Remembering Cinerama

posted by Coate on September 9, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Part I: New York City

With this week’s DVD and Blu-ray release of the Cinerama classic “How The West Was Won,” as well as last weekend’s screenings of “How The West Was Won” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, I thought this would be a great time to take another look at Cinerama for those who experienced it when it was new and for those who know it only as history.

The following is part of what I envision as an ongoing/semi-regular series of retrospective postings on the Cinerama process (and other multi-panel copycat formats such as Cinemiracle and Kinopanorama) which enables a reminder of the many great movie palaces in which these memorable events took place. Part I features a film-by-film breakdown for the city in which it all began: New York! Future postings will focus on other markets, enabling the reader to compare how Cinerama was handled in different regions of the country. For example, the duration of an engagement, the sequence in which the films were released, and the manner in which they promoted varied by market, and some readers may find this information of interest.

Enjoy the flashback!

Theatre: Broadway
Premiere: September 30, 1952 (World Premiere)
Engagement Duration: 35 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Promotional Hype: “You rise right out of your theatre chair! No longer is a movie screen a flat surface in front of you. Cinerama, the film with a new dimension surrounds you with picture and sound. You’ll gasp as you rise high, then grip your chair as you go plunging downward. Images come alive on a sea of screen 6 times the usual size and you’re right in the picture. This is your first experience without colored glasses or any viewing gadgets of the most exciting thing that ever happened in a theatre, this is Cinerama”

THIS IS CINERAMA (Move-over from Broadway)
Theatre: Warner
Premiere: June 5, 1953
Duration: 88 (123) weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The film with a new dimension”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: February 8, 1955 (World Premiere)
Duration: 61 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “World Premiere Of The New, The 2nd Cinerama Presentation”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: April 10, 1956 (World Premiere)
Duration: 76 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The New, The 3rd Cinerama Presentation Takes You On An Adventure To The Four Corners Of The Globe To Astound You With The Marvels Of The Universe!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: September 24, 1957 (World Premiere)
Duration: 32 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The World Premiere of the Newest, most exciting Cinerama of them all

Theatre: Roxy
Premiere: April 9, 1958
Duration: 24 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinemiracle
Hype: “National Theatres introduces Cinemiracle Too Exciting to Describe, Too Big to Believe!”

THIS IS CINERAMA (Return Engagement)
Theatre: Warner
Premiere: May 4, 1958
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The World’s Longest-Run Hit Is Back By Overwhelming Demand!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: July 15, 1958 (World Premiere)
Duration: 44 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The New Cinerama Sweeps You To The Tropic Isles Of Your Dreams The Fabled ‘Jewels of the South Seas’!”

Theatre: Mayfair
Premiere: June 30, 1959 (U.S. Premiere)
Duration: 3 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Kinopanorama
Hype: “The Grand Prize Winner At The Brussels World’s Fair! Breathtaking in scope and sweep! Bursting with the sights and sounds, the uncommon beauty of Russia! The remarkable [Kinopanorama] process that utilizes three projectors and nine sound tracks to transport you almost literally to its cities and countrysides…its streets and byways…its music…its dance…its people!”

Theatre: Mayfair
Premiere: July 21, 1959 (U.S. Premiere)
Duration: 2 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Kinopanorama
Hype: “The 2nd Motion Picture In Kinopanorama Sheer Motion Picture Entertainment bursting with beauty as it surrounds you with Russia its people and its culture the artists of The Bolshoi Theatre, The Chinese Peking Opera, The Piatnitsky Song and Dance Ensemble from the ice-floes of the Arctic to the sky-blue waters of The Black Sea A fairy tale becomes a reality”

Theatre: Mayfair
Premiere: August 3, 1959
Duration: 1 week
Format: 3-Strip Kinopanorama
Hype: “Special Double Feature Showing! Brought Back By Popular Demand!”

Theatre: Loew’s Cinerama
Premiere: August 7, 1962
Duration: 33 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The First Full-Length Dramatic Story With A Dazzling Array Of Stars In Cinerama”

Theatre: Loew’s Cinerama
Premiere: March 27, 1963
Duration: 39 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The Great Dramatic Motion Picture That Puts You In Every Scene!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: November 17, 1963
Duration: 52 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “The Biggest Entertainment Ever To Rock The Cinerama Screen With Laughter!”

