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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


"Splendore del 70 Millimetri"
"West Side Story", Arcadia, screen "Energia", May 5, 2009, 9 pm.

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Marco Barsotti, Milan, Italy Date: 08.05.2009
Arcadia audience. Image by Marco Barsotti

How many chances does one have to see a classic such as "West Side Story" in 70mm, on a very, very large screen, with stereo audio? If you live in the 2000's in Italy probably one and only one.

So why is it that the only screening of this classic is attended by only about 30 people (in a theatre with 600+seats) escapes me.

Too bad, because the presentation is superb, with start of the film exactly at the time stated (9 pm), no advertising, see-through screen of the incredible audio setup (7 channels) during masking re-sizing, and the "Splendore del 70 Millimetri" in its best form.

It is not easy to understand how such an old film can have such vivid colors, so many details and so much stability. Yes, stability, 35mm films (at least those printed in Italy) tend to be unstable, something that leads me to attend only digital presentations (unless the movie is really, really good ).
More in 70mm reading:

70mm Bigger Than Life - Multiplex Arcadia, Melzo, Italy

Internet link:

The Arcadia. Image by Marco Barsotti

Not so with this 70mm masterpiece. The director also selected to shoot most of the scenes with special care for the lighting, and most of the scenes are taken at night, with white spots on the faces and selected parts of the frame.

Sound was also a nice surprise, with stereo mixing not only during the music parts, but also on dialogue, that comes out of the screen in the exact location of the actor (something we are not used to in recent feature presentations, where the dialogue is always coming from the center of the screen, even if the actor happen to be on a side).

At the end of the film there was a well deserved applause, and - as soon as the light went back - I could see (from the windows) Mr. Fumagalli himself unloading the precious film from the projector. And I suspect he was enjoying touching and unloading such large, colorful, historic piece of film.

If I will be able to reclaim my cell (forgotten in Sala Energia after taking a secret picture......) I will try to post some images here....
"Splendore del 70 Millimetri" Festival poster.

So this leaves us to where we started. Where were the missing 620 movie enthusiast tonight ? Were they looking at Mr.. Berlusconi talking about his divorce on TV?

Wherever they were they lost something important. And all of us have probably lost the chance of future 70mm presentations in Italy.


After "West Side Story" we went back to Melzo for two further screenings: "Ben Hur" (yes, "Ben Hur"!) and "Lawrence of Arabia".

"Ben Hur" was shown in a slighter smaller screen, and was a bit more attended, in the range of 70 people or so. For "Lawrence", back in the large screen of Sala Energia, we were again 70 people or so.

This last screening had Italian titles, which were projected below the screen, on a separate small screen.

This means that the picture was in no way ruined by text, and we could catch on with the dialogue by looking at the translation in case we missed something.

However Screening of "2001: a space odyssey", which was dubbed in italian, was attended by some 400 people (we were told by Laura Fumagalli)

So the morale, if any, is that in Italy one needs to provide Italian dubbing, or at least subtitles, to have an audience.

One final note on the picture quality: the best of the three was "Ben Hur", practically perfect. Second was "Lawrence", with some scratching on in the first 30 minutes, and third was "West Side Story", that had some part with different focus and colors than the rest.

But then---who cares ? This Is Cinema!
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Updated 07-01-23