Cinemiracle/Cinerama in Germany
On the Occasion of the 60th anniversary of Cinerama in 2012
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Gerhard Witte, Berlin, Germany||Date: 30.03.2012|
|The film “THIS IS CINERAMA”, a near-to-life film experience, was the Broadway sensation in New York when it opened on 30 September 1952 at the New York Broadway Theatre on a louvered curved 23.8 x 7.9 metres* screen and ran for 35 weeks there. Subsequently, it was shown at the Warner Cinerama Theatre (former Mark Strand Theatre, also on Broadway), producing a total running period of more than 2 years in the end.|
*(all screen sizes indicated in this report are measured around the curve unless otherwise stated)
The term CINERAMA is formed from the words CINEma and PanoRAMA. In terms of etymology, these two words originate from the Greek to give the following approximate meaning: you see things in a panoramic view in a moving image.
The designer of this new projection process was a full-time inventor called Fred Waller (1886 - 18.05.1954), who had already created a stir at the 1939 New York World’s Fair with his 11 projector, large-scale image process named Vitarama.
Fred Waller next to his Vitarama camera equipment, the “11-eyed monster” (16 mm cameras). Image taken from the “Cinerama Holiday” souvenir book.
To complement “Cinerama”, his compatriot Hazard Reeves developed the innovative 7 channel stereophonic magnetic-sound system. With the help of Lowell Thomas, a renowned newspaper reporter and adventurer, and the film producers Merian C. Cooper and Michael Todd, Mr Waller found backers and could thus finally turn his approximately 15-year-old idea into reality. When Lowell Thomas attended a CINERAMA test demonstration by chance back then, he immediately recognised the tremendous potential of this system and its importance as a new medium for film.
On 25 March 1954, Mr Waller was awarded the “Oscar/Academy Award of Merit”, “…for designing and developing the multiple photographic and projection systems which culminated in Cinerama.” He unfortunately was very ill at the time of the ceremonies and was unable to accept his statuette and passed away nearly two months later.
The popularly-described “cinema with the third dimension and the total surround sound – you are wrapped in action and bathed in sound” was often sold out months in advance on Broadway.
The press raved, stating, for example, that “Cinerama presents its film so vividly and realistically that every moment becomes a fascinating and exciting experience. Viewers are torn back and forth: they scream in terror and fall dead silent in reverence, until they finally break into spontaneous applause in rapture and admiration.”
“I, too, am enthusiastic about Cinerama, but I am not quite sure yet how Cinerama can be adapted for dramatic material and how you can launch intimate plays, considering the oversize screen”, said Sol A. Schwartz, President of RKO Pictures.
“You don’t merely watch the film, you are absorbed in it, you become a participant in the process, the drama and the emotions of the story. For the first time, you can follow a plane not only with your eyes but with your ears as well at the same time.”
Encouraged by its massive Broadway success, Stanley Warner Cinerama Company initially wanted to equip 100 cinemas in the USA with the necessary technical equipment to allow Cinerama screenings. Converting one cinema was estimated at approximately $50.000, plus the cost of the equipment. There was also talk of producing 6-8 full-length Cinerama films a year. (Source: “Filmblätter”)
Employment agreements were concluded with Robin International Inc. and in July 1954 with Cinerama Inc.
For a while the newly introduced Cinerama share recorded great success on the New York Stock Exchange.
Cinerama also made a very successful entrance in Europe. In this report, I want to describe in particular the introduction of Cinemiracle / Cinerama in Germany at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. I shall focus on the two cities of Hamburg and Berlin, in which I have lived for most of my life and I have the great luck that nearly all German premieres of the triptych films took place in these two cities.
The 3-strip projection process was not completely new. On 11.10.1927, the French director Abel Gance had already surprised Berliners with his epic silent film “Napoleon” at the then UFA cinema “Palast am Zoo” (2165 seats), using a projection method very similar to Cinerama. It was an unimaginable novelty at that time. During some parts of the filming, three Debrie Parvo cameras were used, one mounted above the other at offset viewing angles. The three synchronously recorded film strips were projected from three synchronously running projectors onto an 18 m wide and 4.5 m high screen, which, unlike Cinerama, was flat. The process described here was called “Polyvision” (also called “Magnaskop” in Germany at that time). Towards the end of the film, the film's triple projection was used, eliciting spontaneous excitement and mid-film applause. The reproduction of a military parade and of a cavalry attack that ran across the panoramic screen were apparently very impressive. According to Abel Gance, the screening in Berlin was technically even more precise than the premiere at the Paris Opera on 7 April 1927. (Source: German film magazine “Filmblätter”)
Many years later, from 17 - 20 February 1983, “Napoleon” returned to Berlin in a restored version and was shown at the International Congress Centrum (ICC), accompanied by the 60-strong Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Kevin Brownlow, the British filmmaker and film historian, was the driving force behind the reconstructed version; he spent years painstakingly scouring the world for fragments of the film after fortuitously stumbling on a “Napoleon” filmstrip fragment at a junk shop. With the help of Robert A. Harris, David Francis and Francis Ford Coppola, the film enjoyed a splendid revival at the Radio City Music Hall in New York on 23 January 1981. Incidentally, the film's music has a story of its own. The original version by Arthur Honegger had already been partially replaced and / or supplemented by Abel Gance in 1935/36, using new compositions by Henri Verdun. For the revival in New York in 1981, Carmine Coppola (11.06.1910 - 26.04.1991), Francis Ford Coppola's father, wrote an approximately four-hour-long new score, which was also played in Berlin and directed by the maestro himself. The American composer Carl Davis produced yet another score.
Cinemiracle / Cinerama model drawings from souvenir booklets
Cinemiracle / Cinerama differs from Polyvision firstly through the use of a strongly curved screen, which considerably broadens the field of view for the indirectly captured image, secondly through the cross-projection from the two side projectors and thirdly, of course, through the 7-channel magnetic-sound system (5 channels behind the screen and 2 in surround configuration).
|More in 70mm reading:|
Cinemiracle/Cinerama in Deutschland
"Windjammer" in Hamburg
Delphi Filmpalast am Zoo
The Grindel Filmtheater
The "Savoy" in Hamburg
3D in the mid 60s in Europe with Hi-Fi Stereo 70
3D IMAX 70mm today
The Shoes Of The Fisherman
• Cinema Treasures
• Hamburg Film and Television Museum
• Kinomuseum Berlin e.V.
• Cinerama-Filmtheatres worldwide
• Apollo Cinerama cinema in Zurich
• Holographic Studio of the Scientific Research Cinema & Photo Institute
• Regina Filmtheater
nice story ... good research ... what the story didn't mention is, that the Schauburg once was rented by the "Deutsche Cinerama" too in 1968 and re-structured to a "Super Cinerama" theatre ... they put the booth down from the balcony floor to a lower floor by eliminating the last 3 rows and building up the new booth with optimal projection angles. They used the "Cinerama" company colors gold and blue for the new interior design and painted the foyer walls with a special (and bloody expensive) gold paint. Most important: they switched from a flat screen to a bigger sized and deeply curved screen ... re-opened the Schauburg-Cinerama in 1969 with "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 70mm of course ... in 1972 the owner of the Schauburg terminated the contract with "Deutsche Cinerama" and sold the Schauburg to Georg Fricker, who ran the theater successfully until 2004 and managed the merge from a roadshow Cinerama theatre to an arthouse cinema without forgetting the cinemas historiical roots. Since 2005 the Schauburg Hosts the only regular annual German 70mm Festival.
Herbert Born, 31.03.2012
|The following 3-strip films were shown in Germany:|
(Numbers = chronological order according to the film's production year; bold letters in brackets = chronological order of the films' appearances in Germany)
1.) This is Cinerama (Das ist Cinerama), USA, 1952 (b)
2.) Cinerama Holiday, USA, 1955 (f)
3.) Seven Wonders of the World (Die sieben Weltwunder), USA, 1956, in Cinerama (c)
4.) Search for Paradise (Auf der Suche nach dem Paradies), USA, 1957, in Cinerama (g)
5.) South Seas Adventure (Südseezauber), USA, 1958, in Cinerama (d)
6.) Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (Windjammer), USA, 1958, in Cinemiracle (a)
7.) Two Hours in the USSR (Zwischen Nordpol und Krim), USSR, 1959, in Kinopanorama (e)
8.) How the West Was Won (Das war der Wilde Westen), USA, 1962, in Cinerama (h)
9.) The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (Die Wunderwelt der Gebrüder Grimm), USA, 1962, in Cinerama (i)
10.) The Best of Cinerama (Cineramas Weltparade), USA, 1962 (j)
a) “Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich”, (Windjammer, La Grande Rencontre, USA, 1958) - On the high seas in a cinema seat. Distributor: MCS Film KG Munich.
|In Europe, cinemas for 3-strip films were only set up on a wide scale fairly late, that is at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. By then, other wide-screen methods such as CinemaScope and perhaps also Todd-AO had been broadly accepted. There were exceptions, however. The Europe premiere of the film “This is Cinerama” took place as early as 30.09.1954 at the London Casino cinema where it subsequently ran for nearly 18 months. In Paris, it began showing on 17.05.1955 at the Empire Cinérama Cinéma, here with a duration of 20 months. |
It was not a Cinerama but a Cinemiracle film that was the first 3-strip projection film that appeared in Germany. At that time, “Windjammer” was distributed by Modern Cinema Systems (MCS) Film KG (Rudolf Travnicek) based in Munich, which introduced the new film system in Germany on behalf of the US companies Cinemiracle International Inc. / National Theatres Amusement Company. The world premiere of the film took place at Graumann`s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles (Hollywood) on 08.04.1958, where it was successfully shown for 37 weeks.
