NEON and IMAX announced today Apollo 11, the highly-anticipated documentary which premiered to critical acclaim at 2019’s Sundance Film Festival, will be digitally re-mastered into the IMAX format. The Apollo 11 IMAX release will be exclusive for one week only beginning March 1, 2019. With some of the most spectacular and rarest behind-the-scenes space footage captured from the first moon landing, it is a cinematic event 50 years in the making that was designed for IMAX, the movie experience that has been bringing audiences to space for decades.
From director/producer Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13), producer Thomas Petersen at Statement Pictures and executive producers Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films, Apollo 11 was crafted from a newly-discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings. The film takes audiences straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission – the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into household names. Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, moviegoers vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
Miller and team were working closely with NASA and the National Archives (NARA) to locate all existing Apollo 11 footage when NARA staff members made a startling discovery that changed the course of the project: an unprocessed collection of 65mm large format footage, never before seen by the public, containing stunning shots of the launch, the inside of Mission Control, and recovery and post-mission activities. The footage was so pristine and the find so significant that the project evolved beyond filmmaking into one of film curation and historic preservation. Commissioned by CNN Films to create a film about the most extraordinary event in human exploration, Apollo 11 began taking shape as a documentary feature film.
Director, Todd Douglas Miller remarked on the Apollo 11 IMAX release: “We’re so excited to be working with NEON and IMAX on this very special event film. Ever since we saw the first frame of 65mm film footage roll off the film scanner we always envisioned Apollo 11 to be seen on the biggest screens possible. IMAX theaters are the cathedrals of cinema and we can’t think of a more perfect way for audiences to enjoy the adventure of Apollo 11.”
“Miller’s film is a stunning achievement in filmmaking,” said Megan Colligan President of IMAX Entertainment. “The film is immersive, crisp and clear. Audiences can palpably feel the tension, immense pride and overwhelming joy of the team that came together to make the impossible possible. We at IMAX couldn’t be happier to be partnering with NEON in the release of Apollo 11.”
The more than 11,000 hours of audio recordings were made by two custom recorders which captured individual tracks from 60 key mission personnel throughout every moment of the mission. Apollo 11 film team members created code to restore the audio and make it searchable, then began the multi-year process of listening to and documenting the recordings, an effort that yielded remarkable new insights into key events of the mission as well as surprising moments of humor and camaraderie.
The digitization of the 65mm collection — as well as the re-scanning of 16mm and 35mm materials — was undertaken at Final Frame, a post-production house in New York City, which helped create a custom scanner, capable of high dynamic range scanning at resolutions up to 8K. The resulting transfer — from which the film was cut — is the highest resolution, highest quality digital collection of Apollo 11 footage in existence.
Constructed entirely from archival materials and eschewing talking heads, Apollo 11 captures the enormity of the event by giving audiences of all ages the direct experience of being there. When John F. Kennedy pledged in 1962 to put Americans on the moon by the end of the decade, he described it as a bold act of faith and vision. Apollo 11 bears witness to the culmination of that pledge, when America and the world came together in an extraordinary act of unity and resolve, to achieve one of the greatest and most complex feats in human history.
Apollo 11 will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience with proprietary IMAX DMR (Digital Re-Mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.