History, Legacy & Showmanship

Return to 2019: Remembering “Blade Runner” on its 35th Anniversary

June 26, 2017 - 12:01 am   |   by
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“Even after decades of imitators, bigger budgets and more advanced technology, Blade Runner still stands high as a groundbreaking, unparalleled masterpiece.” — Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner documentarian Charles de Lauzirika

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 35th anniversary of the release of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s neo-noir sci-fi adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. [Read on here...]

Blade Runner, one of the most influential films ever made, opened in theaters 35 years ago this week.

For the occasion The Bits features a compilation of statistics, trivia and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context; passages from vintage film reviews; a reference/historical listing of the film’s premium-format presentations; and, finally, an interview segment with a trio of film historians and documentarians who discuss the virtues, shortcomings and influence of Blade Runner.

Harrison Ford and director Ridley Scott

 

BLADE RUNNER NUMBER$

  • 0 = Number of weeks nation’s top-grossing movie
  • 1 = Number of sequels
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning movies of The Ladd Company’s 1982 slate
  • 2 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
  • 4 = Rank among top-earning movies of Warner Bros.’ 1982 slate
  • 4 = Rank among top-earning science-fiction films of 1982
  • 9 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
  • 11 = Number of 70mm prints
  • 13 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (summer)
  • 14 = Rank among top-earning R-rated films of 1982
  • 16 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
  • 25 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (rental; calendar year)
  • 27 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (gross; legacy)
  • 1,295 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • $29.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (videodiscs)
  • $79.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (VHS and Beta)
  • $4,749 = Opening-weekend per-screen average
  • $1.5 million = Box-office gross (2007 Final Cut re-release)
  • $3.7 million = Box-office gross (1992 Director’s Cut re-release)
  • $6.2 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
  • $14.5 million = Box-office rental (domestic)
  • $15.7 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $27.6 million = Box-office gross (1982 original release)
  • $28.0 million = Production cost
  • $32.9 million = Box-office gross (1982 + 1992 + 2007)
  • $36.8 million = Box-office rental (adjusted for inflation)
  • $71.0 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $78.2 million = Box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)

 

A scene from Blade Runner

 

A SAMPLING OF MOVIE REVIEWER QUOTES

“The most astonishing look at the future ever put on film.” — California Magazine

Blade Runner may be the wrong picture at the wrong time. Steven Spielberg has convinced us that extra-terrestrial creatures can be a boy’s best friend, and Star Trek II has us feeling optimistic about the future again. Science-fiction, in short, has never appeared rosier. So here comes Blade Runner, the gloomiest glimpse of things to come since A Clockwork Orange, and with none of the scalding humor that helped make that Stanley Kubrick classic watchable.” — George Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Director Ridley Scott and his entire creative cadre have made an extraordinary-looking film that combines film noir and science fiction to probe a world where you can no longer tell who’s human any more. Every detail of the film’s environment is so seductively, splendidly and distractingly designed that it feels emperor’s new clothes-ish to point out that there is embarrassingly little else to the film.” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

Blade Runner is like science fiction pornography — all sensation and no heart.” — Pat Berman, The State (Columbia, SC)

“In the rush to view the future, Scott forgot that movies are not, contrary to the industry’s fondest hopes, made of stainless steel special effects, but of screenplays. There is no screenplay in Blade Runner, merely an idea extracted from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that is buffered with a great deal of pretentious nonsense, and the sort of dialogue Mickey Spillane on a bad day would toss into the waste basket. “ — Ron Base, Toronto Star

“The scope and brilliance of Blade Runner’s vision is the good news. The bad news is that Blade Runner’s story is absolutely hopeless, a confusing tower of babble that has great gaps of logic, abysmal structure and cardboard characters… In an attempt to explain things, a voice-over narration by Deckard, a la Sam Spade, has been added, but Ford reads it as if he had just been handed the lines; he sounds flat, unconvincing. And while the explanation helps on a few items, it still cannot fill the many holes.” — Phil Kloer, The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union

“Hauer, who was a superb villain in the little-seen Nighthawks, again makes a charismatic menace, spewing hatred and bitterness that boil hotter with successive scenes. His final conflict with Ford is a test of human — and inhuman — endurance.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

Blade Runner is a handsome and imaginatively designed film. Indeed, so much care has been lavished on this bizarre and very convincing vision of urban America in 2019 that what the film looks like has taken precedence over what happens in it. This proves a great pity since Blade Runner is crammed with interesting and adult ideas and brims with the potential to be a truly memorable film.” — Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Scott is a master of production design, of imagining other worlds of the future (Alien) and the past (The Duellists). He seems more concerned with creating his film worlds than populating them with plausible characters, and that’s the trouble this time. Blade Runner is a stunningly interesting visual achievement, but a failure as a story.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

A scene from Blade Runner

Blade Runner is a triumphant blending of human drama and science fiction. It may not be a summer blockbuster — it won’t satisfy the young audience it needs for that — but it’s going to end up one of the summer’s, and maybe the year’s, best movies.” — Jack Mathews, Detroit Free Press

“Ridley Scott’s reported $30 million picture is a stylistically dazzling film noir set in November 2019 in a brilliantly imagined Los Angeles marked by both technological wonders and horrendous squalor.” — Variety

