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'The Master' screening canceled

Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Sutton, left, and Philip

Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Sutton, left, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd star in “The Master." Credit: The Weinstein Company

In a rare move during this new age of digital projection, an advance screening for critics of Paul Thomas Anderson's 70 mm opus “The Master” was canceled Thursday morning, leaving many New York-based reviewers with no way to see the film before its release tomorrow. (The film had been shown to critics at other screenings before this one.) The screening was scrapped just 45 minutes before its 10 a.m. start time.

What happened? It was nothing to do with Scientology, the religion that supposedly inspired the film, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic spiritualist. The official reason is more mundane: technical difficulties.

Using 70 mm is becoming increasingly rare at a time when even regular 35 mm film is being phased out and 60 percent of the nation's 5,750 theaters have converted to all-digital. (Even small mom-and-pop theaters are converting: Malverne Cinema went all-digital in August.)

Though it's not entirely clear what happened with the 70 mm projection system at Lincoln Square, a decision was made to cancel the screening.

“The Master” may be running up against a problem that could plague other filmmakers who insist on working with celluloid film: Fewer and fewer theaters have the ability to show it.

“The Master” premieres Thursday at midnight at Lincoln Square.

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