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"Earthquake" at the Schauburg
The Last Picture Show

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Wolfram Hannemann, LASER HOTLINE, Korntal, Germany, April 2006Date: 30.01.2010
Show was sold out - "Ausverkauft". Image from Schauburg Archive

It must have been almost 30 years ago that I first saw "Earthquake" during its initial release here in Germany. It was running back than for 13 weeks in the same cinema in Stuttgart and luckily it was showing there in 70mm with 6 track magnetic sound and - of course - Sensurround.

"Earthquake" made a huge impression on me. I still can remember the feeling when I left the theatre and looked up at all the big buildings surrounding me and thinking that they might collapse instantly! This feeling was the result of the Sensurround sound system which was used with "Earthquake" for the first time. Compared with its use on "Earthquake" Sensurround was never that thrilling again when it was used on films like "Midway" or "Rollercoaster". Sensurround disappeared after only a few other engagements and "Earthquake" was only seen on television or laserdisc after its theatrical debut.

I therefore was very excited when the SCHAUBURG THEATRE in Karlsruhe announced a revival of this special effects blockbuster. Not only in 70mm but with all its glory of Sensurround as well. No question that I had to admit this presentation. Having seen a very well done Todd-AO celebration at this very same theatre just a few months back I was certain that this show was going to be something very special. And in fact it was! Titled "The Last Picture Show" everyone having obtained a ticket was invited to take their seat with them after the curtain closed. The reason behind that was that the SCHAUBURG theatre was doing a refurbishment and new seats where to be installed the day after the show. It was no wonder that the cinema was completely sold out that Sunday evening for a one off showing of "Earthquake".
More in 70mm reading:

„Erdbeben“ in der Schauburg

“In Sensurround” 5-6 Juni 2010

Sensurround @ the Schauburg

Introduction to Sensurround
Review: "Earthquake" in Sensurround

Internet link:

Herbert Born behind the JBL speakers. Image from Schauburg Archive

Like 30 years ago I was very impressed with the result of this Sensurround revival. Behind the large curved screen a very large array of subwoofers was set up measuring approximately 20 meters by 3 meters and driven by an awful lot of power. In fact so powerful that during the first earthquake scene I really could feel a wind coming from behind the screen and blowing through the auditorium! Now that definitely was not the case back in the 70s! It was so overwhelming that one of the girls who was with me had to leave the auditorium because she almost paniced! When the first big quake came to an end the audience applauded enthusiastically and suddenly was surrounded by smoke which seemed to come out of the movie! That was one of the little surprises which accompanied this show. Another gimmick was a survival kit which was handed out before the show, containing a bottle of beer (of course!), a cookie and a piece of paper which was titled "My Last Will". I think the audience appreciated that sort of black humor very much.
Image from Schauburg Archive

Now I should say a word about the film itself. Having not seen it in 30 years I was not aware of the trashy quality of it. Don't get me wrong - I mean this as a compliment. Being a big fan of trash movies I really enjoyed what was happening on screen. Bearing in mind that "Earthquake" was not intended as a trash movie it was even funnier to see what it felt like nowadays. George Kennedy as the police officer rescueing everyone in Los Angeles is marvelous and generated a lot of laughs from the audience. As did all the other elements which were fashionable in the 70s but look really funny today. This movie reprise was very welcomed by all of us attending.

And now for the bad parts of the show - were there any at all? Well, it really wasn't a show to complain about because it was so well done and the SCHAUBURG team has to be congratulated for what they achieved with it. The print they were showing was in fact two different prints combined to make the most of it. The color was slightly faded but it still was there and I was happy with that. The stereo sound mix on the German dubbed version of "Earthquake" had never been very spectacular but it was okay for the occasion. At least John Williams'score could unfold nicely. Occasionally the Sensurround system seemed to get unintended trigger information for it went off where it shouldn't, like when Charlton Heston starts the engine of his car! Nevertheless this was a very funny moment which in some way undelined the trash character of this movie. And the audience responded with a big laugh!
The Schauburg swept clean of old seats. Image from Schauburg Archive

All in all it was a really enjoyable show. Another big spectacle followed the screening of "Earthquake" when everyone took out their tools and started dismantling their seats. If somebody would have come in just at this very moment he might have thought that the power of the Sensurround system would have destroyed the auditorium! Hopefully we do not have to wait too long to see and feel Sensurround again. In the worst case I think that would be in about 20 years time when the brand new seating needs another replacement! Being not a fan of "worst cases" I am sure that we might see another Sensurround screening in the near future already...

Well done, SCHAUBURG, keep on the good work!
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Updated 07-01-23