Mission Report Widescreen Weekend 1999
Pictureville, Bradford, England
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
|Article and pictures by: Thomas Hauerslev||Issue 57, june 1999|
The 1999 Wide Screen Weekend was recently held (March 12 – 15) at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford, England. Similar to previous editions, this was the 5th festival of its kind. Most of the films shown during the busy weekend were in 70mm and 3-strip Cinerama, two very popular film formats among the audiences. What follows here is a collection of memories garnished with some pictures of guests and crew from the Pictureville Cinema. Like always, many readers of in 70mm – The 70mm Newsletter came to Bradford in West Yorkshire, England to see wide screen movies.
A near-full Pictureville cinema marked the first film show of the Wide Screen Weekend. "Titanic" was shown in 70mm DTS on the flat screen. This was the first time it had run in Bradford in 70mm. Last year it ran in 35mm only. Head of Cinema Mr. Bill Lawrence introduced the film and declared the weekend open.
"This is Cinerama"
Saturday morning marked the monthly return of a widescreen classic, "This is Cinerama", in the original 3-strip version on the 146 degree, deep curve screen. In the audience that morning were, among others, Mrs. Jane McLardy (assistant to the Cinerama production manager on most all the travelogues), Mr. Louis de Rochemont III, director of "Windjammer" and Ivan Jacobsen.
Further in 70mm reading:
Wide Screen Weekend home
Bill Lawrence again introduced Louis de Rochemont III and Ivan Jacobsen who received a standing ovation from the audience. Louis directed "Windjammer" and Ivan took part in the filming and served as "live" narrator in Denmark when "Windjammer" was shown during 1958-1959. None of them had seen the film in Cinemiracle in 40 years. The soundtrack narration of this print is in German, except the songs which are in English, The print was found a few years ago in a cinema in Essen, Germany and has gone completely pink over the years. To compensate for the overall pink look of the film, special filters were brought in by Mr. Bernard Hedges but to no avail, since some of the filters were missing when unpacked. The curved screen experience was overwhelming for many people and I am almost certain that Louis had a tear in his eyes. Louis signed several autographs after the film. Many guests had brought along original souvenir programs that turned out to be a real collectors item with the director’s autograph.
"How the West Was Won"
Viewing "How the West Was Won" on the curved screen is a great experience. The Technicolor print, despite being from the early sixties, is excellent. The full color spectrum is still present and I recommend all to go to see it. The presentation Saturday afternoon was almost a sell-out. It features an "all-star cast", with many lesser-known actors and actresses in small "cameo" parts. You keep asking yourself, "isn’t that…?"
"Ben - Hur"
After watching three 3-strip films on one Saturday afternoon with the ever-apparent join lines, it was a relief, at least to your editor, to see a completely seamless 70mm picture on the Cinerama curve [Please read my Cinerama vs. 70mm article in this issue, Editor]. "Ben-Hur" was introduced with great skill by Mr. Tony Sloman. The print turned out to be a censored Camera 65 print with the original 1.25x squeeze from the great 70mm print collection of the Norwegian Film Institute [The crew at the NFI ought to locate the censored bits and put them back into the print, Editor]. Although an attempt was made to show the film with the original Ultra Panavision 70 projection lenses, the print was ultimately shown without. Amazingly the built-in 1.25X squeeze was not that objectionable to the human eye. Purists would of course argue the opposite, but it did not look that bad as the eye got used to the slightly elongated objects on the screen.
For the Early Riser and dedicated 70mm fanatic, Cineramacana Sunday morning at 10, is THE place to be. You will see assorted reels, often brought along by the audience themselves (perhaps the only cinema on earth where an audience not only has to pay for a ticket, but also bring their own film! But it’s proof of the dedication and devotion of Pictureville´s 70mm friends), and rare clips of widescreen treasures. It’s the show with bits and pieces of wide screen treats impossible to see elsewhere.
