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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


Premiere of "Windjammer" at the newly built Empire-Cinérama-Théâtre Abel Gance in Paris

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Gerhard Witte, Berlin, Germany Date: 10.12.2016
The movie's original German and Swedish souvenir programmes

The very successful Cinemiracle movie "Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich" (USA), French title "La Grande Rencontre", had its World Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday, April 8, 1958.

It debuted in Europe at Oslo's Colosseum Theatre on Friday, April 25, 1958 – in London's West End at the Odeon, Tottenham Court Road, on Wednesday, May14, 1958 – in Germany at Munich's Royal-Palast on Tuesday, July 22, 1958 – in Sweden at the Vinterpalatset (the Winterpalace) on Thursday, September 4, 1958 – and in Denmark at the Århus Hallen (a multi-purpose facility) on Monday, December 1, 1958.

In France, in Paris, "Windjammer" opened relatively late at the newly reconstructed, now named Empire-Cinérama-Théâtre Abel Gance on Monday, February 5, 1962.

An extract from an article written in "New York VARIETY" dated Wednesday, February 21, 1962:

Paris, February 13 – Cinerama's recently-acquired Cinemiracle film "Windjammer" (USA, 1958) opened at the new Empire "Abel Gance" Theatre last Monday, February 5. The new house took a year to build at a cost of around $1,000,000. It has 1,200 seats and a 30-by-100 foot screen. Nicolas Reisini, Cinerama's president, also has instituted a yearly gold medal, his personal Oscar, for the best technical advances in filmmaking. First Oscar went to French film pioneer Abel Gance after whom the house was named because of his first use of the triple screen in his silent film "Napoléon" (France, 1927), and his work on three screen setups.

Roland Lataille's website informs about the old and the newly constructed fantastic venues. (Note in one of the images the soldiers of Napoleon in homage to the invited Mr. Abel Gance)
More in 70mm reading:

in70mm.com's "Windjammer" in Cinemiracle page

Gerhard Witte's in70mm.com Library

Empire - Cinerama - Paris
HTWWW's "World Preview" at the Empire Cinerama Theatre in Paris
The Remains of Odeon, Tottenham Court Road, London
Vinterpalatset A Story of Magnificence, Proud and Mourned

Århus Hallen
"Windjammer" i Cinemiracle

Internet link:

Vinterpalatset / the Winterpalace

… and study following fantastic website about Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
"LA GRANDE RENCONTRE". Between the gentlemen Nicolas Reisini (president of Cinerama, Inc.) and Georges Peynet (the theatre's architect) is sitting Abel Gance – the star guest of the wonderful evening. (Image taken from the trade magazine "La Cinématographie Française" dated February 1962)

Author's note: There are unfortunately a lot of mistakes in the movie's description (see image): 1.) the runtime of 85 minutes – 142 minutes are given, including overture, intermission and exit music, 2.) Pill Colleran must be Bill Colleran, 3.) James L. Shutte must be James L. Shute, 4.) Captain Ynguar Kjelstrup must be Captain Yngvar Kjelstrup.

The movie ran at the Empire-Cinerama-Theatre for 42 weeks until Monday, November 26, 1962, followed by "How the West Was Won" (USA, 1962). According information from "La Cinématographie Française" (see in the image below) a total of 238.307 people saw the movie at the time.

A short article written in "La Cinématographie Française" dated Saturday, February 10, 1962: (translated into English language – the French article is below)

(The Great Encounter) of "Cinemiracle"

On Monday, Feburary 5, 1962, "Cinemiracle" opened the new "Abel Gance Empire Theatre" with the new film by Louis de Rochemont, "Windjammer" (La Grande Rencontre). Many guests, surrounded by Empire veterans, flocked to the premiere in honour of Abel Gance. In particular, the event was attended by Mssrs Herzog and Bokanovski, the ambassadors of the USSR, Great Britain, Norway and Finland, Marcel Carné, Roger Hanin, Aristoteles Onassis, Bernhard Buffet, Henri Salvador…