Theatre: Loew’s Cinerama
Premiere: December 25, 1963
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “For The First Time Cinerama’s Greatest Thrills Together In One Breathtaking Entertainment!”

WINDJAMMER (Return Engagement)
Theatre: Loew’s Cinerama
Premiere: April 29, 1964
Duration: 8 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “For The First Time Shown In Cinerama In New York”

Theatre: Loew’s Cinerama
Premiere: June 25, 1964
Duration: 19 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Cinerama Surrounds You With The Greatest Thrill-Packed Story Ever Filmed!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: December 15, 1964
Duration: 9 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “The Thrilling Entertainment That Places You Right In The Middle Of The Most Fabulous Adventure You Ever Lived!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: February 15, 1965 (World Premiere)
Duration: 43 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: None

Theatre: Loew’s Capitol
Premiere: June 30, 1965 (World Premiere)
Duration: 11 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Now Cinerama Sends Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Jim Hutton, Pamela Tiffin And YOU Roaring With Laughter And Adventure Down The Hallelujah Trail.”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: December 17, 1965
Duration: 17 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “The Super Action Show In Super Cinerama”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: April 13, 1966
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “You’re here there everywhere! Only the original Cinerama with its magic eyes that see far and wide and deep is marvel enough to plunge you into the most incredible adventure of all!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: July 13, 1966
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Where The Nile Divides…Their Mighty Conflict Begins!”

Theatre: Warner
Premiere: December 21, 1966 (World Premiere)
Duration: 31 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Cinerama Sweeps You Into A Drama Of Speed And Spectacle”

Theatre: Loew’s Capitol
Premiere: April 3, 1968
Duration: 24 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “An Epic Drama Of Adventure And Exploration!”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Move-over from Capitol)
Theatre: Cinerama
Premiere: September 16, 1968
Duration: 13 (37) weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Now At The Cinerama Theatre In The New Broadway Triplex”

Theatre: Cinerama
Premiere: December 20, 1968
Duration: 17 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Ice Station Zebra…remember the name your life may depend on it!”

Theatre: Cinerama
Premiere: June 24, 1969
Duration: 20 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “The New Cinerama Hurls You Into The Incredible Day That Shook The Earth To Its Core!”

Theatre: Ziegfeld
Premiere: May 11, 1973
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “‘This Is Cinerama’ Is Back To Entertain A Whole New Generation”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Re-Issue)
Theatre: Rivoli
Premiere: September 22, 1976
Duration: 3 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “For a perfect experience take the ultimate trip”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Re-Issue)
Theatre: Rivoli
Premiere: September 1, 1978
Duration: 4 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Before ‘Star Wars’ There Was…And There Always Will Be ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’…Now In Cinerama, 70mm & 6-Track Stereophonic Sound”

Compiled by Michael Coate

Sources: The New York Times and Variety.

Comments (24)

JSA on September 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Good material Michael! I find it odd that New York City, where it all started, does not have a venue capable to screen 3-strip Cinerama today.


terrywade on September 9, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Mike**Thanks for the ‘Cinerama’ info. Do you know in 1973 when the Ziegfeld Theatre played the 70mm print of ‘This Is Cinerama’ did they put in a curved screen for this 70mm run? Did anyone see It at the Ziegfeld? At least when it played at the Cinerama Dome that year It was shown on a curved screen without the three projectors. It then played in 70mm flat I believe at the Fox Wilshire Beverly Hills CA. Lets get some rich company to restore all the Cinerama prints blow up each pannel from 35mm to 70mm and run three giant 70mm projectors at once on the largest curved screen in the world!

Vito on September 10, 2008 at 6:45 am

Gteat stuff Michael. I know I can always count on you to keep the memories of Cinerama and 70mm fresh in our minds and hearts.

I have written may posts of what fun and how magnificent it was to be projectionist during those exciting times in the movies.
It is always a great thrilll to revisit those days through your wittings.

irishcine on September 10, 2008 at 7:06 am

I recently saw the middle part of “How the West was Won” again on television here, and I mean literally the middle,just part of the screen from the original Cinerama presentation was visible, running from the centre to just beyond the joins on both sides. Often the actors on both sides were entirely out of shot, yet holding a dialogue. Sometimes the operator woke up and panned across, but often it was too late, by the time the penny dropped. It was a very faded print also.