“Cinemiracle” was the result of American film industrialists’ efforts to try and keep the competitive threat of television at bay with new filming techniques, enormous projection screens and surround sound. The Cinemiracle camera was developed by the Smith-Dietrich Corporation, they patented a two camera process using a single mirror in the early 1950s, followed by further development research under the supervision of the National Theatres Amusement Company.
Advertisement for German premiere at the Royal-Palast in Munich on 22.07.1958 and advertisement for a revival screening at the Grindel-Filmtheater in Hamburg on 15.03.1960
|On 22.07.1958, Germany saw the first screening of Louis de Rochemond's III (director) famous documentary “Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich” at the Royal-Palast in Munich, which boasted a curved 18.8 x 8.5 metres screen. The then owner of the Royal-Palast cinema, Rudolf Englberth, converted his venue to create Germany's first Cinemiracle cinema. The three necessary special projectors, American “Century” projectors, were procured through the Munich company MCS Film KG. These were very expensive, provided on loan by the producer and sent specially by airfreight from Los Angeles to Munich. The Munich company Kinoton performed the installation work, as they subsequently also did in the next cinema, the “Scala-Filmtheater” in Mannheim. (Source: “Der neue Film”) |
The “Century “(Model G-1) Cinemiracle projectors at the Royal-Palast in Munich in 1958 (Pictures from “Filmecho”)
Fig. 1: In the foreground, one of the three “Century” projectors with fire traps arranged underneath (one Cinemiracle spool can carry around 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) of film), Ashcraft arc lights with attached cooling device. Bottom right: the control panel for operating the equipment.
Fig. 2: Middle and right-hand “Century” projector, seen from behind. On the middle projector, you can see the drive motor and the interlock motor for ensuring image synchronisation on the left. The round tank behind the right-hand machine houses the water cooling system with cooling coil and fan. The supply reel of the middle projector is open (bottom left).
The Cinemiracle system's sound reproducer with a seven-part magnetic-sound head to scan the seven tracks of the 35mm wide magnetic tape, which is perforated like film at both edges. To the left of the audio recorder, which has the preamplifiers built into the lower panel, the amplifier cabinet with the RCA output amplifiers (Image from “Filmecho”).
On 13.06.1957, which was the day it actually opened, the Royal-Palast in Munich hosted the festive premiere of the first big Todd-AO film in Germany entitled “Oklahoma!“ (USA, 1955), using the latest Philips DP70 projectors. Premiere guests were stars like: Romy Schneider, Horst Buchholz or Toni Sailer. The first Todd-AO cinema in Germany, however, was not the Royal-Palast, but the “Savoy” in Hamburg (opened on 14.03.1957). There, “Oklahoma!” was, however, not on the schedule until 15.08.1957. To introduce Todd-AO, the short film “The Miracle of Todd-AO“ (USA, 1956) in 70mm was shown before one of a number of 35mm films was presented as the main feature.
The Munich Royal-Palast fortunately still exists today and can be reached online.
“Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich”, a film awarded the attribute “of special merit”, ran in numerous towns and cities throughout Germany with great success and with many reruns. The film premiered on 03.04.1959 in a cinema with around 2,500 seats especially built into the Berlin Sports Palace (a famous multi-function venue, constructed in 1910 and torn down completely in November 1973). At this time, it was also the first German multipurpose facility (not cinema) in which the Cinemiracle technology was installed by Kinoton on behalf of MCS Film KG, taking just 14 days. The projection equipment was accommodated in the former broadcasting booth. “Windjammer” was shown until 03.09.1959 on a 25 x 9 metres large Cinemiracle screen. From 07.06.1962, the film returned here to be revived on larger screen. The distributor was Deutsche Cinerama GmbH then (in 1959, Cinerama Inc. acquired the assets of Cinemiracle Corporation).
In the Grugahalle in Essen, also a multi-function venue, the film premiered on 22.05.1959 and was shown on a 33 metres wide and 13 metres high screen with multiple reruns in the following years. It is said that some 650,000 viewers enjoyed the film here.
The colossal screen in the Essen Grugahalle was installed by the Munich company Kinoton on behalf of Cinerama Inc, New York. "The world`s largest screen" was written in the newspapers. (Source: "Essener Woche")
In Hamburg, the UFA-Palast am Gänsemarkt, which had been opened ceremoniously on 26.02.1958 with the film “Scampolo” (GER, 1958), was temporarily converted especially for Cinemiracle, also using three “Century” projectors. As far as I could find out, “Windjammer” was presented in the cinema from 01.05.1959 without deflecting mirrors on a hardly curved 17.5 x 8.2 metres screen. To be able to do this, the films of the two outer projectors simply have to be inserted reversed. The Cinemiracle projectors don’t have gigolos (little moving combs which blur the image seams of the triptych projections on the screen a little bit), but can be converted for Cinerama, which operates with gigolos. Later (see advertisement on the top), the film continued to run very successfully in Cinemiracle from 15.03.1960 at the Grindel-Filmtheater with multiple repeats on a 20 x 9 metres slightly curved screen - the total length of time the film was shown in all Hamburg cinemas was around 45 weeks at that time.
Cinerama Tent Cinemas
|Cinerama tent cinema in Germany. Image taken with permission from the book: “Mach dir ein paar schöne Stunden – Das Hamburger Kinobuch“ (Enjoy yourself for a couple of hours - The Hamburger Cinema Book) by Michael Töteberg and Volker Reißmann.|
On the occasion of the International Horticultural Exhibition (IGA) in Hamburg (26.04.1963 - 13.10.1963), the first German Cinerama tent cinema was opened on 03.05.1963 in the north part of the Heiligengeistfeld (Field of Holy Spirit), near Feldstraße, in Hamburg`s district of St. Pauli. The tent had around 1000 seats and Deutsche Cinerama GmbH was the operator. Initially, “Windjammer” ran twice daily on a 29 x 11 metres large screen. Later, additional screenings were held, the first of which took place in Hamburg and which included excerpts from the film “This is Cinerama” (see advertisement) as part of a 50-minute Cinerama show.
|Newspaper advertisement for the Hamburg tent cinema in July 1963|
Cinerama tent versions were first introduced in France and were called “ITINERAMA”.
|Itinerama tent from an advertisement|
“A Cinerama Convoy“. Just as with the circus, a convoy of 40 vehicles travelled to all those locations where “Cinerama” had not been permanently built into an existing cinema building or where doing so was not cost-effective. It was first introduced in France under the name of “Itinerama” (French-English parlance) as a joint venture by “Cinerama International” and the French radio station “Europe 1”. At first, huge “Balloon Theatres” were used, which were inflatable halls equipped with up to 3,000 seats and a 30 m wide screen. A kitchen and accommodation for up to 50 personnel were attached. However, because of storm damage to the inflatable halls, which were rather fragile after all, producers later opted for stable tents erected with proper poles (see images). The premiere of these mobile cinemas took place in Angers (France, around 80 km south-west of Le Mans) with the film “This is Cinerama” in mid-July 1961. Then the show went on in Mantes-la-Jolie on 4 September, approximately 55 km north-west of Paris. “Mobile Cineramas” were a resounding success, so much so that this institution was also introduced into other European countries. See advertisement from the UK:
|The Super Cinerama Mobile Cinema|
Advertisement from the UK dating from 1966. Note that a 33 x 11 metres (109 x 37 foot) screen is advertised as “The biggest screen in Europe”. The tent stood in Leeds / Woodhouse Moor (West Yorkshire) from 10.10.1966 until 29.01.1967. The film "How The West Was Won" acted as a special five-week Christmas and New Year attraction. Of course, the tent was “air-conditioned” and “centrally-heated”.
“Windjammer” in a single 35mm widescreen version
|Advertisement from “Filmblätter” and a newspaper advertisement from UT Urania-Filmtheater Hamburg, dated 19.06.1969|
“A film, which everyone has heard of but which could only be shown in a small number of German venues, can finally be shown everywhere in widescreen format using 35mm film.”
This was the Munich Gloria-Filmverleih GmbH / Film-Börse advertisement for a 35mm reworking of the film put out from September 1965. However, this version was not nearly as successful as the 3-strip projections were. It was described as a “low-rent version of Windjammer”. One could not see the full width of the original film and it was only screened with mono sound.
Cinerama in Germany
Deutsche Cinerama GmbH
|Advertisements from “Filmblätter” |
In his capacity as the owner of all non-US rights in Cinerama, Nicolas Reisini, President of Robin International Cinerama Inc. and General Manager of Cinerama Inc. New York, concluded a utilisation agreement for the Cinerama process in Germany with the head of the distribution company Herzog-Film-Verleih Herbert Tischendorf during a visit to Germany in 1956. Under this agreement, Mr Tischendorf was authorised to install and present the new process in suitable Ufa cinemas. In Berlin, a special arrangement was made with Johannes Betzel to convert his Capitol venue into Germany's first Cinerama cinema.
On 08.12.1958, “Deutsche Cinerama GmbH” was founded in Düsseldorf, Berliner Allee 59 and entered into the commercial register on 20.02.1959. The shareholders were Ufa-Theater AG, Düsseldorf and Robin International Cinerama Corporation, New York. The company was able to acquire holdings and establish branches within the country and abroad. Anthony Z. Landi (London) and political economist Friedrich Karl Pflughaupt became the managing directors.