Mr Reisini, the man behind the Cinerama, then called forward Abel Gance and awarded him the Cinerama Gold Medal, and Georges Peynet, who designed and built the cinema, to whom he presented the Cinerama Silver Medal. Abel Gance was very moved by the lengthy round of applause he received. This tribute paid to the illustrious precursor of triple projection is to the credit of Mr Reisini, as is his adventurous nature which has enabled millions of cinema-goers to discover Cinerama. "What do I think of Cinerama now?" said Abel Gance – "I think there is a greater distance between Cinema and Cinerama than there is between a propeller-driven plane and a jet plane, and we can see that the latter is killing the former off in an irreversible struggle. I will try to play a useful role in this evolution of its particular technique with the Super-Cinerama. With new input, we will undoubtedly manage to bring my old dream to life."
Georges Peynet, for his part, has made a real success of the new Empire-Abel Gance, scrupulously adhering to the requirements and constraints of the Cinerama technique, obtaining a strictly horizontal projection, with the three rays each forming a 48° angle. The concave surface of the 10 x 30 metre screen stretches from floor to ceiling and from one wall to the other. The room is reminiscent of a huge beige Etruscan vessel; the (ICAM) hangings are made of glass silk, while the chairs, wall coverings, ceilings and paintings over the balcony are deliberately monochrome. The 900 seats in the stalls and the 300 on the balcony all give a perfect view. An especially remarkable feature is an original chandelier measuring five metres in diameter (author's note: That must have been in the theatre's large lobby – see the image on Roland Lataille's website). It is made up of 3,000 gold metal pendants and lit by spotlights which are hidden from the spectators’ eyes… (Argus)
An advert in "La Cinématographie Française" from February 1962 that gives information about the newly built Super-Cinérama Empire-Théâtre Abel Gance. It is a correction by the architect Georges Peynet. "The movie theatre is equipped with stage curtains and wall hangings by "La Société Marocaine de Constructions Mécaniques" – and not, as mistakenly attributed in our "Spécial", by I*C*A*M –réalisateur, on the other hand, of Cinérama Europe No 1."

Un court article écrit dans "La Cinématographie Française" du samedi 10 février 1962:
A (La Grande Rencontre) du "Cinémiracle". Le "Cinémiracle" inaugurait lundi 5 février 1962 le nouvel "Empire Théâtre Abel Gance" avec le nouveau film de Louis de Rochemont "La Grande Rencontre". De nombreux invités se pressaient à cette première, encadrés par des grognards d´Empire, en hommage à Abel Gance. Notons la présence de MM. Herzog et Bokanovski, des ambassadeurs d´URSS, de Grande-Bretagne, de Norvège, de Finlande, de Marcel Carné, Roger Hanin, Aristoteles Onassis, Bernhard Buffet, Henri Salvador…

M. Reisini, l´homme auquel nous devons le Cinérama, appela ensuite Abel Gance auquel il remit la Médaille d´Or du Cinérama et Georges Peynet, qui a conçu et réalisé la salle, auquel il remit la Médaille d´Argent du Cinérama. Salué par d´interminables applaudissements, Abel Gance était très ému. Cet hommage rendu au précurseur illustre de la triple projection est à porter au crédit de M. Reisini, tout comme son esprit d´aventures qui a permis à des millions de spectateurs de découvrir le Cinérama. "Ce que je pense maintenant du Cinérama?" dit Abel Gance – "je trouve qu´il y a plus de distance entre le Cinéma et le Cinérama qu´il n´y en a entre un avion à hélice et un avion à réaction et nous constatons que celui-ci est en train de tuer celui-là dans une lutte irréversible. J´essaierai de jouer un rôle utile dans cette évolution de sa propre technique avec le Super-Cinérama. Sans doute, par de nouveaux apports, arriverons-nous à réaliser mon ancien rêve."

Quant à Georges Peynet , il a signé avec le nouvel Empire-Abel Gance une exceptionnelle réussite, respectant scrupuleusement les impératifs et servitudes de la technique Cinérama, obtenant une projection rigoureusement horizontale, les trois rayons lumineux faisant entre eux chacun un angle de 48". Un écran de 10 mètres sur 30 mètres développe sa surface concave du plancher au plafond et d´un mur latéral à l´autre. La salle apparaît comme un immense vaisseau beige étrusque; les tentures (ICAM) sont en soie de verre, les fauteuils, la moquette murale, les plafonds, les peintures du dessous de balcon sont volontairement monochromes. Les 900 fauteuils de l´orchestre comme les 300 du mezzanine donnent tous une vision parfaite. Une caractéristique particulièrement remarquable est un lustre original mesurant cinq mètres de diamètre (note de l'auteur: Cela doit avoir été dans le grand hall du théâtre – voir l'image sur le site de Roland Lataille); il est constitué de 3.000 pendentifs de métal auré et est éclairé par des projecteurs dissimulés aux yeux des spectateurs … (Argus)
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Updated 04-05-22