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Bigger than "Ben-Hur"
My Japan Cinerama Project

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Gerhard Witte, Berlin, Germany Date: 24.08.2018
"Ben-Hur" (ベン・ハー) and "Cinerama" (シネラマ) in Japanese language.

After having read in Charlton Heston's autobiography, titled "In the Arena", about "Ben-Hur"'s embarrassing Tokyo Charity Premiere on 30th March 1960 with its three film breaks, and from another source that Emperor Hirohito had previously already attended a CINERAMA premiere, I thought: "What an interesting subject – CINERAMA, and 70mm CINERAMA in Japan". I had not previously seen this area covered in any articles.

So, I tried to find some material from that time at Berlin's State Library (newspaper division) located at Berlin's 'Westhafen', and at Berlin's Film Library located on Potsdamer Platz. I was amazed what there was to be found. From electronic information resources vintage Japanese newspapers, or also original trade magazines ("Far East Film News", "Movie Marketing" and "Movie / TV Marketing") from that time. A great find had been Japan's 'Yahoo Auctions' (ヤフオク) on the internet where I had spotted over several months a lot of offerings of vintage film flyers, souvenir brochures, film theatre tickets, etc.– thanks to all who want to sell these memorabilia.

One big hurdle was, of course, the Japanese language. The amazing 'Google' translation engine helped me a lot, and I spotted on the internet a device that can read texts from pictures (Optical Character Recognition).

Nonetheless, that did not always work. In those cases, I grabbed my bike, and visited some Japanese restaurants here in Berlin where I asked for help and translation. A very kind young woman, named Mai Linh, even answered some of my questions via email correspondence – thank you Mai Linh. CINERAMA expert David Coles, who lives in Sydney (Australia), also happily provided information, suggestions and corrections via email.

A time-consuming task had been using Photoshop to improve the look of the many movie adverts, the originals of which were often slightly damaged in their appearance.

With this report, my aim is to give readers an idea of the extent, of which CINERAMA, 70mm CINERAMA and 70mm films, especially "Ben-Hur", were exhibited in Japan in the Golden Age of large film format … and I am impressed by what I found in my investigations.

For example, one interesting fact is that at the time the American movie "Earthquake" (USA, 1974) was being shown simultaneously in 70mm (SENSURROUND) at three Tokyo theatres – advertised in three different projection formats: 70mm, Dimension 150 and Cinerama (see GALLERY – "Ben-Hur" and other 70mm films in Japan). I doubt many cities ever gave that range of big screen choice for seeing an attraction!

PDF Files
• Go to Introductory Report: William Wyler΄s "Ben-Hur" and "Cinerama" in Japan  (3 mByte)
• Go to 3-strip Films in Japan (5,6 mByte)
• Go to 70mm Cinerama Films in Japan (5,7 mByte)
• Go to GALLERY – "Ben-Hur" and other 70mm films in Japan. (4,4 mByte)

• Go to film list 3-Strip Films in Japan
• Go to film list 70mm Cinerama Films in Japan
• Go to film list GALLERY – "Ben-Hur" and other 70mm films in Japan.
More in 70mm reading:

70mm "Dersu Uzala" at the National Film Center, Tokyo, 7. October 2017

"The Best of Cinerama" – the movie even ran in Germany in 3-strip Cinerama

Gerhard Witte's in70mm.com Library

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Updated 21-01-24