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• To record the history of the large format movies and the 70mm cinemas as remembered by the people who worked with the films. Both during making and during running the films in projection rooms and as the audience, looking at the curved screen., a unique internet based magazine, with articles about 70mm cinemas, 70mm people, 70mm films, 70mm sound, 70mm film credits, 70mm history and 70mm technology. Readers and fans of 70mm are always welcome to contribute.

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70mm Presentations - Letters from Directors

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Paul Rayton, Hollywood, USA Date: 07.02.2015
Back in the heydays of 70mm exhibition of movies (1980s), it was not uncommon for a projectionist to open a shipping case of a 70mm title and find a "personal" letter from someone associated with the film. Typically it would be signed by the Director, or the Producer -- those with the greatest stake in the outcome of "their" film.

Subjects addressed would be things like the illumination level on screen, and the audio playback level. Apparently (from what I could infer) many cinemas typically ran sound a bit too low. These messages were typically reminding us projectionists to run the sound at the "Dolby Standard" of a fader setting of "7" (on a scale of 10.)

The Abyss
• Dick Tracy
Dick Tracy (white gloves)
• Havana
• Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
• Top Gun
The Untouchables
• The Untouchables (TAP)

If a theatre's sound system was properly set up, a setting of 7 would be (probably) OK, though there were occasional producers / directors who would attempt to get theaters to play things somewhat on the extra loud side.

The concept of messages to projectionists is not new -- way back in 1940, there was a 4-page letter to "Exhibitors Everywhere" from no less than the producer, David O. Selznick: "Concerning the Presentation of 'Gone With the Wind'". This set of instructions provided very specific directions on the timing of the operations of the house lights and the curtains, in order to make the opening, and the intermissions, all to attempt to achieve a bit of presentation consistency. This was done to enhance the entire presentation -- and the drama of the movie itself. You can view that historic one here.

The Untouchables
• The Untouchables (TAP)

• Projection, sound and curtain cue sheets for "Exodus"
• Technical Information bulletin for "West Side Story"

This page presents a group of some of these more recent messages to projectionists. The presumption is that they were really signed by the named individuals, but it's likely that the actual text was probably prepared by someone in their post-production process, someone who might have been overseeing the dubbing, mixing, and (presumably) checking the "sounding" [recording] of the magnetic sound on the prints. I know from a personal acquaintance that Paramount, for example, went through a complete screening on the lot of every 70mm print of such titles as "Raiders Of the Lost Ark" (1981), "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984), "Top Gun" (1986), "The Untouchables" (1987), etc. This was to ensure that good-quality prints were sent out. Such attention to detail is (was) well-known back then, though recent years have not been so blessed.

As my own personal sidelight, back in 1991, while I was still working at the prestigious Avco Center cinemas in west L.A., we were preparing to open "Thelma & Louise". On the Friday that that film was to open, I was called in rather early in order to check the print and the sound with the director, Ridley Scott. I ran some reels, we agreed upon his preferred sound level setting, and he was ready to go. I asked him, "You know, could you please write me a note confirming that this is the sound level you'd like for this movie? Then I can show it to anyone who wants to complain about it, later on." So he did. I hand-wrote a little note, "to whom it may concern", saying this was, in fact, the proper sound level that he wanted for the movie. He signed it -- but no one ever complained, so I never had to show it.

Since Directors can't make it to every screening everywhere, the note-in-the-can is the next best thing to being there.
More in 70mm reading:

Projection, sound and curtain cue sheets for "Exodus"
Technical Information bulletin for "West Side Story"'s list of films blown up to 70mm

Presented in 70mm Dolby Stereo

Who is Paul Rayton?

Paul Rayton Remembers "Scent of Mystery" in 3 minutes and 49 seconds

Life With THX In Hollywood Part 1

Life With THX In Hollywood Part 2

WSW Academy

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Updated 07-01-21