Welcome to “This is Cinerama”
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Written and photographed by: Anders M Olsson,
The Film Museum in Munich.
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, and
welcome to tonight’s screening of
“This is Cinerama”, the film
that shook the motion picture business to its foundations. My name is
Anders Olsson, I’m from Sweden, and I have a background of working with
various aspects of film distribution, translation and exhibition, mainly
in the 1970’s and 80’s. But most of all, I’m a Cinerama “addict”.
Some of you may have read in the printed program or on the web that
tonight’s film was going to be introduced by its director of restoration
David Strohmaier. Well, unfortunately David couldn’t come, so he
suggested me as his replacement. Thank you Dave, I hope I can live up to
I think David may be excused, since he is busy supervising the scanning
of the original three strip negatives of
“Windjammer”, a film
that was extremely popular here in Germany, so popular in fact that
German filmmakers decided to make their own sequel;
“Flying Clipper - Traumreise
unter weißen Segeln”.
When I was seven years old in 1961, my mother took me to the
in Malmö, Sweden, where I saw
“Seven Wonders of the World” in Cinerama. That film made a lasting impression on me. Like
most Cinerama-films, it started with a 4 by 3 prologue on a small
screen. But after the prologue, the screen grew, and grew, and grew,
until the picture almost filled the entire wall of the cinema. You can
imagine me, a seven-year old boy, sitting there with big eyes and
dropped jaw. That was the only Cinerama-film I saw as a kid and, from
that moment on, every visit to the movies was a big disappointment.
I never could forget Cinerama, but it took me almost 40 years before I
had a chance to see it again. That was at the Museum of Film,
Photography and Television in Bradford, England, which has one of only a
handful remaining genuine Cinerama installations in the
world. The museum, today renamed as the National Media Museum, runs an
annual film festival dedicated to Cinerama and other big
screen formats. The next time will be in October.
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Cinema like never before in Munich, Germany
Welcome to “Cinerama Adventure”
in70mm.com's Cinerama page
Some of the 45 people who came to see "This is Cinerama".
Cinerama is the “mother” of all modern widescreen formats. There had
been attempts before to make widescreen films. Some say that they failed
because the time was not right, but the early widescreen films from
around 1930 lacked two very important elements which Cinerama added -
colour and multi-channel high fidelity sound.
Fred Waller, an American inventor, had for many years been
interested in what makes us perceive the world around us as real. His
conclusions were that it is the peripheral vision, what we see in the
corner of our eyes, that’s most important. Fred Waller wanted to record
reality on film, that is, the entire human field of vision.
The only way he could think of to do that was to use several
synchronized film cameras, each catching only a small part of the total
vista. One of his experimental set-ups used as much as eleven
synchronized cameras, and just as many projectors to show the film.
The finished commercial product used three cameras or - more correctly -
one camera that was actually three cameras in one. So you would use
three synchronized strips of film in the camera, and run the film on
three projectors, each showing one third of the complete picture on a
deeply curved screen. In addition, the sound had its own film strip, so
there were really four pieces of film running simultaneously. Typically
six or more projectionists were needed to run a Cinerama-film.
When you see an ordinary film, and the camera moves forward, for example
in a street, everything you pass will just vanish at the sides, out of
the picture. But with Cinerama, you will see what’s going on to the left
and right of the camera. Let’s say that there’s an open gate in one of
the street houses. As the camera passes, you can look through the
gateway, and into the back yard behind it.
Sadly, we don’t have any equipment here at the Film Museum to run
three-strip films, and even if we did, it would have been very difficult
to find a surviving print in good enough condition. So we will have to
make do with a digitally restored print on a single projector. But you
will still see the same panorama as at the premiere in 1952, and you
will see a hint of the two join lines which reveal that the film was
originally shot on three separate pieces of film.
If this had been a real Cinerama-theatre, the screen would have gone
from floor to ceiling, stretching from there to there [demonstration],
so the front rows would actually have been inside the curvature of the
screen. Obviously, our screen is flat and much smaller, but digital
magic will make it look curved.
I must say a few words about the film’s host and narrator,
Thomas. There are probably few Germans today who have heard of
him. He was in his time one of the most well-known radio voices in the
U.S.A. He was a globetrotting reporter, lecturer, film-maker, news
anchor and the author of more than 50 books. His most remarkable
achievement was probably that he discovered Lawrence of Arabia, and made
Queuing up for "Cinerama Adventure".
Cinerama has sometimes been described as the eighth wonder of the world.
But I’d like to add that the greatest wonder is perhaps that this film,
against all odds, still exists and has been restored. For that, we can
thank David Strohmaier and his team who have been
tirelessly working through the past decade to restore the library of
Cinerama films, all at an impossibly low budget.
If this film has whetted your appetite for Cinerama, you’ll be pleased
to know that four weeks from now, on February 5, the Film Museum will
show the second Cinerama feature,
“Cinerama Holiday”. While
“This is Cinerama” was mainly made to show off the Cinerama system,
“Cinerama Holiday” also proved that Cinerama could tell an
“This is Cinerama” comes in two acts with an intermission that
was originally necessary for the projectionists to change the reels.
Today, digital technology might have done away with that. But to make
the performance as historically accurate as possible, and out of respect
for the original film-makers, we will still follow the original
The first act plays for 1 hour and 5 minutes, after which there will be
a 15 minute break. The second act will run for slightly less than an
hour. If you find parts of the first act a little slow, with a church
choir singing hymns and a lengthy opera sequence from Aida, you will be
more than compensated in the second act by some exciting water-skiing
and a breath-taking flight across the United States.
Now, let’s pretend that we are all sitting at the
in New York, in the evening of September 30th, 1952. Until now, we’ve
been used to seeing films on a fairly small, almost square screen, with
the sound coming from a single speaker. Boy, are we in for a surprise!
Enjoy the show!
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never before in Munich, Germany
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Welcome to “Cinerama Adventure”
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