I can see that the "E.T." movie is sold in 1.85 and 2.35 formats:

But seems to have been recorded in 1.85 format: see review

As far as I understand and see, the 1.85 format is near the 16/9 TV format (with a short black stripe at top and bottom).

But... What is the point of selling such a 1.85 movie in a 2.35 format?
This would crop the image and add big black borders at top and bottom of the image.

Could you explain the reasons behind such a distribution to me?

  • 1
    I think it very likely that the indication that there is a 2.35:1 format is incorrect - a typographical error or something similar. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 23:22
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    @JamesMcLeod:I found many of these "typographical error" (see my edit)... It's sure a possibility, but that sounds strange...
    – Oliver
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:14
  • It could also be laziness or incompetence - there is a lot of data in these listings, and some values could default to the last value entered to save typing. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:31
  • 1.85:1 is nearer to 17:9. 1.78:1 is 16:9
    – phuclv
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 7:57
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    I think we need confirmation that it was actually released in that aspect ratio. I can't find anything on Amazon to indicate there was a blue-ray release cropped to the wider ratio. I'm thinking James is correct in that it's simply a database error.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 23:15

3 Answers 3


Even since the DVD format and the advent of 16:9 TVs made widescreen films more mainstream, there have been a number of movies that have been reformatted for home video from their original theatrical aspect ratios: The Last Emperor, Apocalypse Now, Avatar, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader come immediately to mind.

However, such reformatting almost always "opens up" the mattes to give the image more height. Reformatting a 2.35:1 film to 1.78:1 (16:9) is especially common.

I don't know of any cases of the reverse, and in particular, there hasn't ever been a 2.35:1 release of E.T. The listings you link to are almost certainly in error, possibly all getting their information from the same erroneous source.


You want to see something that will really bake your noodle? The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy was apparently only released in reformatted versions:

Why the very different release formats for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

Anyway, movies are distributed in various formats, because TVs exist in various formats. Take a look at this article to see what I'm talking about. If you own a Cinemascope TV (2.4:1), you're certainly going to want to take advantage of the whole screen, where if you own a Widescreen then the 1.85:1 version of the film is what you want to buy.

  • TVs don't exist in various formats (other than 4:3 and 16:9). The article you linked explicitly states this, and discusses projection systems used in home theaters that can be set up to use 1.78, 1.85 and 2.4 to match various movie formats.
    – tubedogg
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 6:25
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    @tubedogg Philips has at least one 21:9 TV.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 15:33
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    While there are TVs outside the 'normal' aspect ratios, one would think that those that buy such hardware are also likely cinemaphiles and likely despise films that are reformatted to different aspect ratios than what they were originally shot as.
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 19:21

I read a fascinating blog article at Premium Beat where the writer stated:

The very wide aspect of 2.39:1 makes it appealing to so many filmmakers. Just about anything will look more cinematic or more ‘filmic’ when shot in this aspect, considering that originally it was associated with the anamorphic/cinemascope look and we are trained to associate this aesthetic with higher end feature films. For this reason, I feel that 2.39 is often ideal for dramatic narrative film content that is intended for either theatrical exhibition or television/VOD distribution.

I hadn't previously considered this, but it's logical and understandable. When I see things in 2:39 ratio I definitely associate it with a more "cinematic" experience. I can totally understand the logic of converting a 1.85 film to 2.35 to achieve this effect.

  • This explains why film makers prefer to film at that ratio, but not why a film would be cropped to that ratio--as that would be an after thought, rather than a conscious decision at the time of filming.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 22:03
  • @DA.: In the case of a film like E.T., it would make sense that they had filmed it in a particular ratio originally, then realised by cropping it they could achieve a great "cinematic feel", even at the expense of the "cropping bars" that would appear. Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 22:05
  • I guess that's a theory, but I personally find it quite implausible that someone of the likes of Spielberg would suddenly think that was a magic way to make his film more 'cinematic'.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 22:12
  • @DA.: Would it be Spielberg's call though, or would it be the studio owning the film? Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 22:25
  • I imagine it'd depend on the film.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 23:13

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