A release print is the reel of film that is sent to a movie theater for exhibition. Historically, they are copies of the dupe negative, more commonly known today as the Internegative, which in turn is a copy of a physically cut-together reel of filmstrips. As digital editing, distribution, and projection technology gains adoption, the number of times that a movie's frames are transferred between physical strips of film is decreasing.
Film manufacturers, such as Kodak, Agfa, and Fujifilm, produce stocks of film specifically intended for use as release prints. A "deluxe" variety of these stocks may be used to provide a wider range of color reproduction. The person operating the printer on which the release print is generated must take several factors into consideration in order to achieve accurate color; these factors include the stock manufacturer, the color temperature of the bulbs in the printer, and various color filters which may have been introduced during filming or printing.
At the theater, release prints are projected through a soft matte, which is a rectangular frame placed between the filmstrip and the lens of the projector. The soft matte usually masks only a small amount of the edges of the picture, ensuring a smooth, non-jittery frame. Sometimes, a soft matte may be employed to change the aspect ratio of the film; for example, if a movie was shot in an unusually wide aspect ratio such as Cinemascope, and the theater only has the more common narrower-shaped screens available, they may choose to mask away a significant portion of the picture's sides in order to make it appear as though it fills the entire screen. This may result in confusion for the audience when significant action appears on the masked-off edges of the picture. Director Brad Bird expressed frustration at this practice, which some theaters applied to his film The Incredibles Many multiplex cinemas built prior to the mid-1990s have screens with a fixed 2:1 aspect ratio. However, many recent cinemas have motorized screen masks that automatically adjust the size of the cinema screen to the projected film's correct aspect ratio.
Release prints are generally expensive -- in the United States, it is not unusual for each one to cost around $1,500 to print and ship to theaters around the country. They are often destroyed after the movie's theatrical run is complete, recycling the polyester film base.