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Planning the Widescreen Weekend
Pictureville, Bradford, England

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Article and pictures by: Thomas Hauerslev Issue 56, March 1999

The Genesis

Mr. William Lawrence, Head of Film since 2000.

Here, Wide Screen Weekend organizer Mr. Bill Lawrence lets you see behind the scenes of his ideas on planning the Bradford Film Festival [In England] and in particular the Wide Screen Weekend at Bradford's Pictureville Cinema.

The Wide Screen Weekend really came into being after we began showing Cinerama in June 1993. We'd had the opportunity to run 70mm in our IMAX theatre for many years. When we had Cinerama, then with IMAX, this completed the range of wide Screen facilities. We just thought it would be a good idea to do a Festival that would celebrate the full range. In October 1993 the first Festival came together in two weeks, with "Lawrence of Arabia" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 70mm, some CinemaScope films, and the background of IMAX. It worked reasonably well. But we felt the first Festival did not create the necessary publicity, and very few people saw the rarer films.

We did it because we had the facility, and because of the work done by Mr. Johan Wolthuis and The 70mm Newsletter. Our next Festival came about in 1995 when we felt the best thing to do was to make The Wide screen Weekend a part of the Bradford Film Festival. The idea of a Friday to Sunday wide screen section would be an opportunity for people to come and stay for 3 days. Now with the new Museum open and our 3D IMAX projectors we feel that we offer a unique opportunity for fans of cinema to have a great 3 days.
Further in 70mm reading:

Bill Lawrence in Conversation

Widescreen Weekend 1998

Gallery: 1998
• WSW Home
• Through the Years
• The Best of WSW

• Academy of the WSW

• Creating the WSW
• Planning the WSW
• Projecting the WSW
• Home of CINERAMA
• Projecting CINERAMA

Internet link:

Excellent Picture

70mm films have actually been around since the turn of the century when filmmakers were still experimenting with various gauges. Strangely, the format won’t go away. It is a touchstone that people keep coming back to decade after decade. With the advent of TV, movies were fighting for an audience. Initially, Cinerama provided a response and then CinemaScope. But 70mm became an opportunity to provide excellent picture and sound quality at a realistic cost for many cinemas. Now with IMAX large format filmmaking is getting stronger but not in the 70mm movie world. We do our bit to try and change this.

Media Interest

There has been a lot of media interest in our Wide screen Weekend. SKY Television are talking about doing another piece, and the press organize competitions for the weekend. I get phone calls from all around the world. There is a global interest and international focus on what we are doing. It is also a pleasure to meet people from abroad: Germany, Scandinavia, Benelux, France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and even from USA, where it all starts.

The audience are very specialized, very dedicated (almost to the point of fanatical!) 70mm and Cinerama devotees. They are very enthusiastic people. The Wide screen Weekend of Bradford Film Festival is the part I especially enjoy. We have some people who come back every year. And the number of guests for each show is rising, from 20 - 30 in 1993 when we first started, to an average of over 100.

I like to consider the sociological and technical issues with movies. I don’t think there is a crossover to mainstream market with the Wide screen Weekend, except perhaps with "The Big Blue" and "Baraka". Some people have wait a very long time to see some films and so when we find them it is a major event in their lives. This year we are delighted to be screening "Battle of the Bulge", which hasn’t been screened in Britain for many years. Also the fans never seem to tire of the classic Cinerama films like "How the West Was Won" and the Cinemiracle three –strip classic "Windjammer". It was great to see Louis De Rochement at the Festival last year to watch it.

The Response


I get quite a lot of feed-back from our guests in the form of letters, e-mails and phone calls. People are very happy, they had a great time and they think Pictureville Cinema has a nice atmosphere and is a nice place to visit. They generally have a good time here.

It does take a long time to plan the Wide screen Weekend. The idea is first to formulate it, and then it takes a long time to pin things down once the weekend is formulated. I write a lot of letters and I’m always on the lookout for prints. People are very helpful.

The planning is a matter of ideas. We started with "Battle of the Bulge" and then with prints of "The Longest Day" and "Those Magnificent Men …" we realized we had a brief Ken Annakin season. We contacted him in American and we were delighted that he was happy to come to the weekend to meet the fans. It is a great coup for the Festival.

I like to have some discussions and lectures to develop the debate around large format cinema. This year we are delighted that John Belton is attending to talk about the claims of digital projection as a system of quality. Also Dion Hanson will give his presentation on the history of film formats.


Finding the Films


The hardest bit is to find prints! We have finally located some good sources for 70mm prints in the film institutes of Norway and Sweden. However, we are still looking for other places where there are prints. So many have disappeared. We rely on accidental findings and help from private collectors. This year’s rare item is "Old Shatterhand" found by Franηois CARRIN. It’s only remembered by a few specialists and I doubt it has been shown in Britain since it was released.

I still have plans to do a CinemaScope celebration for the 50th anniversary in 2003 and show "The Robe", as it was meant to be seen. I don’t want to be too tied down to only 70mm and Cinerama, even though people love them. The whole area of wide screen is important.

I would like to show some VistaVision to illustrate how different types of formats worked together. We have a projector in our collection. Maybe, we’ll be able to run VistaVision again, but I don’t know where I find a print.


Freedom of the Festival


I’d like to see the Wide screen Weekend continue for many years to come. And there is no reason why it shouldn’t. It also should not get any bigger than it is. We have added Monday morning, because many guests stayed over anyway, but we’ll stop at that. If they stay we might as well show them something. We have reached a new level with filmmakers and they are responding to the festival, but I would not like people to reach a point where they think "No, there is no point in going, we saw the films last year".

The reaction to our Cineramacana section on Sunday morning has been positive. It is surprising what is out there and there are new 70mm shorts being made and this year we have a new process! The first time the public have seen it and maybe it will result in more 70mm filmmaking. Who knows? Cineramacana is an interesting area and I would like to show more odd reels. It’s a chance to test things and see some of the test reels that wouldn’t normally be seen. To me, and I know some others, Cineramacana is one of the highlights of the weekend. And it now has the added surprise of a member of the audience being awarded the Freedom of the Festival for services to Wide screen Cinema. Only I know who it will be and I won’t decide until the morning of the event. Last year’s winner Howard Rust is one of our biggest supporters and has brought more people to see "This is Cinerama" than anyone I know.


The Future

I like to keep the Wide screen Weekend within the Bradford Film Festival. I hope it will last 20 - 30 years, or at least as long the cinema is around. In 30 years your daughter and her children can go to Pictureville to see Cinerama.

..in 70mm

- on the big screen. Presented as it was meant to be seen. Huge, curved, dazzling color, 6 track magnetic sound, intermission

- only at Pictureville Cinema.
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Updated 21-01-24