Disney Re-Releases 'Nightmare Alley' In Black-And-White Version

Walt Disney Co.’s DIS Searchlight Pictures unit has re-released “Nightmare Alley” as a black-and-white presentation one month after the film flopped at the box office.

What Happened: According to a report in The Wrap, an entertainment news site, the monochromatic “Nightmare Alley: Vision in Darkness and Light” begins screening today in select theaters around Los Angeles. The distributor has not announced plans for a wider release, but one could assume the Los Angeles screenings will appeal to Academy members voting on the Best Cinematography Oscar — nominations will be announced Feb. 8 — and the black-and-white version would be a special feature on a DVD and Blu-ray release.

Cinematographer Dan Lausten explained that he collaborated with director Guillermo Del Toro in taking the original raw files and adjusting its colors on a frame-by-frame basis to achieve the black-and-white style that many moviegoers associate with classic film noir.

“It’s another look — it’s another movie,” Laustsen said, calling attention to a particular scene with Cate Blanchett’s character in her office. “In that scene she just looks amazing. She’s so beautiful, and she’s so powerful, and you can take her out of the movies shot in the ’40s.”

Why It Happened: Bringing new attention to “Nightmare Alley” could help mitigate the film’s catastrophic opening. Budgeted at $60 million, the highest cost ever for a Searchlight production, “Nightmare Alley” opened in a national release on Dec. 17 opposite Sony Group Corp.'s SONY “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” While “Spider-Man: No Way Home” broke box office records, “Nightmare Alley” broke down — to date, it has grossed less than $9 million.

While “Nightmare Alley” recalls the era of 1940s film noir classics — a 1947 black-and-white version starring Tyrone Power is considered a masterwork of the genre — the production was shot in color because Hollywood studios very rarely agree to release a film in black-and-white, claiming a lack of audience interest and difficult in selling non-color films overseas. However, in 2021 a number of independently produced films including “Belfast,” “C’mon C’mon,” “Passing” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth” were shot in black-and-white and found audiences in art house venues and on streaming.

Lausten added that he hoped to get a chance to eschew color cinematography and “do a Guillermo del Toro black-and-white movie from the beginning. And then we will decide everything as they did in the old days.”

Photo: Cate Blanchett in “Nightmare Alley: Vision in Darkness and Light,” courtesy of Disney/Searchlight Pictures.

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