on 58 IMAX screens.
Many fans were delighted to see Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi battle the Dark
Side on massive six-to-eight story screens.
Jim Ward, Vice President of Marketing for Lucasfilm, Ltd., was kind enough
to take time from his schedule to talk about how and why "Attack
of the Clones" went to the IMAX screen.
William Kallay- Was an IMAX release considered during production of the "Attack
of the Clones"?
Jim Ward- No, not at all. This didn't come up until July of this past
summer. The IMAX guys approached us and said, "Hey, we've got a new
process called DMR. We're currently working on "Apollo 13".
We'd be interested in seeing if you guys would be interested at all doing "Attack
of the Clones". And we asked them, "Have you had any success
with DMR process with any digital films?" Of course, they hadn't.
They said let us test it and we'll show you what it looks like. So they
did, and we came back, probably mid-August, and we took a look at it and
we saw that it could work and we gave them the go-ahead.
Kallay- That was a pretty fast turnaround from going from a film that was
still in release, to a shortened version in IMAX, wasn't it?
Ward- Yes. (Laughter) We were pretty busy. We decided to go ahead based on
the test in mid-August. We had to cut the film down to the two-hour plate
time. And then, we had to finish the DMR processing over the course of a
couple months to get it into theatres by November 1st.
Kallay- Did Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) supervise the digital
re-processing into IMAX?
Ward- Well, we had the initial tests. Then we had scheduled check-ins with
them as they proceeded along, and then we took a look at the final film.
Yes, Industrial Light & Magic worked very closely with them.
Kallay- What were some of the concerns about going from 24p and how it
might look in IMAX?
Ward- First of all, similar to any film. How are things going to look on
the big screen? When you have 24p, you're less obviously concerned about
grain in the film, but you are concerned about how images are going to
hold up. Also, you're concerned about how the effects are going to hold
up. Are they going to have the same relative feel that the film has in its
smaller format? And then things like contrast, color saturation, all of
those issues still pertain and needed to be worked on in the process.
Kallay- Did the magicians at ILM do any tinkering to the original footage
to make it look good in the larger format?
Ward- No. We handed over the files to the IMAX guys, and they worked
together on the DMR process to make it look as great as it does.
Kallay- Why wasn't the original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 utilized
for the IMAX version of "Attack of the Clones"?
Ward- We looked at a number of different aspect ratios, to be honest, and
it seemed like 1.81:1 was the best balance of optimizing the size. We
said, "Look, if we're going to do this, we want it to be as big as
possible, while at the same time, balance the images on the screen and
make sure we could maximize that without having to get too dramatic on a
Kallay- Are there any noticeable shots in the film that you recall that
Ward- We used the pan-and-scan version of the DVD as sort of a guideline.
It's been a while since I've seen it. I don't recall anything that jumps
out at me.
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Kallay- Was the cinematographer David Tattersall involved with conversion
Kallay- Has he seen it?
Ward- I don't know, to be honest.
Kallay- Do you foresee an IMAX version of Episode III? Or is this
something that is top secret?
Ward- No, no, it's not top secret, but it's way premature. The reason we
did this was because we thought it would be a fun opportunity and a fun
experience. It was kind of a reward for our fans. We've got a great fan
base that has been with us for over twenty-five years now. And when the
guys at IMAX came to us, we thought, if the testing works, wouldn't it be
a fun thing for the fans? Absolutely! Every once-in-a-while, in a chat
room or something, someone would say, "It would be great to see a
Star Wars film on the IMAX screen." We thought, if this thing can
work and it's going to look good, it would be a fun experience for the
fans. So, that's why we did it. We're a couple weeks into the launch and
it's going very well for us. But we've made no decisions about Episode III
at this point.
Kallay- How has the film performed at the box office?
Ward- We did about $1.45 million or about $1.5 million opening weekend. It
was a $25,000 per screen average. That's huge.
Kallay- That's incredible.
Ward- On 58 screens, yes, that's equivalent to what we did when we opened
the film theatrically. That was double the per-screen average of Apollo
13. The second weekend we did $1.3 million and change, which was about a
two-three percent decline from the first weekend, which is phenomenal. And
this past weekend, we did $910,000 and that was about a 35% drop-off,
which was great, given that "Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets" was in the marketplace, so we're very happy with the way
this has been going. And our fans have just been ecstatic about the
experience and the quality of the look of the film.
Kallay- Absolutely. Have you done exit polls as to who's actually seeing
Ward- No, we haven't done any of that. But I think it's fair to say we
mobilized our fan base in a big way for opening weekend. But we can't
maintain these numbers without having this permeate beyond just the fan
base, as well. So I think it's really just word-of-mouth that this is just
a fun time.
Kallay- Now that there have been multiple presentation types of Episode
II, which includes 35mm, digital cinema, IMAX, and now VHS and DVD, what
do you feel is the best manner for an audience to view this movie?
Ward- I'm not sure if there is one single best way. First and foremost,
George Lucas is a filmmaker. We honestly believe that seeing it in a
theater with a digital projector is an optimal way to see it. And then for
those people that obviously missed it, or can't go to a theatre with
digital projection, I guess that maybe DVD is the next best way because,
again, crisp digital presentation is the way that George meant it to be
seen. So it's a combination of those two arenas. The IMAX Experience is
clearly a fun opportunity, but that's not really how the film was
optimized and shot in the first place. I think that's the icing on the
Kallay- Is George Lucas pleased with the results of that IMAX version of
Ward- Yes, I think so. Yes.
Kallay- Has this film been booked for a set amount of weeks, or is it
going to run its course?
Ward- Well, it's really on a theatre-by-theatre booking. In general, it's
basically going to run from November 1st through the end of the year.
Kallay- Jim, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk about "Attack
of the Clones" in IMAX.
Ward- You're welcome.
Special thanks to Jim Ward, Jeanne Cole, Ellen Pasternack and Michael
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