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A Brief Interlude
Star Turn in Liverpool, UK

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: By Mike Taylor Date: 15.01.2008
Whenever you have a gathering of projectionists you can always hear some fantastic stories, particularly if any relate to screening 70mm. One story that I can relate to from first-hand experience concerns the screening of "STAR!" in Liverpool in 1968.

The Odeon Theatre had closed for conversion to two screens. Across the road stood the Gaumont - not quite as big as the Odeon, but nevertheless a major city centre cinema as far as the owners - the Rank Organisation - were concerned. The Gaumont was now showing the films that the Odeon would have shown.

By this time I had transferred to the Royal Hippodrome just over half a mile away but we had heard that "STAR!" was to come to Liverpool. There was the problem. The Odeon was closed and the Gaumont did not have 70mm. The renters had insisted that "STAR!" was to be shown and in 70mm. There had always been poor co-operation between projectionists at the Odeon and the Gaumont, so can you imagine the shock for the Gaumont staff when they found out that they were going to show 70mm.

So, the week before "STAR!" was due to open - the G.K.21 projectors were dismantled and moved to the rear of the projection room on the Saturday night, while at the same time, the DP70s in the Odeon were being dismantled and carried over a busy road in pieces to the Gaumont and rebuilt. All available projectionists and service engineers were called in to carry out this operation so that the Gaumont was operational on the Sunday for their normal programme. Problems did not end here.

Some years earlier when CinemaScope had been installed at the Gaumont, Rank had objected to full stereophonic sound, so of course there was no surround sound or indeed any speakers. So once again, speakers had to be moved over from the Odeon to complete the 70mm installation. Rank’s engineer at the time, Percy Newsham, was throwing a fit with this state of affairs. Nobody at the Gaumont could thread up the machines or handle 70mm film, or had even bothered to go across to the Odeon and find out how. So, I was called back from the Royal Hippodrome to help out as I had previously just finished the two year run of "The Sound of Music" at the Odeon.

Looking back now I do not know why they bothered. "STAR!" lasted about two weeks and was taken off, business was that bad. So guess what? That's right, all the equipment was dismantled and carried back to the Odeon. Refitted into Odeon One for the opening of “Oliver”. The complete operation was a shambles from start to finish, departments had never conferred with each other particularly booking and engineering. However, it does go to show how 70mm was appreciated in those days even if the film was poor. That showmanship and dedication could overcome any problem to ensure the audiences could experience the "Wow" factor of 70mm Todd-AO.
More in 70mm reading:

"STAR!" the new 70mm Print

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Updated 30-06-22