In 1960, Mr Reisini appointed Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein as new foreign representative and gave him the task of creating a separate distribution network in Germany for Cinerama Inc. New York. At the same time, he would be responsible for the company's future leased cinemas as supervisor.
|Images taken from the Berlin trade magazine “Filmblätter” |
At a shareholders meeting on 12.07.1960, a decision was made to relocate Deutsche Cinerama GmbH from Düsseldorf to Munich 2, Neuhauser Str. 1. Friedrich Karl Pflughaupt was released from his position as a managing director and Bernhard G. Kranze, Vice President of Cinerama Inc. in New York, was appointed in his place. Freiherr von Stein received a joint power of representation, which entitled him to represent the company jointly with a managing director. At the beginning of 1961, Ufa-Theater AG withdrew from the shareholders' agreement.
A branch in Berlin was set up at the “Capitol” at Kurfürstendamm 153, which had been converted into a Cinerama cinema by then. In the mid-1960s, the branch moved to Heerstraße 21. The Munich headquarters also moved to Sonnenstr. 33, Munich 15 during this time.
The only Cinerama films distributed by Deutsche Cinerama GmbH at that time were the 3-strip films, for which the company had sole distribution rights.
Later, when the time for Cinerama films was up, the Munich company Olympic-Kinobetriebs GmbH & Co, which belonged to the American cinema chain owner William Forman at that time, took over some of the cinemas, which had previously been leased by Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
In November 1968, new shareholders were introduced to Rank Film GmbH, which had been in existence in Germany since 1951. In addition to Rank Overseas in London, Cinerama Inc. in New York and Johannes Tominski, the then Managing Director of Rank Film GmbH Germany, received company shares. The company's new name became “Rank Cinerama Filmgesellschaft mbH” with headquarters in Hamburg. In future, alongside products from Rank London and Cinerama Inc. New York, German films were to be included in the distribution. In early 1969, the new programme schedule included the American Super Cinerama 70mm film “Krakatoa - East of Java” (USA, 1969). In April 1969, the name of the company was changed to “Cinerama Filmgesellschaft mbH” according to a shareholders' resolution.
In June 1969, a new era began for Deutsche Cinerama GmbH. Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein took over sole management of “Cinerama Filmgesellschaft mbH” with new corporate headquarters in Leopoldstr. 59 in Munich 23. Johannes Tominski and Rank Film left. Until 1977, the distribution company was responsible for the rental of more than 60 films throughout Germany, among other things. By that time, of course, the films were no longer 3-strip or 70mm Cinerama films.
In July 1977, Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein unfortunately had to file for the company's bankruptcy. According to him, the general cinema crisis was responsible for the collapse.
I have gathered much of this information from “Filmblätter” and “Filmecho”.
b) “This is Cinerama” (Das ist Cinerama, Place au Cinérama, USA, 1952) in Germany's first Cinerama cinema. Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|German premiere of “This is Cinerama” on 29.04.1959. Newspaper advertisement and images from “Filmblätter” / ”Filmecho” from that time. |
The first Cinerama film in Germany had its grand premiere on 29.04.1959 at the Berlin Capitol cinema * at Lehniner Platz on Kurfürstendamm; the cinema had been converted specially for the new cinematic process. Nicolas Reisini, the Cinerama CEO, came across from the US just for the premiere. So, exactly six years and seven months after its first screening on New York's Broadway, “This is Cinerama” came to Berlin. Deutsche Cinerama GmbH leased the cinema for two years initially in conjunction with UFA-Theater AG and Robin International Cinerama Corporation. Cinema boss Johannes Betzel had previously, in September / October 1957, already had his cinema converted for Todd-AO to provide 915 seats and a larger screen at great cost. Unfortunately, no details about the screen size have been found. I assume that it was similar in size to that of the above-mentioned Munich Royal-Palast, about 19 x 8.5 metres. However, 70mm films were not immediately shown at the cinema. From 17.10.1957, Michael Todd's “Around the World in 80 Days” (USA, 1956) was shown successfully, but unfortunately only in 35mm at this cinema. This was most likely a CineStage (2,21:1) / 4-channel stereo magnetic-sound with 3-channel Perspecta in the surround premiere version. A Todd-AO (70mm) print of the film was not yet available in Europe at that time. The first 70mm widescreen film, a Super Technirama 70mm film, ran at the Capitol cinema in conjunction with the German premiere of the film “El Cid” on 25.05.1962. Previously, single 35mm and 3-strip 35mm projections were commonly used here. The very first Todd-AO (70mm) film in Berlin, entitled “Oklahoma!”, was shown at the Delphi Filmpalast am Zoo, opening on 03.11.1959.
|Newspaper advertisements from that time: Advert dated 03.11.1957 for “Around the World in 80 Days” and advert for the German premiere of “El Cid” on 25.05.1962 at the Berlin “Capitol” cinema. |
By the way, “Around the World in 80 Days” had its German premiere on 04.10.1957 at the identically named Capitol cinema in Düsseldorf (here, too, only in 35mm on a 14 m wide screen).
* The History of Cinema: In 1928, the “Universum” cinema, a UFA premiere cinema with 1791 seats designed by Erich Mendelsohn, opened on this site. The famous building of the modern era was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1946 by the architect Hermann Fehling with reconstruction and renovation work, to reopen under the name “Capitol-Kino” in 1950 next to an existing smaller cinema called “Studio”. In 1959, the venue was converted to a Cinerama cinema by the architect Gerhard Fritsche. In 1968/69, the building underwent a change of use and first became an oversized beat club, later a musical theatre. In 1979, the Mendelsohn building was placed under a conservation order. Today, it houses a famous theatre called Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz.
A short review of the film “This is Cinerama” from that time read as follows:
“Powerful music and impressive panoramas provide the opening moments for Cinerama, the triple-projected cinematic wonder; after a brief look back on film history - what could be more obvious than to demonstrate the possibilities of the new process in a documentary, which, faithful to its motto “The whole world is our back yard” homes in on extremely interesting locations. Naturally, the camera is the main contributor to the impact the film makes; the images have depth and are sharp even at the edges. Only the music and the dialogue occasionally overstress how new and sensational it all is. An impressive, huge film show.”
(T.W. from “Filmblätter”)
“This is Cinerama” was synchronised in New York under the dialogue direction of the director of the UFA synchronisation department, Karl-Heinz Brunnemann, since the technical equipment involved was not yet available in Germany at that time.
The film ran for 22 weeks, until 01.10.1959. On 02.10.1959 Berlin citizens could sail the high seas again with the Norwegian training ship Christian Radich in the Cinemiracle film ”Windjammer”. This film was successfully shown at the “Capitol” until 14.07.1960.
|Advertisement from 02.10.1959|
Previously, the film was shown for 22 weeks at the cinema in the Berlin Sports Palace, until 03.09.1959. Then, “Windjammer” started again on 02.10.1959 at the “Capitol” Cinerama cinema for a further 41 weeks screening time. More than ½ Million Berlin citizens are supposed to have seen “The Film Miracle” until summer 1960.
c) “Seven Wonders of the World” (Die sieben Weltwunder, Les sept Merveilles du Monde, USA, 1956). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Cinerama cinema in the Berlin Sports Palace on 15.07.1960. The world premiere of the film was at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in New York on 10.04.1956. |
After “Windjammer” (on 22.07.1958) and “This is Cinerama” (on 29.04.1959), the third 3-strip film, “Seven Wonders of the World”, was then shown for the first time in a German cinema on 15.07.1960. Berlin celebrated yet another German premiere. As the Capitol cinema was scheduled for renovation during the summer of 1960 so that it could accommodate a new, even more strongly curved (louvered) screen measuring 24.50 x 9.80 metres, the Berlin Sports Palace housed the event, acting once more as the fallback venue. The cinema built into the hall had around 2,200 seats and an even larger, more curved screen than it had had for its Cinemiracle screenings. It apparently measured 28 x 9.5 metres. (Source: “Filmblätter”)
A “triple-strip” with German equipment
|As a first, the Munich company Kinoton installed playback equipment developed in Germany into the Berlin Sports Palace for this film, while the equipment had previously been brought in specially from the US. Three converted German Kinoton / Philips FP20 projectors with Xenon arc lamps and a fourth for the single 35mm introductory film for the triptych main feature found their places in the screening room. According to a statement by the chief engineer at the time, the installation cost for the entire system was approximately DM 100.000 (that would be EUR 51.100 today) and the value of the equipment was approximately DM 250.000 (EUR 127.800). Cinerama Germany intended to install this new technology in other German Cinerama cinemas as well. During the showing, the chief projectionist sat in the auditorium and controlled the image, the sound and the synchronicity of the three film strips using a control panel. (Source: “Filmblätter”)|
|The head projectionist at the helm of a Cinerama system (example picture) with control panel and monitoring facilities in the auditorium (Image from “Filmecho”)|
This panel contains the controls for the 7 magnetic-sound heads, as well as the equipment for the synchronisation of the three projectors and the switches and indicator lights to start up and monitor the projection system. The microphone is connected to the three projectionists, who are also responsible for balancing image brightness.
|The new huge curved louvered Cinerama screen in the Berlin "Capitol" cinema. (Source: "Filmwoche")|
After 79 performances at the Berlin Sports Palace, the film continued to run at the newly renovated “Capitol” Cinerama cinema on Berlin's Kurfürstendamm, which, according to the advertisement, featured the largest Cinerama screen (24.50 x 9.80 metres) in a permanent cinema throughout all of Europe, at least at that time.
|Newspaper advertisements from that time. Continued screening of the film at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema with its new screen, opening on 09.10.1960, and Hamburg premiere at the Grindel-Filmtheater on 22.09.1960 (the first Cinerama film in the Hanseatic city), where it subsequently ran for 13 weeks, until 21.12.1960.|
|Front page of a German souvenir booklet|
“Seven Wonders of the World”, according to Lowell Thomas “... a modern Odyssey exploring the wonders of this world”, ran for almost 76 weeks on Broadway in New York and was also received enthusiastically in Germany. It was said that “the film is a travel report planned and executed on a grand scale, whose purpose is to demonstrate the typical effects of the CINERAMA multi-film process.” It begins in 35mm single format in Lowell Thomas' studio in Pawling, New York, with Mr Thomas presenting six of the seven wonders of the ancient world. When he begins to talk about the seventh wonder, the enormous curtain opens to its full width and Cinerama appears in its full glory at the site of the seventh wonder with a view of the Cheops pyramid in Giza, Egypt. From here, producer Lowell Thomas begins his voyage around the world in search of the modern ”Seven Wonders of the World.”
