EXCLUSIVE: Oscar voters are about to be offered the full Dunkirk experience right in the comfort of their own home.
Deadline has learned that a letter is going out to the 8,427 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offering them a specially made screener in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Christopher Nolan’s war epic. This is the first time a studio has gone this far in terms of Academy screeners, and it makes sense that it is for a Nolan film. It was for the director’s 2008 The Dark Knight that a special Blu-ray disc was offered as an option for the first time to Academy members who could play the then-relatively new format.
Now Warners is making the same deal for Dunkirk except the ante has been upped. In its email to Oscar voters, the studio warns them they must first have a 4K Ultra HD TV with HDR as well as an Ultra HD Blu-ray player in order to play the disc. “If you have the screening ability to play this format, please opt in by October 31, 2017,” the email states, further explaining that 4K provides “a high-quality experience that allows you to view the sharpest picture, richest color and most dynamic contrast you can get on your home entertainment system”. In other words, putting it all in geek speak, this is the best way to see a unique motion picture experience like Dunkirk in your living room with the blockbuster’s total resolution of 26.5 trillion pixels. Just how many members have this capacity at this point is the big question, but if any group was likely to have an outsized number of people who do have this capability, it is probably the well-heeled Academy.
Of course the filmmaker, notoriously supportive of big-screen movie exhibition and premium viewing formats in that regard, would prefer everyone see his film in a theater, and so far many have done just that. Since its July release, Dunkirk has grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide (currently around $520 million) and still counting. That’s impressive, especially since the subject matter of the attempted rescue of nearly 400,000 British soldiers from the Nazis at Dunkirk is not the typical fanboy fare usually seen in the summer months. It also was a critical hit, with a 92% fresh score Rotten Tomatoes, In addition to being the first to offer screeners in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format (as far as we can tell, at least), the film already has broken another record at the Academy in terms of its official screening at their Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in July, which drew turnaway lines of Oscar voters — so many, in fact, that an unprecedented second screening was added later that night. That screening was presented in 70mm film, proving Nolan’s point that the theatrical experience just can’t be beat when there is that kind of want-to-see response, particularly from industry insiders. Warners played just about every format imaginable with the movie ,including 125 engagements in 70mm film with theaters specially retrofitted to accommodate it, as well as in the large 70mm Imax format Nolan loves (about 70% of Dunkirk was shot with Imax cameras).
The studio and the filmmaker have gone out of their way to present the film in the best light possible theatrically, but the realities of modern Oscar campaigning require DVD screeners or you take the risk of losing those potential voters who only view contenders that way. It is called “covering the waterfront,” and with Academy members spread out to all corners of the world, distributors more than ever before must find a way to reach every one of them.
It’s a smart move by Warners. By subliminally reminding members of the unique quality of Dunkirk simply by offering to supply it in a home viewing format like 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the studio has established a nice beachhead in the competition that will set it apart from the crowd.
No specific date for shipping of Dunkirk Oscar screeners has been announced, but Academy rules state that the packaging must comply to strict requirements without all the bells and whistles of what will be available at Target and other retailers. In other words, the eventual commercial 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray can’t be sent to Academy members. There is no word yet on when Warners plans on sending out its Dunkirk FYC screeners to the Academy and other voting groups.