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Life in Three Panels
How an article helped save the Cinerama process
|Read more at|
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Greg Kimble
Kimble (2002) and the fateful October 1983 issue of American Cinematographer.
The obsession began in 1963.
I was 12 years old, on a YMCA day trip (by train!) from Wilmington, Delaware
to Philadelphia to see
"How The West Was Won"
at the Boyd Theater (now demolished). I was seated, quite by chance, in the
exact center of the curtain-concealed screen.
I don’t recall that I knew anything about the new “Cinerama”
process it utilized. So far as I knew, it was just another movie. Then Leo
appeared on the still-closed curtain. His roar, shook the theater and
thumped on my chest. I immediately knew something very special was
The curtain parted…and parted…and PARTED until it reached beyond the
proscenium nearly all the way to the balcony. I had to turn my head to take
it all in as I was just a tad closer than (what I learned later was called)
“the sweet spot”.
As Alfred Newman’s muscular overture began, a small voice in my head
whispered, “This movie is going to very important in your life.”
The little voice was right.
Fast forward 5 years. I’m a high school senior, desperate to find this
mythical “American Cinematographer” magazine. It wasn’t in our library, and
was unknown on any newsstand. (Duh, it was Wilmington.) In those days, the
only way to subscribe was by contacting them at their address, which was
helpfully printed in the magazine, which I couldn’t find anywhere. (My first
experience of a Catch-22.)
Fast forward 15 years. I’m visiting with my model unit DP [Karl Herrmann] of the just
Right Stuff”. I’d been going on and on for
months about how I’d love to write a major Cinerama article for the 20th
anniversary of "HTWWW" but knew not how to approach the
editor of the famed magazine.
|More in 70mm reading:|
"How The West Was Won" - in
Fred Waller's 1950 Diary
(See November 8)
Who is Greg Kimble?
in70mm.com's Cinerama page
Presented on the big screen in 7OMM
Peripheral Vision, Scopes,
Dimensions and Panoramas
Harvey rewinding Cinerama at the New Neon, Dayton, 1997. Picture: Thomas Hauerslev
Suddenly Karl made a call, then handed the phone to me and said, “Here,
talk to George.” George TURNER? The editor of American freakin’
Cinematographer? After I recovered and made the pitch, dear George agreed
enthusiastically and a year later, in the
October 1983 issue, it came to
be. I ended it with a shamelessly emotional callback, as I wanted people to
really wish they could see Old Three-eyes again.
• Go to
"How The West Was Won" - in Cinerama
• Go to
• Go to
Fred Waller's 1950 Diary
(See November 8)
In the Fall of 1997, I attended screenings at the New
Neon Theater in Dayton, Ohio, which had been reconfigured for Cinerama
by a retired projectionist who moved the three projectors from his house(!).
The ASC article was known by the theater owner, Larry Smith, who invited me
up on stage for a chat. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned the
article in passing and, as an aside, Larry turned to the audience and said,
“Oh yes, it was that article that inspired our projectionist,
John Harvey to bring back
Cinerama.” I nearly lost it in front of everyone. Until then, I had no
idea that my article had found the one person in the world who could do what
I assumed was a vain hope.
The greatest “coincidence” of all happened just days later. Our VFX
pre-production meeting for the first "Doctor Doolittle"
remake had wrapped early, so I stopping by the local Laser Disc store
(remember those?). A guy in a “New Neon Cinema” sweatshirt was just exiting.
I struck up a conversation about Cinerama, eventually confessing I was the
author of the 1983 article. Sweatshirt guy was
Dave Strohmaier in whose
documentary I later appeared after figuring out how to transfer and
recombine three panels into standard definition (HD was years away) for all
the Cinerama sequences used in the film. (Later I did it over with proper
scans for HD.)
3-lens panoramic webcam designed to cover a 90, 120, 140, or 180 degree
field. Its internal software blends the images seamlessly and no vignetting.
Had I been as little as 10 seconds later, I would have missed him.
was completed and Dave invited me to join him to address the membership of
the ASC at their clubhouse on Orange Dr. in Hollywood. In 40 years, I had
gone from a kid in Delaware who wanted their magazine in vain, to addressing
the very gods of cinematography. Because I knew stuff they didn’t.
It was a truly surreal moment.
In the years since, with the introduction of small, lightweight electronic
cameras, I’ve often pondered how to rig a
Cinemiracle-style camera and hang
it under a drone.
Then just last week, I found this on eBay: "a 3-lens panoramic webcam
designed to cover a 90, 120, 140, or 180 degree field. Its internal software
blends the images seamlessly and no vignetting!" I think my heart
stopped for a moment. The little voice didn’t need to speak this time.
He just smiled.
End Title Crawl
anniversary of CINERAMA 30. September 2022 - the motion picture process that changed movies forever.
This year marks several milestones. It is the 70th anniversary of the
premier of Cinerama, the 60th anniversary of
"How The West Was Won", the 40th
anniversary of the surprisingly influential ASC article and (in 2023) the
35th anniversary of The 70mm Newsletter / in70mm.com. With the indefinite
closure of the Seattle Cinerama Theater, only the
Cinerama Dome in
Pictureville Cinema in Bradford (UK) remains to present the format. The
Dome has full 3-panel prints of both "This Is Cinerama" and "HTWWW".
preservation efforts of
Tom March and
Randy Gitsch have
guaranteed that Cinerama
survives on BluRay and occasional digital
screenings across Europe.
Lowell Thomas was sure
the format would some day be reborn. (I’m looking at you Christopher Nolan.)
As studios lose market share and theaters to streaming, who knows? Perhaps
as Princess Leia said, “It’s not over yet.”
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