Here are a couple of the comments from the papers of the day: “The search for the 'seven wonders of the world' of our time is a rewarding task for the super-wide, superbly coloured and eye-filling Cinerama screen. Today, it’s no longer just seven but around seventy wonders of the world that are shown to viewers in cinemas across the globe. Another world tour is being presented in brilliant colour in two hours. Once again, the seams between the three film strips and the sometimes rather silly accompanying text were annoying.” (Source: “Filmblätter”)
“The Cinerama film “Seven Wonders of the World” has launched the most amazing film entertainment ever seen in our country. At the weekend, there were premiere viewers clutching the arms of their cinema seats to make sure they would not get carried up into the air or race downhill at a dizzying pace in a cable car with failing brakes. The film is a high-impact documentary of a journey around the world by the renowned American newspaper reporter Lowell Thomas.” (Source: “Hannoversche Rundschau”)
d) “South Seas Adventure” (Südseezauber, Aventures dans les Mers du Sud, USA, 1958). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Cinerama cinema in the Berlin Sports Palace on 05.05.1961. |
“South Seas Adventure”, the fourth 3-strip film to come to Germany, opened on 05.05.1961 at the cinema in the Berlin Sports Palace. German synchronisation was handled by STE-Franco-Britannique du Film et de Television Paris, as had been the case for some of the Cinerama travelogues. The German narrator is Paul Klinger, who had previously provided the narration for “Seven Wonders of the World”. Orson Welles narrated the original English version. For the film's premiere, the German Cinerama boss Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein invited the German press to a South Seas feast, serving turtle eggs, mountain goat fillet with roasted honeybees, grilled rattlesnake and steamed laulau. The members of the press received boomerangs as premiere gifts. (Source: “Filmblätter”)
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. North German premiere at the Hamburg Grindel- Filmtheater on 12.05.1961, where it subsequently ran for 15 weeks, until 24.08.1961.|
Cinerama explores the South Seas in the Wake of Captain Cook
Carl-Dudley's colour film is the result of an expedition through the Pacific Ocean on the trail of South Sea adventurers such as Captain James Cook and Captain William Bligh, into which a brief fictitious plot was incorporated. The newspapers stated: “From Hawaii to the Fiji Islands via Tahiti to New Zealand and Australia, the armchair tourists in the cinema experienced a colourful travelling adventure - a two-hour dream of the South Seas.” The film was awarded the attribute “of special merit”.
Front page of a German souvenir booklet
Alex North composed the score, which was recorded by the 97-member Cinerama Symphony Orchestra at the Cinerama Oyster Bay Studio. It brought together the best musicians of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the Symphony of Air. The Norman Luboff Choir performed the choral pieces. Timed to coincide with the world premiere of the film at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in New York on 15.07.1958, where it subsequently ran for 44 weeks, the soundtrack of the film came into the shops on an Audio Fidelity AFSD 5899 record. This record achieved a certain “cult status” and was the first film score soundtrack published in stereo. Alex North borrowed instruments from the American Museum of History to make the partially exotic recording of the music.
e) “Two Hours in the USSR” (Zwischen Nordpol und Krim, Deux Heures en URSS, USSR, 1959). Distributor: Kinopanorama/Mars-Film.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema on 01.06.1961 in Kinopanorama |
The Kinopanorama technology was developed between 1956 and 1957 by research technicians at the “Scientific Research Cinema & Photo Institute” (better known by its acronym “NIKFI”) in Moscow.
On 03.06.1961, the “Berliner Zeitung” (an East-Berlin newspaper) stated:
“The Soviet documentary-panorama film “Two Hours in the USSR” premiered on Thursday at the West-Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema, renamed “Zwischen Nordpol und Krim”. The Soviet ambassador in the GDR, M. G. Perwuchin, attended the premiere.”
This film is a double-feature with excerpts from the two Kinopanorama films “Great is my Country” (Vast is my Native Land, Pokoriteli morya, Shyroka strana moya rodnaya, 02/1958) and “The enchanted Mirror” (Volshevnoye zerkalo, 12/1958).
“Great is my Country” was the first Russian Kinopanorama film. It premiered on 28 February 1958 at the specially purpose-built “Mir Kino Theatre” in Moscow and was presented at the World Fair in Brussels in 1958 (EXPO, 17.04.1958 -19.10.1958), where it won a major award.
“Great is my Country” could subsequently be seen in New York at the Mayfair Theatre, opening on 30 June 1959 using 3-strip projection (Kinopanorama). “The Enchanted Mirror” ran at the same cinema from 21 July 1959 and both ran as a double-feature beginning on 3 August 1959. Details are available at Cinema Treasures.
Afterwards, the double-feature film, now titled “Deux heures en URSS” (Two Hours in the USSR), appeared for the first time at the only cinema outside the USSR built especially for Russian Kinopanorama films called “Kinopanorama” in Paris. The film was shown with great success on a curved 24 metre wide screen, using 3-strip projection with 9-channel magnetic sound. There were actually 6 Russian Kinopanorama projectors and 2 magnetic sound reproducers available in the projection room in order to allow a blended transition (without intermission) between the films. The cinema no longer exists. For details, visit Silverscreens.
|Advertisement for the film from the Kinopanorama cinema in Paris in the early 1960s|
According to the advertisement, “Two Hours in the USSR” (Zwischen Nordpol und Krim, Deux heures en URSS) was even shown, it has been customary for Kinopanorama, with 9-channel magnetic-sound at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema.
At the time, the “Filmblätter” stated: “The Berlin premiere will lead to the curious situation that two different versions of “Kinopanorama” will be on show in West- and East-Berlin. The East- Berlin DEFA is producing a different narration and a different cut than those by Mars-Film from West-Berlin, for which Paul Klinger speaks the narration written by Dr Hermann Gressiecker.”
Nearly 2½ months after the West-Berlin premiere of the film, beginning on 13 August 1961, the Berlin Wall was built and I do not know whether the announced “different” film was actually shown in East-Berlin in the end.
It is very likely that 3-strip films were never shown in the GDR, which was founded in 1949, despite the large number of Soviet Kinopanorama films produced in that era.
If a reader of this report has access to more precise or different information, please do share it with me.
“Filmblätter” reported the following about the film: “As with “Cinerama”, “seams” appear in the three-part-image, but in contrast to “Cinerama”, the side sections of the image are lit more brightly - why? A brochure of Russia, vibrant and gripping.” (I. Pulst)
I suspect that the film was not shown in any other Cinerama cinema in Germany.
The German film advertisement states: “Visitors from the East (OST) 1:1”. This told guests from the eastern part of the city that by presenting their identity cards they could pay with the “Mark of the GDR” (M) at an exchange rate of 1:1 with the West-Mark (DM) to see the film at the West-Berlin cinema. As the economic conditions differed greatly between East and West, an East-Mark (M) had a value of approximately ¼ of a West-Mark (DM) (at times even less), this information was very important to citizens of East-Berlin. The revenue shortfalls of West-Berlin cinemas were offset with the aid of an “Over-all Berlin Culture Plan” (Gesamtberliner Kulturplan), which was subsidized by the Federal Government and which was established in August 1958. The “OST 1:1” arrangement only had been valid for films awarded the attributes “merit” or “of special merit”. Some cinemas had a different approach and announced half-price tickets (West-Mark, DM) for Eastern visitors for matinees in their advertisement. In this case the possible loss in revenue was taken over by the cinema, respectively the cinema manager. This all ended with the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Advertisement of “Spartacus” (USA, 1960) at the Berlin Titania Palast (dated 26.05.1961 - with the advice: “OST 1:1”) and advertisement of “Ben Hur” (USA, 1959) at the Berlin Delphi Filmpalast am Zoo (dated 28.04.1961 - with the advice: “For East-Berliners half-price tickets for Mo-Sat matinees.”)
