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Creating the Widescreen Weekend
At the NMPFT, Bradford, England

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

Written by: Bill Lawrence, Head of Film Issue 66 - November 2001

Projectionist Tony Cutts. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev

The Widescreen Weekend is a celebration of all that is extraordinary in large format film and has become a highlight on the film festival calendar. From humble beginnings, it is very satisfying to find the similar festivals being established around the world and the original going from strength-to-strength.

After we had installed Cinerama facilities in 1993, I was given the task of organising a festival to celebrate widescreen cinema. I was given two months to pull it together. I'd never organised a festival of any kind before and the result was mixed: a seven day event of classics with "This is Cinerama" as the only 3-strip contribution. 70mm prints of "Lawrence of Arabia" and "2001:A Space Odyssey" were the big hits. Guest of honour was Jeremy Thomas, to talk about his work in producing "The Last Emperor" and the soon to be released "Little Buddha" in 70mm. We screened a stunning 70mm of "The Sheltering Sky". The other thing I remember, I had a stinking cold and so didn't enjoy it. But it wasn't as bad as the vicious flu I had in 1997 that kept me out of the entire weekend!

During 1994, we experimented with an Italian Film festival and planned to launch the first Bradford Film Festival in March (a quiet month in the Film Festival calendar) 1995. As ideas formed during 1994, it was obvious that the way to host the widescreen section was over a weekend and encourage people to come and stay and watch films from morning to midnight. I suppose that overall the results were disappointing (with the exception of a repeat of "2001: A Space Odyssey"), but the foundations had been laid.

The real success by this time, and what proved to the most important part of the success of the WSW, was that the message was out. Fans from all over the globe knew we existed and rumours and messages started to pour in: tales of missing Cinerama prints; private collections of 70mm prints; and links into European archives. One of the earliest and still the most exciting was the discovery of the print of "How the West Was Won". The screening of this classic at the 1996 Weekend remains one of the highlights of my career. The resurrection of this was possible due to the efforts of several people in different European countries. But what a night! Not to be forgotten by anyone who was there.

In that film alone, is the essence of the Widescreen Weekend. The community of supporters of 70mm and Cinerama is a broad and often generous one. The energies and commitment that go into creating the WSW are not just within the Museum. They also include many across the globe who provide information, technical support, campaigning, encouragement and the occasional nudge back on the tracks.

Further in 70mm reading:

Bill Lawrence in Conversation

Academy of the Widescreen Weekend

Wide Screen Weekend home

Internet link:

 Academy of the Widescreen Weekend

 
In honour of these people, we have created the Academy of the Widescreen Weekend. To date only three have been selected for the Academy

Howard Rust (1999)
John Belton  (2000) and 
Thomas Hauerslev (2001)

Full list of members

The aim of the Academy is:

To promote Cinerama, 70mm and 'Scope formats in all their splendour.

It is the duty of the Academicians to ensure that the membership grows year on year.

It is their duty to create whatever rules are necessary to the pursuance of these aims.

It is also their duty to punish any member of the Academy who betrays its aims by forcing them to watch videos on a portable television through the entirety of the Widescreen Weekend.

It is now their duty to select others and expand the Academy.

At the time of writing, we are thinking of the program for 2002. Of course, it is the 50th anniversary of Cinerama and so that will be key to the festival. But we are also looking for those rare titles that make the weekend; from the Hollywood classics to barely seen DEFA productions. We are thinking about the structure - how can we get 12 hours of film, 2 hours of eating, 2 hours of seminars, 3 hours chat and 8 hours sleep into a day. We are wondering what little things are going to make it better this year than last. But some of these we will keep a secret until you arrive.

Bill Lawrence,
Head of Film

For advance planning set aside March 15-18, 2002. Editor
 
 
 
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Updated 21-01-24