Blade Runner, a grim sci-fi adventure set in the near future, looks terrific but is empty at its core. What’s missing? For starters, how about a story.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“If anybody comes around with a test to detect humanoids, maybe Ridley Scott and his associates should hide.” — Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

“[W]hat really irked me about Blade Runner was its seemingly tacked-on, totally superfluous, ‘Feel Good’ ending. After a depressing couple of hours at the movies, it’s even more depressing to see a director succumb to a last minute fear of being too depressing.” — Terry Kelleher, Miami Herald

“Science-fiction devotees may find Blade Runner a wonderfully meticulous movie and marvel at the comprehensiveness of its vision. Even those without a taste for gadgetry cannot fail to appreciate the degree of effort that has gone into constructing a film so ambitious and idiosyncratic. The special effects are by Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer, and they are superb. So is Laurence G. Paull’s production design. But Blade Runner is a film that special effects could have easily run away with, and run away with it they have.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Directed by Ridley Scott, the Britisher who scored with Alien, the movie is too choked up with baroque space fantasy and heavy metal sci-fi, and it clunks along like the Incredible Hulk.” — Carol Olten, The San Diego Union

“For a movie so ingenious that movie fans really ought to see it, Blade Runner has a lot of problems. Alas, Harrison Ford is one. He’s a great Han Solo and an even better Indiana Jones. But he has a hard time pulling his weight in serious material like Force 10 from Navarone and Hanover Street. His narration is never quite right, and he sometimes seems ill at ease in his role. It could be that, like Cary Grant and Burt Reynolds, he needs to stick to material with some built-in lightness. Deckard is and should be a humorless character, but Ford seems not quite to know how to handle that.” — Ted Mahar, The (Portland) Oregonian

“In Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott stints on character development as though Harrison Ford were a star like Bogart, and the result is an underdeveloped hero. Screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples give Ford plenty of tough/sensitive film noir hero lines to speak, but they come off as camp rather than homage.” — Scott Sublett, The Washington Times

“Although Blade Runner is captivating from a visual and clinical standpoint, it left me cold emotionally. Who should I root for, the replicants or the calculating humans who created them? Still, Blade Runner is the sort of picture that grows more fascinating after the fact, upon reflection. It deserves points for ingenuity and painting a stark picture of a future world where science has spun out of control. But while it is intriguing, Blade Runner is so bizarre that you may just have to live in the year 2019 to be able to appreciate it fully.” — Donna Chernin, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

Blade Runner misses a beat now and then, and it often fails to capitalize on its strongest points. But it’s the sort of offbeat, challenging science-fiction movie that develops cult followings.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

A scene from Blade Runner

 

THE 70MM ENGAGEMENTS

Event and prestige movies (and instances to appease a filmmaker’s ego) on occasion are given a deluxe release in addition to a standard release. This section of the article includes a reference/historical listing of the first-run 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo premium-format presentations of Blade Runner in the United States and Canada. These were arguably the best cinemas in which to experience Blade Runner and the only way at the time to faithfully hear the movie’s discrete multichannel audio mix.

Of the 100+ new movies released during 1982, Blade Runner was among eighteen to have 70mm prints prepared for selected engagements. Only about a dozen of Blade Runner’s initial print run was in the deluxe 70mm format, which were significantly more expensive and more time- and labor-intensive to manufacture compared with conventional 35mm prints. Blade Runner was the second of four films by Ridley Scott to be released in the United States with 70mm prints.

The 70mm prints of Blade Runner were sourced from a mixture of blown up anamorphic 35mm principal photography and 65mm-originated visual effects and were intended to be projected in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio. The noise-reduction and signal-processing format for the prints was Dolby “A,” and the soundtrack was Dolby processor setting Format 42 (i.e. three discrete screen channels + one discrete surround channel + “baby boom” low-frequency enhancement).

Trailers for The World According to Garp and Night Shift circulated with the Blade Runner prints and which the distributor recommended be screened with the presentation.

The listing includes the 70mm engagements of Blade Runner that commenced June 25th, 1982*. Not included in this work are the moveover, second run, revival and international engagements (or any of the movie’s countless standard 35mm engagements).

*Prior to release there was a sneak preview test screening of a work-in-progress cut of the film on March 5th at the Continental in Denver and on March 6th at the Northpark in Dallas. A revised cut was previewed on May 8th at the Cinema 21 in San Diego. Additionally, in college towns during late May there was a series of National College Preview screenings. An invitational preview of the finished film was held June 18th at the Samuel Goldwyn in Beverly Hills.

So, for historical reference and nostalgia, the first-run North American theaters that screened the 70mm version of Blade Runner were….

Blade Runner - 6-track 70mm

A newspaper ad for a Blade Runner preview screeningCALIFORNIA

  • Corte Madera — Marin’s Cinema
  • Los Angeles — Mann’s Bruin
  • Los Angeles — Mann’s Hollywood
  • Pasadena — SRO’s Hastings
  • San Francisco — UA’s Coronet
  • San Jose — Syufy’s Century 22 Triplex

COLORADO

  • Denver — Commonwealth’s Cooper Twin

ILLINOIS

  • Chicago — Plitt’s Esquire

NEW YORK

  • New York — Cinema 5’s Murray Hill
  • New York — Moss’ Criterion Center 6-plex

WASHINGTON

  • Seattle — SRO’s Cinerama

A scene from Blade Runner 

 

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