All films in the eastern part of the city were distributed by the GDR monopoly distributor Progress-Filmverleih, which still exists today. Its inventory includes the complete DEFA film legacy, Eastern European film art classics and many beautiful films for children and documentaries.
f) “Cinerama Holiday” (Vacances en Cinérama, USA, 1955). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time and advertising. German premiere at the Hamburg Grindel-Filmtheater on 29.09.1961. |
For the German premiere of the next Cinerama film, our journey takes us from Berlin to the beautiful Hanseatic city of Hamburg, to Grindelberg 7a. That is where the Grindel-Filmtheater is located, or more accurately was, and where the film “Cinerama Holiday” premiered on 29.09.1961. This magnificent film palace was pulled down in April 2009; the entrance to the cinema was preserved and now houses a chemist’s shop. The “Cinerama Holiday” world premiere took place on 08.02.1955 at the New York Warner Cinerama Theatre, where it ran successfully for 61 weeks. It was the second 3-strip film, which came into US cinemas more than two years after the premiere of “This is Cinerama”. The film was produced by Louis de Rochemont (13.01.1899 - 23.12.1978), who later also worked together with his son Louis de Rochemont III (14.12.1930 - 11.07.2001) producing the films “The Miracle of Todd-AO” (USA, 1956), “The March of Todd-AO” (USA, 1958) and “Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich” (USA, 1958). Morton Gould wrote the scores for all four Louis de Rochemont films. Jack Shaindlin (musical director) and James Peterson have written for “Cinerama Holiday” the stirring choral music “Hail to Our Land” at the end of the film, sung by the United States Naval Academy Choir.
|The actress Katharina Mayberg and Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein are admiring Cinerama film reels during the premiere of the film in Hamburg (Image from “Filmblätter”) |
The story in brief: A young married couple from Switzerland travels through North America, while another Canadian couple has the opportunity of experiencing the magnificent mountain world of Switzerland (St. Moritz, Davos) and Paris by day and night. The film offers a lot: winter sport attractions, flying adventures, beautiful panoramic landscapes, all types of folklore, captivating can-can scenes, and even snapshots from bars and gambling dens.
The charming couples in the film, Fred and Beatrice Troller and John and Betty Marsh, had never acted before in their lives and were selected by the director from among numerous applicants. The American cinematographer reported at the time that a few of the skiers and bobsledders were injured while shooting the daredevil runs down snow and ice in Switzerland.
|The Grindel-Filmtheater at the festive film premiere in September 1961 (Image from “Filmblätter”) |
Hamburg citizens were enthusiastic about the film, even though it was shown there more than six years after its US premiere. The critics responded accordingly: “This film isn’t exactly as fresh as a daisy. Its age clearly shows in the women's fashions and in the almost devastating scene, in which the late Parisian couturier Jacques Fath can be seen during a show in his studio.” (Hamburger Abendblatt)
Jacques Fath actually died even before the New York premiere (08.02.1955) of the film on 13.11.1954 at the young age of 42. “Cinerama Holiday” was one of the top grossing films of 1955 and ran at the “Grindel” for 11 weeks, until 13.12.1961.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time: The last weeks of the film at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema. Advertisement from 11.03.1962.|
g) “Search for Paradise” (Auf der Suche nach dem Paradies, A la Recherche du Paradis, USA, 1957). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema on 27.03.1962. The world premiere of the film was on 24.09.1957 at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in New York, where it subsequently ran for 32 weeks.|
The famous “Capitol” Cinerama cinema in Berlin was chosen once again to premiere the seventh 3-strip film to be shown in Germany, the Lowell Thomas production called “Search for Paradise”, on 27.03.1962. The working title of the film had been “In Search of Shangri-La”, stemming from the probably never to be fulfilled human desire to find an eternal paradise. Back then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Lowell Thomas the official US representative for the coronation of King Mahendra in Kathmandu, Nepal on 2 May 1956. He began an expedition to the Himalayas - the “roof of the world”, and the highest mountain range in the world - with the Cinerama in his luggage to report on the royal coronation as well as the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Kashmir and the Hunza Valley (Pakistan) and their inhabitants.
|List from the trade magazine “Filmblätter”. However, the film was not shown at all of the scheduled German venues.|
In Germany, “Search for Paradise” did not enjoy quite as successful a cinematic run as previous travelogues had done, although the camera tried to capture everything interesting, mystical and strange to be found in Central Asia. Perhaps the general interest in travel accounts from foreign lands was slowly becoming exhausted and the time for producing proper Cinerama feature films had come. Dimitri Tiomkin composed the music which struck some as possibly a little too bombastic. He said to it: “I want to make Cinerama sound and music as big, as wide, as wonderful as the Cinerama screen is”. One critic wrote: “The panoramas were fascinating, the foreign customs interesting, the little marginal episodes charming and the narration was casual and fresh. Only the visually very impressive appendix on the achievements of the U.S. Air Force did not seem to fit somehow.” (From “Filmblätter”)
A tragic accident occurred during filming involving dangerously rocking inflatable boats on the very wild Indus River (Indus River raft sequence) in Pakistan. The actor and adventurer James (Jim) Parker drowned while filming. In his memory, a plaque was placed on a bridge over the Indus River and at the rise of the Nanga Parbat (8,125 metres high, one of the most difficult mountains to scale in the world).
“In memory of James Parker who lost his life exploring the rapids of the Indus, within sight of Nanga Parbat, Jim’s favourite mountain, during filming of “Search of Paradise” (20 July 1956).”
At the Berlin “Capitol” cinema the film ran until 24.05.1962, followed by the German premiere of Samuel Bronston`s epic “El Cid”.
h) “How the West Was Won” (Das war der Wilde Westen, La Conquête de l'Ouest, USA, 1962). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|Invitation to the German premiere of the film at the Hamburg Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater|
Deutsche Cinerama GmbH Munich is honoured to invite you to a gala event to celebrate the German premiere of
“How the West Was Won”
on Friday, 1 February 1963, at 8 pm at the Cinerama Filmtheater “Grindel” in Hamburg.
Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein, General Manager
Evening dress requested
Please confirm your acceptance on the enclosed reply card by Saturday, 26 January 1963.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Hamburg Cinerama- Grindel-Filmtheater on 01.02.1963. |
Some people have an emotional connection with the cinema, their own very personal memories. The “Grindel” became anchored in my soul at the latest at the time I enjoyed the Cinerama experience of “How the West Was Won”, the premiere copy for which had been flown in from Paris at the time - the European offices / external representations of Cinerama Inc. and Robin International Cinerama Corporation were housed in the Empire Cinérama Cinéma in Paris. My school was located nearby the “Grindel” and I often went to the cinema after the lessons to see whether any new Cinerama / Todd-AO films were being announced. Sometimes I pressed my ears to the iron exit doors on the back side of the building, listening to the stirring film overtures.
At its grand opening in November 1959 in Hamburg, the cinema received exclusive rights to present Cinemiracle / Cinerama films and had a slightly curved 20 x 9 metres screen. In early 1960, 3 Cinemiracle 35mm projectors, most likely American “Century” projectors, were installed in the large projection room in order to present the film “Windjammer” opening on 15.03.1960. Of course the cinema could also show Todd-AO (70 mm) films, initially using Zeiss-Ikon Favorit 70 projectors and a Zeiss-Dominar-Variant 6-channel magnetic-sound amplification system. In 1962, Deutsche Cinerama GmbH concluded a 6-year contract with the cinema to transform it into a Super Cinerama venue at a cost of DM 100.000 (EUR 51.130). (Source: Filmblätter)
After the renovation work was completed, it was renamed “Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater”.
|A new deeply curved louvered Cinerama screen (27 x 10 metres) was installed for the premiere of “How the West Was Won” in January 1963. Image courtesy of Volker Reißmann.|
In the 1980s, a Hamburg culture guide entitled “Hamburgs Top Ten” stated, somewhat effusively: “It doesn't get any bigger. Only the sky could match the screen at the Grindel.” At the premiere of the western saga, the Hamburger Abendblatt noted: “Four hundred years ago, this empty dome would have challenged Michelangelo to produce a Creation Story or a Day of Judgment, but this work has now been taken on by three cinema projectors.”
|The film reel for Act 1 of “How the West Was Won”, for the “Able” projector, is being unloaded from a transport crate. In order to distinguish between them, the 3 Cinerama film projectors / films were named “Able”, “Baker” and “Charlie”. Image from the author's collection.|
One Cinerama film spool with 30,5 inches in diameter held around 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) of film and weighed approximately 22 kg (48,5 lbs) including the film. Shortly before the premiere of the Cinerama film “How the West Was Won” there were also oversized spools, nicknamed "Wagon Wheel", with a diameter of 34 inches available. They could hold around 3,350 metres (11,000 ft) of film and weighed with film approximately 32 kg (70,5 lbs) - for instance, the first act of "How the West Was Won" is 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) long and filled this spool to the outer edge. Since no continuous-operation systems such as film platters existed at that time and the film ran out after just under an hour, an intermission was scheduled. Blended transition was not planned, otherwise 6 projectors would have been needed. The projectors used in Germany from mid 1960 onwards were mostly specially converted Kinoton / Philips FP20 projectors with Xenon arc lamps or Kinoton / Philips FP20 (S) projectors with pulse lamps (SSP 800) without rotary shutter. An individual Cinerama / Cinemiracle frame on a 35mm wide film is 6 perforations high and larger than the standard image, which is 4 perforations high. The 3-strip Cinerama / Cinemiracle travelogue films were filmed at 26 frames per second and were shown at the same speed. The result was a film speed of 44.6 metres per minute (146.3 fpm). “How the West Was Won” and “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” were exceptions. They were filmed directly with 24 frames per second for possible future standard single film use. Here, the film speed was reduced to 41.1 metres per minute (135.0 fpm). The sound was played back separately on 35mm magnetic tape using the so-called “separated-magnetic-sound” (SEPMAG) process - involving here 7-track sound reproducers that work with magnetic tape perforated like film tape - and amplifiers, but synchronously coupled with all three projectors. Cinema operators hired the elaborate and expensive film equipment rather then buying it.
|A 3-strip Cinerama film and a full coated magnetic tape for the 7 sound-channels.|
Picture taken from the web-site: www.cineramaadventure.com
|Western show on the roof and in the foyer of the Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater for the German premiere of “How the West Was Won”. Images courtesy of Volker Reißmann.|
At the beginning of the 1960s, Cinerama Inc. and Metro Goldwyn Mayer joined forces to produce three-lens Cinerama feature films with real storylines. All previous films had been so-called travelogues. The first film completed at that time was “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” (officially premiered on 07.08.1962 in various North-American cities, such as in New York at the Loew's Cinerama cinema), followed by “How the West Was Won” (world premiere on 01.11.1962 at the London Casino cinema). But it was the western saga that was distributed to cinemas widely first. It went down a bomb all over the world. English newspapers raved: “The blockbuster supreme, a magnificent and exciting spectacle”, “How the West Was Won is pure American adventure at its rousing epic best”, “The crown jewel of Cinerama”. “2000 buffalo thunder across the giant screen at the 'Grindel'”, wrote the Hamburger Abendblatt.