For the second time Cineramacana was also the opportunity to give a nice round of applause to the projectionists Duncan, Jennifer, Juan and Tony for their outstanding projection skills and open-minded, helpful and positive attitude. Cineramacana morning is also when the almost Traditional Audience on the Stage Picture is done by Bill and your editor. The picture where the Cineramacana audience is invited on stage in front of the Cinerama screen to have a group shot taken. A nice souvenir from the week-end (available and priced very reasonably from your editor).
This year a new award was presented to Mr. Howard Rust for his support of Cinerama (Howard paid for the Cinerama logo on Pictureville´s entrance door!). Nothing less than the Grand Order of Bradford Film Festival. A very surprised and happy Howard accepted the prize in the form of a certificate from Bill.
Here are some of the other highlights of this year’s Cineramacana:
"The Cinerama Adventure"
American director Mr. David Stromeier previewed a 25 minute video, a work in progress, of "The Cinerama Adventure", a feature length documentary about Cinerama. A DVD containing a wealth of supplemental materials and interviews will be available after the documentary’s general release this summer.
Cinerama Breakdown Reel
Yet another fascinating breakdown reel from Cinerama in the 50s. Lowell Thomas explaining the difficulties of Cinerama. It was a pink 35mm print shown on the curved screen.
Breakdown reels were single strip, 35mm, and were only used during the performance of 3-strip movies in the event of a projection problem that caused a temporary stop in the performance. A breakdown was a serious matter that often required re-loading of the 3 projectors and the sound dubber. A typical repair operation could easily take 10 – 15 minutes, depending of the nature of the problem.
"Philips on Parade" and "Sky over Holland"
Mrs. Mieke Nijkamp (Parade Cinema in Den Bosh, Holland) introduced the next couple of films from Holland. The first film was a commercial ad from Philips known as "Philips on Parade", filmed in 35mm and blown up to 70mm. The second film was "Sky over Holland" filmed in MCS-70 Superpanorama. Both films were shown on the curved screen.
Films from Russia and East Germany
The next introduction was given by a former East German resident Mr. Ingolf Vonau, a Berlin projectionist and frequent visitor to Pictureville. Thanks to his efforts the audience was given a unique opportunity to see some rarely seen 70mm footage on the Cinerama curve. The first clip was from a Russian black and white 70mm production "The Optimistic Tragedy" (Sovscope 70 1963). The second clip turned out to be half of the demonstration film "DEFA 70" from 1969. The short film opened as a mosaic or montage of the same scene filmed from several different angles until finally becoming a huge giant 70mm picture. Hopefully Ingolf will have located the rest of the film by next year. Finally, East Germany’s answer to "2001:A Space Odyssey", the DEFA 70 production "Signale" in blazing ORWO color and probably printed on AGFA 70mm stock. Colours on both "DEFA 70" and "Signale" were stunning considering the age. Ingolf´s efforts are to be applauded and soon he will follow up on his DEFA 70 research with an in-depth article in ..in 70mm - The 70mm Newsletter.
"CineSpace 70 by Todd-AO"
Introduced by the editor of …in 70mm – The 70mm Newsletter, the next short film was also the newest true 70mm film of the whole week-end. Only 12 years old, but rarely seen. Thanks to Todd-AO in Hollywood, which provided this print, the audience were given a taste of what modern 70mm film is. Less than 9 minutes of film, but very dynamic, filmed in 65mm, 30 frames per second, the "CineSpace 70" demonstrated just how easily a 65mm camera can be operated. There were samples of: zoom, steadicam, low light, high speed, slow motion, time lapse, aerial, under water, exterior, people, nature, daytime, night-time, extreme wide angle to telephoto etc. After watching CineSpace 70, there really isn’t any excuse for not using 65mm a lot more. Although the demonstration film was shot for flat or shallow curved screens, it turned out very well on the huge Cinerama curve.
Due to the industry’s lack of interest in 65mm the Todd-AO Camera Division was closed down a few years ago and all 65mm cameras were mothballed at Fries Cameras Corp. in Hollywood. The last film photographed with the CineSpace 70 Todd-AO cameras was the feature-length non-narrative movie "Baraka", in 1992. Now only Panavision (including the German ARRI 765 camera) still offers a complete range of 65mm cameras today. Not included here are all 65mm special effects studios, and Showscan/IWERKS and IMAX, of course.
