American Cinematheque, at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, (California),
has just completed their second annual "Great Big 70mm Film
Festival". Shows ran mostly on weekends, between November 24 and
total of 10 titles were run; two titles ("Baraka" and "Lawrence
of Arabia") being repeats from last year's films. Attendance was
generally quite good, but with 600+ seats in the theatre, we cannot fill it
all the time.
started out with a 4-day run of "Lawrence of Arabia".
Apparently, Columbia wants to stop booking the prints for a couple of years,
awaiting the 40th anniversary of the film, coming in 2002. Knowing the film
might possibly be (temporarily) unavailable, attendance was excellent. Our
final performance actually occurred simultaneously with the annual Hollywood
Christmas Parade (taking place on the street in front of the theatre) -- and
yet several hundred people still were able to find their way in!
got off to a rather difficult start with "Lawrence": We
were scheduled to begin the run on Nov. 24. The day before, Nov. 23, the
theatre was dark because of a national holiday. So, having a little extra
time, I thought I better check out the print of "Lawrence",
since it was going to be a rather important engagement, it being was a
farewell and all... And so I set up and ran a reel. Oops! Lots of static
(noise) in the stage right channel, and also the surround channel. Checked
another reel: more noise. Checked a 3rd reel: also noisy. Too much noise.
Obviously, the entire print was unacceptable.
started a series of telephone calls to see if I could get a replacement
print. Keep in mind this was during a major national holiday in the States.
The principal film depot for these prints is at a "central"
location...in Ohio, far away, near the east coast! Yes, they had one other
print, but it was 2000 miles away!
going back a forth several times with them on the telephone (and potentially
being required to return to check out every other remaining reel!), they
finally agreed that the other print would be delivered by mid-day the next
day. That was what happened. (We benefitted from the 3 hour time zone
difference between the depot and California!) I checked out some reels of
this replacement print, all was okay, and this was the print we used for our
run. But it was a close call; I would have been besieged with complaints if
I'd been required to run the original print!
brought in two 70mm prints from overseas: "Those Magnificent Men in
Their Flying Machines" from Bradford, England, and "Ben Hur"
from Australia. "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying
Machines" was an original print, from the 1965 release, and rather
faded. The "Ben Hur" print was comparatively recent (circa
1995), but printed from a widely-despised (by wide-screen enthusiasts)
negative that had been made back in the late 60s, at the time of a reissue
of the film. (That would have been at about the 10th anniversary of the
film, at that time). The original negative image had been cropped and
reformatted then to produce prints in the 2.21:1 ratio that was used
virtually everywhere in 70mm theatres in those days. The extreme left and
right sides of the image were therefore missing; however the full 6-channel
sound mix was retained.
Hur", especially, was a giant hit. It had not been seen here in
L.A. (in 70mm) for years. Actually, we had screened "Ben Hur"
in 35mm, about 6 months earlier, in a 4-track magnetic print, as part of our
Technicolor IB series. At that time, the film's star, Charlton Heston, came
over and introduced the film. Since the Cinematheque is planning a generous
sampling of Heston films later this year, with additional appearances by him
at that time, it was decided that we would not bother him to come over for
our 70mm shows this time around... However -- one of our well-connected
local Hollywood associates apparently decided to invite Mr. Heston anyway,
and so on Friday night, Charlton Heston made an unscheduled appearance to
introduce the film. The (full house) audience was thrilled.
stayed for the complete film, and afterward was heard to remark that the
film needed restoration attention (partly as a result of the noticeable left
and right edge cropping.) So, we can hope that, with involvement of people
of the prominence of Mr. Heston, we may yet see a new print -- maybe even in
the proper aspect ratio (Camera 65's 2.7:1)!
key visitors: Jim Katz (of the noted restoration team of Katz & Harris)
spoke prior to "My Fair Lady". Ken Annakin spoke after "Those
Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines". And Producer Mark
Magidson spoke after "Baraka".
concluded with the Polish mega-production from 1975, "Nights and
Days". It was some 5 hours long (including intermission), and was
mounted on 16 reels. I personally inspected all the reels. While inspecting
the reels, I noticed some certain electronic cue tape sensors which seemed
to be familiar...and soon I came to realize that, whaddoyaknow!, I had
actually run the same identical reels and print about 25 years ago, during
Filmex '75! The print has been stored in the archives of the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and used very few times in the
intervening years. The print looked really great, with little if any fading.
The film stock is made by Orwo (of [East] Germany) and the color stability
is probably owed to its different film chemistry, i.e. different than that
of the fade-prone Eastmancolor stock of the early '70s.
in attendance each weekend were editorial staff of "Widescreen
Review" magazine. Their magazine is primarily written for people with
high-end home video systems, but they grew up in the heydays of 70mm
exhibition, and they (as are we) are absolutely convinced that, no matter
what all the engineers and theatre executives and futurists say, there is a
significant enhancement when a film is shown in the 70mm version. A classic
case in point was our show of "Silverado", (a blow-up from
super-35.) The print was from the original release (1985), and had a
wonderful impact on the big screen. The fullness and richness of the images,
coupled with the fine sound (including a rousing score from Bruce Broughton)
all joined together to make a fine entertaining experience. The audience was
really into it, applauding key creative staff (Director, DP, Music, etc.)
and just generally rollicking in the whole show. It simply would not have
been the same in "plain vanilla" 35mm! [For more from Widescreen
Review, and to see their comprehensive 70mm prints listing, check out their
the ultimate irony to the whole 70mm festival, the American domestic opening
of the new film, "Vertical Limit" was over the weekend of
Dec. 8-9-10. Several of us knowledgeable in the tricks of American
exhibitors were astounded to see yet another dirty trick by the theatre
owners, which perfectly illustrates how morally bankrupt the entire US
exhibition scene has become: "Vertical Limit", an adventure
film set among mountain climbers supposedly on the Nepalese peak
"K-2", is a picture that positively cries out for the glistening
splendor of a 70mm presentation.
what did the miserable scums in the exhibition world come up with in a new
ruse to screw the gullible public? "Special 35mm presentation on the
giant Imax screen" at 3 locations in the southern California region.
Words fail me when I try to describe how pitiful this excuse for
"presentation" is. At least, the film "Everest"
was photographed in Imax, and even Disney's "Fantasia 2000"
was presented in the true Imax (15-perf) format. Here's "Vertical
Limit" running for the trusting masses "at the Imax", but
in a presentation that would probably need candles or flashlights in your
hands to have enough light on the screen. I give up. (And, sorry, I did not
go to one of those shows, even to "research" it. It is outright
theft to charge for presentation like that, so I may as well just mail in
the money to the theatre company and save the expense of having to drive
there and spend 2 hours of my time sitting there in their uncomfortable
Further in 70mm reading:
- Academy of the Widescreen Weekend
Seeing the Big