Gerhard Roger (from “Filmblätter”) wrote: “Clever scripting ideas to cover the image seams, perfect camera action, bombastic music - after having been smashed, drowned, trampled, run over, the Cinerama viewer feels like reborn by the end of the film. The grandest visual spectacle since Lumière.”
On 6 April 1959, the first part of the series of LIFE articles “How the West Was Won” appeared, which was the impetus for producing the film. Screenwriter James Webb studied 159 historic works on the history of the Wild West before beginning to draft the film manuscript. Three experienced directors collaborated to film this mammoth film in 9 US states: Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall. The Cinerama equipment used for filming represented a value of approximately 3 million dollars. Its star was the - fully equipped with films, batteries and blimp - 850 lbs (385.5 kg) three-lens camera, which took in a 146° horizontal and a 55° vertical angle of view. “How the West Was Won” took 11 months to film. (Information partly drawn from the German film programme “Illustrierter Film-Kurier”).
Several scenes in the western were taken from other films shot using 65mm negative film. The marching Mexican army came from the Todd-AO film "The Alamo" (USA, 1960) and several Civil War scenes were taken from the first film shot in MGM`s Camera 65 “Window of the World” titled “Raintree County” (USA, 1957). These 65mm extracts were converted for the 3-strip Cinerama projection using a so-called Panavision Micro Panatar printer (see image). However, they always stood out because of their somewhat inferior image quality and visible graining. The flight over the Rocky Mountains at the beginning of the film and the final sequence about the modern USA were compiled from the Cinerama film “This is Cinerama” (USA, 1952).
|Conversion of a 65mm film into a 3-strip Cinerama film using the Panavision Micro Panatar printer|
In the US, “How the West Was Won” did not open until 20.02.1963, i.e. after the premiere in Hamburg. The film played successfully at the “Grindel” for 45 weeks, until 15.12.1963.
|Film programme “Illustrierter Film-Kurier” and an advertisement from “Filmblätter” from September 1963|
In 2008, a double Blu-ray disc of the film appeared on the market. It had been marvellously restored and included a very interesting, 90-minute-long documentary by David Strohmaier entitled "Cinerama Adventure" as bonus material. In addition, a “SmileBox” version of the film was provided. In that version, “How the West Was Won” appears in a simulation of a strongly curved Cinerama on the home television, without, of course, being able to achieve the original effect of “sitting in the middle of the image”.
|The film did not run at the Bremen Schauburg cinema as advertised, but had its premiere at the Cinerama Regina cinema on 30.01.1964. That cinema no longer exists. Some former employees have produced a description of the cinema, putting in great effort and much love. It is available online.|
Newspaper advertisement from that time. Premiere at the Cinerama cinema in the Berlin Sports Palace on 10.04.1963. That venue was chosen to host the premiere because of its large seating capacity.
i) “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm“ (Die Wunderwelt der Gebrüder Grimm, Le Monde Merveilleux des Contes de Grimm (Les Amours enchantées), USA, 1962). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH / MGM.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema on 19.09.1963.|
The brothers Grimm were linguists and passionate collectors of legends and fairy tales. One brother was engaged in scientific studies; the other dreamed himself into the gloriously colourful, creepily beautiful world of fairy tales. Obsessed, he collected old stories for the children of the world, which his brother helped him with later on. They ultimately became famous for their collection of fairy tales, which mainly originated from Hesse, their immediate homeland. They were born in Hanau, close to Frankfurt on the Main. For nearly 200 years, the collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales has been included among the most successful literary works ever and there is hardly a language in which they have not been published. The producer of the Cinerama film, George Pal, had also loved reading the fairy tales when he was a young boy in Hungary. He was head of the cartoon department of the UFA film studios in Berlin from 1931 to 1932. He was the first producer and director of films, in which talking and moving dolls were combined with living actors, so-called “puppetoons”. He produced more than 40 such films between 1941 and 1947. In 1943, Mr Pal was awarded a Special Oscar (Honorary Award) for developing this animated combination. “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” also includes scenes that utilise puppets, such as “The Cobbler and the Elves”. George Pal’s basis for filming the lives of the brothers was a book written by Dr Hermann Gerstner, entitled “Die Brüder Grimm” (The Brothers Grimm), which described long-sought, deep insights into the brothers’ private lives.
|Souvenir booklet and film programme “Illustrierte Film-Bühne“ |
R. Scites described the film in the “Filmblätter” as: “A quirky, impressive, exciting journey into a Disneyland – pardon me, Grimmland of well over a hundred years ago – and one should acknowledge that the Americans have succeeded in toning down the atrocities, the psychological abysses of German legends using jokes and tricks. Colourful images, an expansive score. A trip into German Romanticism, including the Hollywood sugar coating.” Before shooting began, the producer (George Pal) and the director (Henry Levin) of the film flew to Europe in order to find shooting locations. Naturally, much had changed over the years. Finally, they found what they were looking for in the world-famous, tranquil, Middle-Frankonian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Bavaria) with its medieval old town, which is still preserved to a large extent today. The famous castles of Weikersheim (Baden-Württemberg) and Neuschwanstein (Bavaria) served as additional shooting locations, where the film crew also received kind permission to shoot inside the castle interiors.
|The last resting place of Wilhelm Grimm (24.02.1786 – 16.12.1859) and Jacob Grimm (04.01.1785 – 20.09.1863) at the cemetery “Alter St. Matthäus Friedhof” in Berlin. Picture taken by the author. |
The Brothers Grimm spent the last 20 years of their lives in Berlin. In 1841, they were accepted into the Academy of Sciences. This ensured good studying conditions for their remaining years and, above all, a life unencumbered by financial uncertainties.
The Alter St. Matthäus Friedhof in Berlin Schöneberg is one of Berlin’s most important cemeteries in terms of art history and urban history. The first burial took place here on 25 March 1856. The burial sites of nearly 60 distinguished individuals have been marked as graves of honour by the city of Berlin. These include the graves of educator Adolf Diesterweg (1790 – 1866), the physician and politician Rudolf Virchow (1821 – 1902) and the composer Max Bruch (1838 – 1920).
The film "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" ran at the Berlin "Capitol" cinema until 18.12.1963.
j) “The Best of Cinerama” (Cineramas Weltparade, USA, 1962). Distributor: Deutsche Cinerama GmbH.
|American advertising poster from 1962 “The Best of Cinerama” – unfortunately, I could not find a German poster or the German premiere date.|
“For The First Time Cinerama’s Greatest Thrills Together In One Breathtaking Entertainment.”
“The Best of Cinerama” is an impressive compilation of the highlights of previous Cinerama travelogue films, which Lowell Thomas hosts once again.
When “The Best of Cinerama” (the world-premiere of the film was on November 13, 1962 at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio) appeared 1964 in German cinemas, e.g. at the Bremen Cinerama Regina cinema on 08.05.1964, it marked the end of the films produced using the 3-strip process.
Even the film “Cinerama's Russian Adventure” (USSR/USA 1966) was ultimately only a compilation of scenes from various older Kinopanorama films shot between 1958 and 1963 and narrated here by Bing Crosby. The credits read: “Presented in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State under the auspices of the `Cultural Exchange Agreement´ between the USA and the USSR.”
For performances in North America, six Agfa-Color 70mm copies were taken from the 3-strip camera negatives, which, in contrast to the 3-strip version of the film, were cut off at the right and left by around 20 %. A real 3-strip copy, with a 35mm 7-channel magnetic-sound tape, mixed down from the 9-channel original sound, was retained for the film’s world premiere on 29 March 1966 at the McVickers cinema, Chicago, IIIinois. At the time, it was the only cinema in which this version was shown.
Tempora mutantur…life is lived forwards and understood backwards. Initially, Cinerama films proved to be blockbusters without exception. It was reported, for instance, that the first film of this type “This is Cinerama” grossed over $40 million in profits over the years - “already the top grossing film released in 1952”. However, filming with the large, bulky cameras was too cumbersome and the labour-intensive projecting of the triptych films was also too expensive, with around 4 operators being required. The complicated three-lens camera apparatus was equipped with three 27mm fixed focal length lenses, making close-ups of actors impossible. Cameramen could only work with one setting, which did not bode well for the film’s dramaturgy. In contrast, the 70mm film (wide-film process Todd-AO) with its attached 6-channel magnetic-sound system was on the rise and offered an acceptable (it even has no seam-lines across the image on the screen) and significantly cheaper version.