The complete cast/credits of "CineSpace 70" will be published in the next issue of …in 70mm – The 70mm Newsletter.
The "Renault Dauphine" is a 3-strip advertisement for the famous Renault car. The print in Pictureville is slightly faded to a yellowish tint. The soundtrack is in English. The running time is less than 5 minutes but it is blended with a wonderful little piece of music. Bill Lawrence has asked the Renault corporation for permission to screen this film but has never heard from them. At least they never said "No!".
"Orpheus in der Unterwelt"
Earlier Sunday morning, Ingolf had introduced the DEFA 70 format to the audience in the form of several clips. Introduced next by Ingolf was "Orpheus in der Unterwelt", the Offenbach operetta filmed in DEFA 70, a wonderful piece of film that turned out to be "wall to wall nudity" as Bill Lawrence remarked after the show. One might expect an older East German film to be somewhat dull and definitely propagandistic but that was not the case. I found it quite entertaining on occasion and certainly not boring (much thanks to the nudity of course).
This DEFA 70 screening was a rare 70mm treat. Those who missed it on the Cinerama curve not only missed a rare film in terrific color, which probably was never screened outside the Iron Curtain, but also missed the good music mixed wonderfully in 6 track stereo.
Introduced by Tony Sloman "Grand Prix" was shown where it truly belongs: on the huge curved Cinerama screen. Often criticised for being boring, "Grand Prix", filmed stunningly in Super Panavision 70, is probably one of the best front-row experiences, (rivalled only by "2001:A Space Odyssey") I have ever seen. I actually moved from the back left side of the theatre to the first row to enjoy this film. I felt the tension of running high-speed cars when I caught myself sitting on the edge of the seat. Just wonderful. A truly first-person experience.
The 70mm print from Norway was faded but it didn’t seem to matter once you found yourself engulfed in the film. Main titles were designed by the late Saul Bass. One quite entertaining detail of the film, which I did find slightly intrusive (except for the racing scenes), were the 65mm cameras in clear view in the crowd scenes.
"Porgy and Bess"
Not seen publicly for the better part of 35 years is "Porgy and Bess" in Todd-AO. Apparently, the Gershwin estate has opposed public screening of this film. This year, a rare opportunity to see this film, fresh in from the Berlin Film Festival, came about. This original early-60s non-dubbed German 70mm print itself was faded, warped and buckled and consequently it was shown on the flat screen. To counterbalance the overall pink film, filters in front of the projection lens were used to bring back some of the original color spectrum.
"Song of Norway"
In early February I asked Bill what he was showing Monday morning, since my plane didn’t leave until late afternoon. "What do you want to see" he asked? I had always heard that "Song of Norway" was absolute rubbish, but since much of it was filmed in Denmark, I suggested programming that. The 70mm print was pin sharp but completely pink, but that is something you come to expect from older film, and in the end, it’s OK. Its like listening to old 78s. You expect needle pick-up noise and scratches. Tony, the projectionist experimented with some filters during the first half. The colours made it look like an old magazine.
The film’s second unit action had been directed by none other than Yakima Canutt, who also directed the chariot race scene in "Ben-Hur" and stunt scenes in countless Hollywood productions. And sure enough within the first reel we had two run away horses in the Norwegian Alps. "Ben-Hur" goes to Norway. It was apparent the cast and crew knew what they were doing during the filming because there were clear influences from "Sound of Music" and "My Fair Lady".
I was happy to have seen it in 70mm and it was certainly not rubbish. A kitsch classic, perhaps, with its visible wiglines, reflections of camera equipment, stunt seagulls etc. I was not disappointed. The show on the Cinerama curve was quite entertaining. It did not make matters worse that I sat next to Tony Sloman who has a sense of humour which fitted nicely into the film. So that particular performance was hugely entertaining, almost like an interactive experience. "Song of Norway" marked the ending of the 1999 Wide Screen Weekend with a happy conclusion to perhaps the best Wide Screen Weekend yet.
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