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I was there - in a small way - at the birth of Todd-AO

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by:  Michael Williams, England Date: 27.05.2014
Exterior of the Drake at night, showing the very attractive lighting of the Golden Hind sign

Back in the fifties as a lowly rewind boy on holiday in Plymouth, to be able to attend the Premier of "South Pacific" at the new Drake Cinema, what an experience! Prior to this I had, due to an enthusiastic Chief Projectionist, I had been to the London Casino to see the Cinerama set up. This was gut wrenchingly good, but, Todd-AO was the magic that infused My soul! On my return to the Olympia I raved about this new Todd-AO process I had witnessed at the Drake in Plymouth. After a few weeks, news came through to us that the Olympia had been chosen for conversion to show the new Todd-AO version of "Oklahoma!" Talk about a beautiful morning, it surely was "Out of My Dreams". Weeks before the deadline, electricians, builders, painters and engineers moved into the cinema, to work mostly at night thus starting the most exciting time of My life (I can still say that after all these years). Eventually the time came when the cinema had to be closed for a fortnight to enable structural work to be carried out. The Proscenium arch (reinforced concrete) was demolished and, as the projection suite was in the front circle, part of the circle had to be chopped of to enable the "spread". This to allow the spread of the image onto the huge new screen being installed (93 foot between screen and projector). During this time the dirt and dust were unbelievable but it all went on regardless. Eventually, we had installed two of the most beautiful machines I has ever seen, Philips DP70s, surely the Rolls-Royces of the Projection World. During the refurbishment time I was promoted to Third Projectionist, so on the opening night I was allowed to to lace up, to change from 35mm to 70mm and best of all to show "OKLAHOMA!" in all its original Glory This experience has stayed with Me throughout My life and I will always be proud to say - I was there - in a small way - at the birth of TODD-AO. I would like to dedicate this piece to a dedicated Projection tea. Chief Frank Saunders Senior Second, Ernie Brown Second, Ken Harvey Third, John Williams and of course, myself Mike Williams.
More in 70mm reading:

Cinerama in Cardif

In harmony with the new City

This is Cinerama...at the London Casino

in70mm.com Presents: You are in the Show with Todd-AO

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Updated 04-05-22