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"How the West Was Won" December 7, 2002
Cinerama Dome, Hollywood

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Written by: Rick Mitchell. Introduction by Richard Greenhalgh. Date: December 2002
This morning my wife and I were in attendance for a special advanced showing of the new Crest Labs print of How The West Was Won at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood which was sponsored by our local SMPTE chapter. The new print looked very good and the sound was excellent - far better than the new print of This Is Cinerama. Color wise, this print compares very favorably to John Harvey's Technicolor IB print. When we saw This Is Cinerama I did not get any pictures in the booth. I have included some new pictures I took this morning.

All pictures supplied by Richard Greenhalgh.

The following very well written item is from Rick Mitchell who was also in attendance:
Further in 70mm reading:

"How the West Was Won" in Cinerama

Internet link:
On the morning of Dec. 7, 2002, nearly 40 years after its London premiere, "How the West Was Won" had its first "semi" public presentation in Cinerama at the Cinerama Dome; it was a private screening for members of the Hollywood Section of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. (The Dome hadn't even been built at the time of the film's LA premiere at the Hollywood Pacific.)

How does "How the West Was Won" look and sound after all these years? Incredible! As all the original Cinerama prints had been made dye transfer by Technicolor and all the subsequent 35mm, 16mm, and video versions from inter negatives, the original had had little use, has been well stored, and the 5251 negative it was shot on has so far proven to have very good dye stability. I thought the print looked as good as a Technicolor IB without being so contrasty (IB freaks will vehemently disagree of course) and the timers and engineers at Crest Laboratories are to be congratulated for their work on all the Cinerama titles, perhaps deserving of a Sci-Tech or honorary Oscar?)
The only questionable area was the dupes, the material from "The Alamo", "Raintree County", "This is Cinerama", and all the material shot in Ultra Panavision for "How the West Was Won" (the shots involving rear projection and many cuts in the action sequences). Here the image does go grainy and a bit dupey looking, due to the fact that the dupes were made dry gate on the old 5253 intermediate stock. Most people I talked to who are knowledgeable enough to be cognizant of these differences said they noticed, but were not really bothered by them. I was bothered more by the sudden perspective changes resulting from the use of longer lenses in the 65mm material after getting so use to the deep focus effect from the three panel cameras' 27mm lenses; some scenes, such as Debbie Reynolds singing "Home In The Meadow" on the riverboat just before the intermission are almost three-dimensional!
This brings up another issue raised by the screening of this film, the contemporary loss of the concept of intentionally shooting for THE BIG SCREEN. I'm probably one of the few people who've experienced "How the West Was Won" on film in recent years, via a slightly faded 16mm anamorphic print projected @10 ft. wide in my apartment. Yet I was seeing things in this presentation that no doubt are on the 16 print but I'd never really noticed; background action on the sides of the screen, details of set design and decoration. Overall is the impact of that big wide image (which I find far more satisfying than Imax), one that actually doesn't diminish and often enhances intimate moments. There has been an unfortunate tendency by studio executives and producers in recent years to see no difference between the theater screen and video, a tendency reinforced by the trend toward shoebox theaters that hopefully we're getting away from. The result has been an increasing number of "epic" films which look better on the tube than even on my 10 ft. screen! (Some of you got my arguments on this point when comparing "Lord Jim" to the recent "Four Feathers".) The apparent logistics of dealing with the wide open spaces visible in a film like "How the West Was Won" might frighten many contemporary so-called producers to death (we should be so lucky), but properly worked out, the results are clearly worth it, and not necessarily prohibitively expensive if directors, production designers, and cinematographers were allowed and encouraged to use their creative juices. There is also the aesthetic matter of composing for the big wide screen, something that hasn't been seriously discussed since the mid-Fifties.
I was curious as to how the film's plot would work with a contemporary audience. The majority of those in attendance were fans who'd either seen it in Cinerama when they were kids or had only seen it on TV, and it still worked for them. Acting as ushers were younger people from one of the SMPTE's student chapters; unfortunately I forgot to ask any of them how they reacted to the film or the Cinerama process. Any responses overheard by anyone who was there would be appreciated by me and probably by Pacific Theaters and Warner Bros.
Although this supposedly has been the industry's best year in terms of income, it's apparently due more to higher ticket prices than higher attendance. "How the West Was Won" is going to draw audiences both in Seattle and here based initially on its reputation, then on word-of-mouth about how satisfyingly it delivers. One would have to live in a movie theater to come anywhere close to duplicating the effect of seeing it in Cinerama via any other film or video format. Fifty years ago Cinerama, 3-D, and CinemaScope attracted large audiences by offering them something they couldn't get at home.

"How the West Was Won"
's presentation in LA should make production and exhibition executives realize that making the theater more like the home presentation situation is not going to encourage people to come to the theater, but once again giving them something they can't get at home will, even if it's a 35mm anamorphic film shot as if intended to be seen on a BIG WIDE theater screen. Then there would be hope for 5 perf 70mm, Super Dimension 70, and maybe even a revival of Ultra Panavision!
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Updated 21-01-24