Cinerama Inc. joined the 70mm wave. Until the early 1970s people here subsequently only worked using the so-called Super Cinerama 70mm films - usually in the film-formats: Ultra Panavison 70, Super Panavision 70 but also Technirama and Todd-AO. The image on some of these prints (Ultra Panavision 70) was distorted (compressed) at the edges, as for example on some prints of the films “Khartoum” (UK, 1966) and “The Hallelujah Trail” (USA, 1965). These so called “Cinerama rectified prints” were projected with spherical lenses (non- anamorphic) onto the deeply curved Cinerama screens. This was an attempt to compensate for the distortions caused by the single-lens projection process to the right and left of the curved screen. Some theaters used special lenses to rectify the 70mm image for the non-rectified prints to look less distorted on a curved screen.
In spite of this, the impressive large image, field of view up to 146° horizontally and 55° vertically, and the depth of focus of the former triptych projections could not be reproduced in full using this projection method - the Cinerama aspect ratio is approx. 2.65:1. Little by little, the genuine Cinerama cinemas worldwide with their deeply curved screens began to vanish.
Super Cinerama 70mm Films (single-lens projection)
“It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (Eine total total verrückte Welt, Un monde fou, fou, fou, fou, USA, 1963). Distributor: United Artists.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. German premiere at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema on 19.12.1963. |
It was a truly wild “gold rush” in search of a suitcase containing $350.000. The otherwise so serious Stanley Kramer created a monumental three-hour entertainment with jokes, gags, tricks and chases, which are somehow familiar to us from the early days of the flicks - now projected seamlessly onto the enormous Cinerama screen in Ultra Panavision 70. The number of prominent actors alone, even in the small and smallest roles, made the film an experience. Once again, the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema found itself hosting a German premiere on 19.12.1963.
It was a charitable event. The United Artists chairman, Leon Feldun, and the Cinerama chairman in Germany, Wolfdieter Freiherr von Stein, presented a check for DM 10.000 (EUR 5.100). This and the entire proceeds for the evening were donated to Berlin children through the television campaign “Ein Platz an der Sonne” (A Place in the Sun). Among others, the boys choir “Berliner Sängerknaben” entertained the premiere guests in the supporting programme.
|Newspaper advertisement from that time. Premiere at the Hamburg Cinerama-Grindel- Filmtheater on 20.12.1963 and a German souvenir booklet. The film was shown here for 15 weeks, until 02.04.1964.|
The film’s souvenir booklet reads:
For the first time: Cinerama projection with a single lens.
“With “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” Cinerama proudly presents a revolutionary new process. Eleven years ago, when Cinerama first emerged, the Cinerama effect could only be achieved using three projectors. Now, after developing the Cinerama single lens system, the Cinerama image has miraculously and invisibly been merged into one! This heralds a breakthrough, which Cinerama’s optical scientists have been working towards for a long time. The Cinerama screen will be as large as ever; it will encompass you and wrap around you, but your eyes and senses will experience greater enjoyment and greater amazement through the unity and clarity of the Cinerama single lens projection, which “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” will be the first film to present.”
Super Cinerama 70mm Films
|German LP soundtrack cover. James Garner on the old banked section at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza (no longer in operation) near Milan in the Cinerama Super Panavision 70mm film “Grand Prix” (USA, 1966).|
• It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (USA, 1963) Eine total total verrückte Welt - Ultra Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 19.12.1963 at the Berlin “Capitol” Cinerama cinema. On 02.08.1968 for the first time in the GDR in cinemas. Distributor: United Artists.
• Circus World, aka: The Magnificent Showman (USA/ESP, 1964) Held der Arena, aka: Zirkuswelt - Super Technirama 70mm film. FRG premiere on 10.12.1964 in various cinemas. Distributor: Rank-Film.
• The Golden Head, aka: Millie goes to Budapest, Az Aranyfej (USA/ Hungary, 1964) Das goldene Haupt - Super Technirama 70mm film (chase sequence in MCS 70 Superpanorama), then shown only in Europe, premiered in Hungary on 10.12.1964. Released in the GDR in cinemas on 18.02.1966 (synchronised by DEFA) by Progress Film-Verleih in 35mm film format. For the first time in the USA on 08.09.2009 at the Cinerama Dome (Los Angeles). On 03.10.2010, it was released for the first time in Germany in a 70mm version at the Cinerama Schauburg cinema (Karlsruhe) on the occasion of the 6th Todd-AO 70mm-festival.
• Battle of the Bulge (USA, 1965) Die letzte Schlacht - Ultra Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 07.04.1966 in various cinemas. Distributor: Warner Brothers.
• The Greatest Story Ever Told (USA, 1965) Die größte Geschichte aller Zeiten - Ultra Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 05.08.1965 at the Berlin Royal-Palast. Distributor: United Artists.
• The Hallelujah Trail (USA, 1965) Vierzig Wagen westwärts - Ultra Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 21.12.1965 at the Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater Hamburg. Distributor: United Artists.
• Grand Prix (USA, 1966) - Super Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 13.10.1967 in various cinemas. On 25.10.1974 for the first time in the GDR in cinemas. Distributor: MGM.
|Newspaper advertisement from 12.06.1969. Premiere of the Cinerama Super Panavision 70mm film “Grand Prix”.|
Prior to this, David Lean`s epic film “Doctor Zhivago” (USA, 1965) had its North German premiere on 18.11.1966 at the Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater. Back then, nobody had assumed, that the film would subsequently successfully run for 134 weeks, until 11.06.1969, at this cinema. On 12.06.1969 Hamburg citizens finally could start their engines in order to win a car racing on the large curved Cinerama screen.
• Khartoum (UK, 1966) Khartoum-Aufstand am Nil - Ultra Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 22.09.1966 at the Berlin Royal-Palast. Distributor: United Artists.
• Cinerama's Russian Adventure (USSR/USA, 1966) Kinopanorama, Super Cinerama 70mm film (US copies), a 3-strip copy for the world premiere on 29.03.1966 at the McVickers Theatre, Chicago, Illinois. Until today never seen in cinemas in Germany.
• Custer of the West (USA, 1967) Big Horn – Ein Tag zum Kämpfen - Super Technirama 70mm film. FRG premiere on 28.03.1968 at the Munich Royal-Palast. Distributor: Alpha-Film.
• 2001: A Space Odyssey (UK/USA, 1968) 2001: Odyssee im Weltraum - Super Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 11.09.1968 at the Munich Royal-Palast. Distributor: MGM.
• Ice Station Zebra (USA, 1968) Eisstation Zebra - Super Panavision 70mm film. FRG premiere on 05.09.1969 in various cinemas. Distributor: MGM.
• Krakatoa: East of Java (USA, 1969) Krakatoa – das größte Abenteuer des letzten Jahrhunderts (Feuersturm über Java) - Super Panavision 70mm film, some scenes in Todd-AO. FRG premiere on 28.03.1969 in various cinemas. Distributor: Rank/Cinerama.
• Song of Norway (USA, 1970) - Super Panavision 70mm film, never distributed in Germany. On 03.10.2008 it was shown for the first time at the Cinerama Schauburg cinema (Karlsruhe) on the occasion of the 4th Todd-AO 70mm-festival.
|• Scent of Mystery, aka: Holiday in Spain (USA, 1960) - Todd-70, also converted into 3-strip Cinerama (Holiday on Spain), never officially distributed in Germany. On 02.10.2010, it was shown for the first time in Germany at the Cinerama Schauburg cinema (Karlsruhe) on the occasion of the 6th Todd-AO 70mm festival.|
• The Story (Chronicle) of the Flaming Years , The Flaming Years (USSR, 1960/61), aka: Povest plamennykh let, Flammende Jahre - Sovscope 70mm film (the first “real” Sovscope 70mm production filmed with purpose-built Russian cameras, developed by “NIKFI” institute – recorded onto 70mm negative film). From hearsay, the film only was promoted in England as a Super Cinerama 70mm film during its premiere at the Coliseum Cinerama Theatre in London in March 1965. Furthermore, it is reported that it was shown in the USSR in cinemas as 3-strip Kinopanorama film. Presented at the Cannes Film Festival which took place from 03.05-18.05.1961. GDR premiere on 18.01.1963. It also was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival on 09.02.2009.
• La Fayette (France/Italy, 1961) Der junge General - Super Technirama 70mm film. The film only was promoted in England as a Super Cinerama 70mm film. FRG premiere on 26.08.1966.
• Mediterranean Holiday (FRG, 1962) Flying Clipper - Traumreise unter weißen Segeln - MCS 70 Superpanorama film. World premiere on 19.12.1962 at the Munich Royal-Palast. The film only was promoted as a Super Cinerama 70mm film or as an "ARC 120"-, aka: "Wonderama" film outside Germany.
For a more detailed description, visit: widescreenmuseum.com
• La Tulipe noire (France/Italy/Spain, 1964) Die schwarze Tulpe – MCS 70 Superpanorama film. FRG premiere on 06.03.1964. The film only was promoted in England as a Super Cinerama 70mm film.
Run Run Joe (Arrivano Joe e Margherito) (Italy/ France/Spain/FRG, 1974) Dufte Typen räumen auf, aka: Zwei tolle Hechte, filmed in Todd-AO 35mm. FRG premiere on 03.05.1974
The Great Waltz (USA, 1972) Der große Walzer, filmed in Panavision 35mm. FRG premiere on 19.04.1973
were also promoted as Super Cinerama 70mm films in England. In reality, they were only 70mm blow-ups.