“How the Mighty are Fallen”

If you never saw it in a theatre, it is hard to envisage how it once looked.

Paul Noble
Paul Noble on September 10, 2008 at 8:30 am

I saw “Great Is My Country” in Paris in 1960. The poor Soviet color made this production inferior to the Cinerama productions of the US. “Windjammer” was sensational, especially because it was in the giant Roxy, and because of its original score.

DARCYDT on September 10, 2008 at 8:40 am

Will any of the early cineramna releases like “This is Cinerama”, “Cinerama Holiday”, “Seven Wonders of the World” or “Search for Paradise” ever be released on DVD. I remember years ago finding out that 5 of the cinerama travelogue films (those 4 mentioned above + 1) all made the top 20 of the year at the box office yet none have ever been shown on television. All the ones with scripts (eg. “How the West was Won”. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”) have though.

MPol on September 10, 2008 at 5:33 pm

I first saw “How the West was Won” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” when they first came out, at the heyday of their popularity, as well as “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, in 70mm, They were beautiful, and I saw the TV series of “How the West was Won” years later. I saw ‘2001" at the Charles Cinema in Boston on a couple of occasions, “How the West Was Won” at the West Newton Cinema, and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” at the old, vintage Embassy Theatre, on Waltham’s Moody Street. Those were, indeed, exuberant, exciting times for the movies, and those films were beautiful. “The Monster That Challenged The World” was good, too.

MPol on September 10, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Question: Considering the number of movies I’ve seen and loved, I admittedly know next to nothing about cinema and its workings. What is blue-ray release? It sounds new. is it? Just curious.

William on September 10, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Blu-ray is a next generation DVD format as was HD-DVD. Both these formats are High-Definition DVD formats that can give high resolution pictures (1080i or 1080p) and multi-track sound (Dolby or DTS). Regular DVDs or Standard Definition can only give up to 480 lines of resolution.

MPol on September 12, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for the info, William.

Coate on September 29, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Here are some bits of trivia regarding the history of Cinerama presentations in New York that I left out of the original posting.

The 123-week engagement of “This Is Cinerama” is the longest-running engagement in the history of New York City.

The Soviet films (“Great Is My Country” and “The Enchanted Mirror”) were shown by special permission of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR in conjunction with the Soviet Exhibition of Science, Technology and Culture which took place at the New York Colisuem. The Soviet films were shown on a continuous performance basis, unlike the other Cinerama films which ran on a reserved-seat basis. Initially, “Great Is My Country” was promoted as being shown in “Cinepanorama,” but that trade name was quickly abandoned and replaced with “Kinopanorama.”

The American premiere of “How The West Was Won” had originally been planned to be held in New York, but a newspaper strike led its distributor, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to delay the New York opening and instead premiere the film in Los Angeles. (Newspaper advertising at the time was considered integral to the promotion of a roadshow film and the selling in advance of reserved-seat tickets.)

“Custer Of The West” (1967/68), which played as a 70mm-Cinerama roadshow in selected U.S. cities, played in New York City only as a 35mm general release.

“Scent Of Mystery” (1960) which was converted to 3-strip format and re-titled “Holiday In Spain” (1961) for selected bookings, played in New York City under its original title and in its original 70mm format.

“The Hallelujah Trail” opened in Los Angeles on June 23, 1965 without a formal premiere event. However, 12 days prior, United Artists hosted a press preview event which some press reports described as the film’s world premiere. When the film opened in New York on June 30, a week after opening in L.A., another gala event was held which was promoted as the World Premiere. (Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s how it happened!)

“2001: A Space Odyssey” was the final film to play the storied Loew’s Capitol (AKA Loew’s Cinerama) before its demolition.

TheCineramaBarn on October 27, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I have a strip of the Capitol/Cinerama screen which was last used for “2001…”

35 years later I projected my dvd of “2001…” onto a ribboned screen, and the end strips were the Capitol Screen’s ribbon.

Wulfe51 on March 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Great to see this groundbreaking cinematic technique being remembered. I look forward to a little something about my beloved Indiana Theater.

