History, Legacy & Showmanship

Laying a (Cinematic) Egg: Remembering “Howard the Duck” on its 30th Anniversary

October 31, 2016 - 2:01 am   |   by
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Howard the Duck


On occasion, event and prestige movies (and instances to appease a filmmaker’s ego) 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 Howard the Duck in the United States and Canada. These were arguably the best theaters in which to see Howard the Duck and the only way to faithfully hear the movie’s discrete multichannel audio mix. Only about two percent of the film’s print run were in the 70mm format, which are more time- and labor-intensive to manufacture and cost several times that of conventional 35mm prints. Of the 200+ new movies released during 1986, Howard was among only two from Universal Studios and sixteen for the entire industry to have 70mm prints prepared for selected engagements.

For the release of Howard the Duck, Universal employed the services of Lucasfilm’s TAP (Theater Alignment Program) to evaluate and approve the theaters selected to book a 70mm print. As well, the movie was booked into as many THX-certified venues as possible.

The film’s 70mm prints were blown up from spherical 35mm photography and were pillarboxed at approximately 1.85:1. The noise-reduction and signal-processing format for the prints was Dolby “A,” and the soundtrack was Format 42 (three discrete screen channels + one discrete surround channel + “baby boom” low-frequency enhancement).

Trailers for An American Tail and Brighton Beach Memoirs were sent out with the Howard the Duck prints and which the distributor recommended be screened with the presentation.

The listing includes those 70mm engagements that commenced August 1st, 1986. Not listed are any second run or international engagements, nor does the listing include any of the movie’s thousands of standard 35mm engagements. The duration of the engagements, measured in weeks, has been included in parenthesis.

So, which North American theaters screened the 70mm version of Howard the Duck, and, more importantly, did it help the movie’s box-office prospects? (Note the relatively brief duration of most of the engagements.)




  • Vancouver — Cineplex Odeon’s Oakridge Centre Triplex (6 weeks) [THX]


  • Corte Madera — Marin’s Cinema (3)
  • Costa Mesa — Edwards’ Town Center 4-plex (2)
  • Los Angeles — Mann’s Village (2) [THX]
  • Los Angeles — Pacific’s Cinerama Dome (3)
  • San Diego — Mann’s Cinema 21 (2)
  • San Francisco — Blumenfeld’s Regency I (5*)
  • San Jose — Syufy’s Century 21 (3)

Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz & George LucasCOLORADO

  • Denver — Mann’s Century 21 (2) [THX]


  • Washington — Circle’s Uptown (2)


  • Calumet City — Plitt’s River Oaks 8-plex (2)
  • Chicago — Plitt’s Esquire (2)
  • Schaumburg — Plitt’s Woodfield 9-plex (2)
  • Skokie — M&R’s Old Orchard 4-plex (3)


  • Overland Park — Dickinson’s Glenwood 4-plex (2)


  • Boston — USA’s Charles Triplex (2) 


  • New York — Loews’ 34th Street Showplace Triplex (2)
  • New York — Loews’ 84th Street 6-plex (2)
  • New York — Loews’ Astor Plaza (3)
  • New York — Loews’ New York Twin (2)


  • Cleveland Heights — National’s Severance Center 8-plex (2) [THX]


  • Toronto — Cineplex Odeon’s Hyland Twin (4)


  • Philadelphia — SamEric’s Sam’s Place Twin (3)


  • Montreal — Cineplex Odeon’s Alexis Nihon Plaza Triplex (5)


  • Dallas — General Cinema’s Northpark West Twin (4)
  • Houston — General Cinema’s Meyerland Plaza Triplex (4)


  • Salt Lake City — Plitt’s Trolley Corners Triplex (2)


  • Springfield — General Cinema’s Springfield Mall 6-plex (3) [THX]


*The final week of the San Francisco run was double-billed with Back to the Future.

70mm Howard the Duck

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