Cinemas and multipurpose facilities, in which 3-strip films were shown in Germany
• Aachen: Eden-Palast
• Augsburg: Rex (not quite sure)
• Berlin: A) “Capitol” Cinerama cinema (first Cinerama cinema in Germany - premiere of "This is Cinerama" on 29.04.1959 (screen size after several conversions 24.50 x 9.80 metres) (Cinemiracle)*, B.) Berlin Sports Palace (multipurpose facility, varying screen sizes: 25 x 9 metres, later also 28 x 9.5 metres) (Cinemiracle)*
• Braunschweig: Kaiserhof (screen size 13.6 × 6.2 metres with a 1,85 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side) (Cinemiracle)*
• Bremen: Regina (screen size 20 × 8 metres) (Cinemiracle)* Visit: fbas.tv
• Duisburg: U.T.-Palast
• Düsseldorf: Tonhallen-Theater (from hearsay the screen size was 24 × 10 metres) (Cinemiracle)*
• Essen: A.) Cinerama Europa Palast (screen size 27 × 10 metres), B.) Grugahalle (multipurpose facility, screen size 33 × 13 metres) (Cinemiracle)*
• Frankfurt: Lichtspiele-Filmpalast
• Hamburg: A.) Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater (screen size 27 × 10 metres) Cinemiracle)*, B.) UFA-Palast am Gänsemarkt (screen size 17.5 × 8.2 metres) (Cinemiracle)*
The once-imposing UFA-Palast at the Hamburg Gänsemarkt, with 988 turquoise and lime green seats and teak panelling all round
At the opening on 26.02.1958, the cinema hosted an opening party with many stars, the like of which Hamburg had never seen before. Romy Schneider “cut the ribbon”. In May 1959, “Windjammer” ran here as a 3-strip film. The venue was later extended and converted into a multiplex, a bizarre warren with 16 screens; it was demolished in the middle of the 1990s. The premiere of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (Der Untergang des Römischen Reiches, USA, 1964) in Ultra Panavision 70 took place on 12.06.1964 (images of the cinema from “Filmecho” and the booklet “Filmtheater in der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg”).
• Hannover: Gloria-Palast (screen size 13 × 6.1 metres with a 1.8 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side) (Cinemiracle)*
• Karlsruhe: City (screen size 12.7 × 5.8 metres with a 1.47 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side) (Cinemiracle)*
• Köln: Residenz (screen size 14.5 x 7.2 metres)
• Köln: Groß-Köln-Lichtspiele (Sartory-Betriebe GmbH & Co. KG, also equipped with a vesiurut/musical fountain, 20 metres wide screen) (only Cinemiracle)*
• Lübeck: Stadthallen-Lichtspiele (Cinemiracle)*
• Mannheim: A.) Große Planken (not quite sure) B.) Scala-Filmtheater (screen size 16.6 × 7.8 metres with a 2.7 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side; around the curve 18.5 x 8 metres) (Cinemiracle)* Most likely Germany's third Todd-AO cinema; opened after the Savoy (Hamburg) and the Munich Royal-Palast and the second Cinemiracle cinema after the Munich Royal-Palast. Opened on 20.12.57 with the film "Oklahoma" in Todd-AO. 730 seats. Closed 1973.
|The Nuremberg Admiral-Palast had been the third Todd-AO cinema in Germany, not the Scala-Filmtheater in Mannheim.|
The Admiral-Palast opened on 31.10.1957, the Scala-Filmtheater on 20.12.1957
|The large screen (18.5 x 8 metres) in the Mannheim Scala cinema (image from “Filmecho”) |
• München: A.) City-Palast (screen size 160 sqm), B.) Royal-Palast (screen size 16.6 x 8.4 metres with a 2.8 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side; around the curve 18.8 × 8.5 metres, 160 sqm) (Cinemiracle)* Germany's first Cinemiracle system was installed in the Royal-Palast. German premiere of "Windjammer" on 22.07.1958. The Todd-AO-film "Oklahoma" had its German premiere here and was the first film shown at the Royal-Palast, on 13.06.1957.
• Münster: A.) Fürstenhof (Cinemiracle)*, B.) Münsterlandhalle (multipurpose facility)
• Nürnberg: Delphi-Filmpalast (Cinerama-Delphi)
• Oldenburg: Weser-Ems-Halle (multipurpose facility) (Cinemiracle)*
• Ravensburg: Oberschwabenhalle (multipurpose facility)
• Siegen: Siegerlandhalle (multipurpose facility)
• Stuttgart: Atrium (screen size 14 × 6.3 metres with a 1.2 metres curve - straightly measured across the curve from side to side) (Cinemiracle)*
• Wiesbaden: Rhein-Main-Halle (multipurpose facility)
(*) The Cinemiracle film "Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich" was also shown here.
This list is not exhaustive. The details on screen sizes are without guarantee, as screens of different sizes were installed and taken out in several cinemas over the years.
New Cinerama Dome Cinemas
|Cinerama Dome model (image from “Filmblätter”)|
Beginning 1963, the Cinerama President Nicolas Reisini described “the Cinerama cinema of tomorrow”. A massive domed building with one thousand seats and a huge semi-circular screen. The costs for building such a film screening facility would be limited to the sum of $250.000 as it was only a matter of assembling ready-made parts, Mr Reisini explained. At that time, many such “ultra-modern Cinerama Domes” were at least being planned for the following years (source: “Filmblätter”). A few such cinemas were to be erected in Germany as well, as Cinerama enjoyed great success here and especially in Berlin. I reckon that only two of these buildings were eventually realised: one in Las Vegas that has long since been demolished and one in Hollywood (Los Angeles) on Sunset Boulevard, which bears the name “Pacific Theatres' Cinerama Dome”. This film palace officially opened on 7 November 1963 with the world premiere of the Ultra Panavision 70mm film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and it still stands today. The cinema no longer presented 3-strip films. Fortunately, dedicated enthusiasts had become active by then and installed the technical equipment in the projection room for this projection as well. On 4 October 2002, a newly created 3-strip copy of “This is Cinerama” with “seven-channel stereophonic sound” was presented for the first time and “real” Cinerama films are still on the schedule today on the large curved 26.2 x 9.7 metres screen from time to time.
The Cinemiracle / Cinerama travelogue films with its stereophonic 7-channel magnetic-sound, then an entirely new dimension, were, at least to me as quite a young person, journeys into the great wide world. A tremendous experience for eyes and ears, in no way inferior to the modern IMAX - indeed, perhaps even more impressive, because we were not nearly as spoiled by technology and travel as we are today. Meanwhile, compared to those days, our world has adopted a much faster pace – are there any films today being shown at the cinema where they premiered for longer than 2 years without interruption?!
|This report has become a little long. Nevertheless, here is another little “treat” (see the newspaper advertisement). It is not a Cinerama film, but at least a good 70mm blow-up, unfortunately only with mono-magnetic sound.|
As a boy, I was lucky enough to share in the excitement of the world premiere of “Genghis Khan” (Dschingis Khan, UK/ YUG/ FRG, 1965) at the Cinerama-Grindel-Filmtheater on 15.04.1965. Unfortunately, I could not get a ticket to the premiere event. Nevertheless, I went to the cinema. The red carpet was rolled out and I was thrilled to be able to take a look at the premiere guests.
Newspaper advertisement from that time. World premiere at the Hamburg Cinerama-Grindel- Filmtheater on 15.04.1965
|Costing DM 24 million to produce, it was called “the most expensive film ever shot in Germany.” Alone the construction of the imperial throne room in the CCC (Central Cinema Company) studios in Berlin-Spandau cost DM 600.000 (EUR 306.775). Director Henry Levin, producer Irving Allen and three actors flew to Hamburg for the world premiere of the three-country production. The French actress Françoise Dorléac (Bortei), the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve, flew in specially all the way from South America; the other attending actors were Robert Morley (the Emperor of China) and Susanne Hsiao (Chin Yu), who was married to Harald Juhnke in 1971, a well-known German actor, singer and entertainer. |
Gerhard Roger once gave this brief description of the film: “Colourful images, powerful martial music and rhythmic cutting round off the first Anglo-Yugoslav and German
co-production costing more than DM 20 million - a hulking spectacle”. (Source: “Filmblätter”)
Extra Premiere souvenir booklet (partial view) and ticket (not from the premiere day)
|“To commemorate the world premiere of “Genghis Khan” on 15 April 1965 at the|
The German contribution to the film was the provision of the Berlin CCC studios and fundraising by the film producer and entrepreneur Artur Brauner. The Mongolian exterior shots were filmed in Yugoslavia. The score, with beautiful martial but also love themes, was written by the Yugoslav Dusan Radic (10.04.1929 - 03.04.2010). He had previously composed the music for the Technirama film “The Long Ships” (Raubzug der Wikinger, UK/YUG, 1964), among other things.
“Where the Nile divides…their mighty conflict begins!”
“Khartoum”. A Super Cinerama film, shot in Ultra Panavision 70. Front page of the English souvenir booklet (UK, 1966).
|All images are from the author's collection unless stated otherwise. The report was compiled using various articles as well as pictorial material, which were in part taken from newspapers and industry trade journals of the time, in particular the film magazines “Filmblätter” and “Filmecho”.|
|Information on the Hamburg Film and Television Museum|
The “Kinomuseum Berlin e.V.” association (directors: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit, Uwe Borrmann, Joachim Kelsch) is committed to archetypically (using the original versions) preserve, document and maintain historical and current cinematic culture and can be reached at:
A lot of 70mm / Cinerama-Filmtheatres worldwide
The Apollo Cinerama cinema in Zurich
The Holographic Studio of the Scientific Research Cinema & Photo Institute (NIKFI) in
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