Coate on May 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Warren… From the intro: “The following is part of what I envision as an ongoing/semi-regular series of retrospective postings on the Cinerama process (and other multi-panel copycat formats such as Cinemiracle and Kinopanorama) which enables a reminder of the many great movie palaces in which these memorable events took place.”

Coate on May 19, 2009 at 1:20 am

Part 1: New York City
Part 2: Chicago
Part 3: San Francisco
Part 4: Houston
Part 5: Washington, DC
Part 6: Los Angeles
Part 7: Atlanta
Part 8: San Diego
Part 9: Dallas
Part 10: Oklahoma City
Part 11: Syracuse
Part 12: Toronto
Part 13: Columbus
Part 14: Montreal
Part 15: Northern New Jersey
Part 16: Charlotte
Part 17: Vancouver
Part 18: Salt Lake City
Part 19: Boston
Part 20: Philadelphia
Part 21: Fresno
Part 22: Detroit
Part 23: Minneapolis
Part 24: Albuquerque
Part 25: El Paso
Part 26: Des Moines
Part 27: Miami
Part 28: Orange County
Part 29: Pittsburgh
Part 30: Baltimore
Part 31: Long Island

hankmc on June 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

I saw the original “This is Cinerama” film at the Broadway Theater in 1952. One of my Astoria neighborhood friend’s father was a box office treasurer at the Broadway and he was kind enough to introduce a few of the local kids to this latest and greatest innovation in the film world.

It was a fantastic experience and we all swore that the roller coaster sequence was every bit as real as the rides in Coney Island or Rockaway’s Playland.

GaryCohen on January 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I enjoyed reading Michael’s list. I saw 2001 in Cinerama at the Capitol and Ice Station Zebra and Krakatoa, East of Java at the Cinerama. I remember the Cinerama experience during the tidal wave scene of Krakatoa, very exciting. I wish I could have seen How the West Was Won and Mad World in their original Cinerama. I think it is a shame that we don’t have 1 Cinerama theater still operating in the New York City area.

DARCYDT on September 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Don’t know if this is the place for this comment but I got a DVD of “This is Cinerama” last week and watched it, 3 screen lines and all (got from Must have been fascinating at the time but I could see audiences today being bored at things like the opera and the choral show from Long Island and the Robert Fitzpatrick style travelogue bits on it. But it’s worth it for the roller coaster ride, parades in Glascow and dance numbers in Spain and that low flying plane sequence at the end flying everywhere from New York City to Niagara Falls, Pittsburgh, Boulder Dam and I think through either Grand Teton or Mt. Zion park. Even Lowell Thomas' intros were interesting with the pre Great Train Robbery bits.

dickneeds111 on March 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm

When This Is Cinerama was re-issued in 70mm in 1973 it played at the Beacon Hill Theatre here in Boston on a smallish flat screen that was longer than a bowling alley and about 4 lanes wide. The presentation was pathetic and on top of everything else whenever a Subway Train ran buy you could hear it loud and clear because the tunnel ran under the theatre. The line for ticket refunds was longer than the line to get in. I saw this line on someone elases blog, I lovwed it so I quoted it. This was true and I was one to get out. I never got a refund9The line was too long) but I wrote a 7 page letter to Sack theatres and they sent me a pack of theatre passes.

GSVuille on March 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm

In June of 1973 I saw the 70mm version of “This is Cinerama” at the Ziegfeld Theatre, NYC, NY. I went with a friend while visiting NYC, and as I recall, the large screen was wall-to-wall, in front of the curtains, flat in the center and curved just a little on either end. It was obviously not a typical louvered true Cinerama screen. The people in the audience behind us were heard to say, “This isn’t Cinerama”, and “This is not how we remember Cinerama.” I felt the same way. I’d seen two 3-strip Super Cinerama films at the Palace Theatre in Tampa in 1962 & 1963 – “7 Wonders of the World” & “How the West Was Won” and this 70mm triptych version just wasn’t like the real thing. I was very disappointed. The 70mm Cinerama films were just not that good when it came to being put in the picture. The Palace Theatre in Tampa did a good job with the fake 70mm Cinerama films, however, especially with “Grand Prix” & “2001, A Space Odyssey”. They filled the screen except for a few feet on either side, and from top to bottom very well.

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