Johan Wolthuis Interview
Johan Says Goodbye as Editor of The 70mm Newsletter
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Issue 47 - December 1996
Johan Wolthuis promoting 70mm at the Schauburg cinema, Karlsruhe, Germany, October 2007. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Johan C. M. Wolthuis has a passion for 70mm
films and founded The International 70mm Association in 1988. In 1994 he
organized The 70mm Promotion
Tour Los Angeles in an effort to raise the interest in 70mm film. He is a father of three and lives in Arnhem. His favourite film was "Around the World in 80 Days", but is nowadays "Lawrence of Arabia"!
Mr. Wolthuis is stepping down as
Secretary of The International 70mm Association December 31, 1996. I
interviewed him on Wednesday June 5, 1996, at restaurant Ravelinen in
Copenhagen, Denmark. By way of introduction, Mr. Wolthuis has written a few
lines about his love for the cinema.
In January 1954, at the age of fourteen, my mother took me to a cinema for
the first time in my home town. I still remember it. They screened an
Austrian operetta by Franz Lehar "Das Land des Lächelns"
starring Martha Eggerth and Jan Kiepura. I am very grateful to my mother
because at that moment she laid the foundation of my dedication to film, and
especially to musicals in my life.
Further in 70mm reading:
What 7OMM is to Johan
Promotion Tour #1
Statement on 65/70mm
"Digital & 65mm" - New book from International 70mm Publishers
Member Johan Wolthuis (The Netherlands)
International 70mm Publishers
6843 BX Arnhem
Scheduled for a fall 2009 release "Digital & 65mm - Today's Technology for Tomorrow's Cinema", from "International 70mm Publishers", in The Netherlands, edited and published by Johan Wolthuis
In September 1954 on the occasion of the 30th jubilee year of MGM, I saw two
CinemaScope films for the first time in a special program. "Knights
of the Round Table" with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner and Mel Ferrer
and the American musical "Rose Marie, I Love You" with
Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas. CinemaScope added a widescreen
vision to my admiration of films. I nearly saw forty films in 1954, which I
think is rather much for a school boy and it did not do much good to my
school results at that moment! During 1955, I was lucky to see the first
VistaVision motion picture "White Christmas" with Bing
Crosby, Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong.
Question: When did you first encounter 70mm? Answer: I think it was in June
1957 when I visited a seaside resort near The Hague. There was special
Philips Todd-AO screening with the new 70mm projectors. They screened "The
Miracle of Todd-AO" and the first reel of "Oklahoma!"
in which Gordon MacRae is riding through a cornfield singing "Oh what a
beautiful morning'". I still think of that moment as one of the high
points of 70mm.
Q: Why did you go?
A: I had relatives in The Hague and I
loved to go to the cinema. And in those days they showed a lot of films in CinemaScope and other widescreen systems. Todd-AO was new because it was a
curved screen and a very large image.
Q: You were attracted to 70mm at once?
A: I think that was the beginning because a few months later in Amsterdam I
saw the special equipped cinema playing the famous Michael Todd show "Around
the World in 80 Days". From that time on I was convinced (and I
still am) that 70mm Todd-AO with 6 channel sound is the ultimate film
presentation format for the cinema. There were so many articles in the Dutch
press, at the occasion of the premiere of the Mike Todd show, that I could
fill a large scrapbook with all the stories around this famous film
production and about the showman Todd. A few months after visiting the
Amsterdam theatre where the film was screened for more than a year, I
learned the screening was not a 70mm print but a special 35mm CinemaScope
print from the 24 fps 65mm original [Cinestage]. But nevertheless, the
presentation in this theatre, with a wall-to-wall screen, was so impressive
that I was not disappointed at all. A year later in 1958, I went to
Bruxelles to the World Fair to see Cinerama and Kinopanorama. The following
year I saw "South Pacific" when the first Dutch cinema was
equipped with Todd-AO.
Q: Why was 70mm so good in your opinion?
A: Because it gave you an
impression of reality. The image was far better than anything I had seen
before in cinemas and the sound was so impressive.
Q: Do you have any special connection with the film community? Are you a
A: No, I am an enthusiast.
Q: Why did you start The
International 70mm Association?
A: It began in 1988. I was visiting an IMAX
theatre in the south of Holland when I met Mr Willem Bouwmeester. He had a beautiful Grant Lobban BKSTS wall poster with film formats. He told me about the The
International Cinerama Society. I told him how impressed I was by 70mm. He
liked 70mm too, and asked why I did not start a 70mm society like the
Cinerama society? I decided to go on with the idea and began to write
letters to magazines in Holland about my idea founding a 70mm association.
One magazine took it up and I received reactions from many people who were
all interested becoming members of The International 70mm Association. A lot
of people joined the 70mm Association, but they were all amateurs. I was
disappointed that no professionals inside the film industry were interested.
Q: Most of the members from the beginning were projectionists and cinema
A: Yes, the only professional was Mr. Albert Bert and his son Geert Bert from the Kinepolis group in Belgium. They were fans of 70mm too,
and wanted to show more 70mm in the future.
The 70mm Promotion Tour of 1994. Outside Todd-AO Studios, with Johan Wolthuis, Dan Leimeter, Richard Vetter, Darryl Gray and Thomas Hauerslev. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Q: What kind of work have you done as secretary of the 70mm association?
Most of the work consists of writing letters to film companies. I wrote to
Columbia Pictures about "Lawrence of Arabia" and received
an answer from Mark Hill, who wished me good luck with the 70mm promotion.
But that was the last time I heard from him.
Q: Have you had any response
from the members about your work?
A: Only a lot of letters which I had to
answer. A lot of people liked my work with the newsletter, but it was mostly
Q: What was your idea with The 70mm Newsletter?
create a kind of institute where members could write and have their letters
printed. A combination of publishing letters and news about new films and
sometimes an advertisement. I have learned that people love to see an old
advertisement of a good 70mm film. That was the original concept of The 70mm
Q: How did the idea of a 70mm Promotion Tour begin?
A: There was no news
about 70mm films, so I wanted to reach the persons who made the decisions in
Hollywood. Then came the idea of doing a promotion
tour. I discussed this
idea many times with Mr. Albert Bert of the Kinepolis Group. Finally he said
he wanted to pay. I knew I could not do it alone and I started to look
around and finally found you, Thomas.
Q: Was the tour a success?
because I believed people would receive us and say "...well OK, we will
do the next film in 65mm". But of course, it does not work that way. I
would do it a second time, but in a different way. But there will not be a
Q: If possible, how would you do it? A: I would discuss it with
you about which people we should address and which arguments we should use
to tell them why they should do their next film in 65mm.
Instrumental to The 70mm Promotion Tour of 1994, the Kinepolis in Belgium and its spectacular screen #9 with it's 26 meter curved 70mm screen. 1992 Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Q: What is your interest today with 70mm?
A: I am looking forward to more
restorations of old 70mm films. The Americans should do more restorations
because we cannot see the old films. There are no good prints anymore of "Porgy
and Bess", "South Pacific" or "Can
Can". The films should always be available through museums. Today
museums keep their old prints. They do not wish to loan them out because
they worry about print damage. The prints stay on the shelves until there
are no colors left.
Q: You have decided to retire as secretary of The International 70mm
A: I am not satisfied. I did a lot of work, but
it did not pay off. That was not the result I had expected. There is no
point in doing so much work anymore.
Q: ..but you still enjoy coming to Malmö
to see a lot of old 70mm prints?
A: (Big laugh) ..yes! I believed that if I
am ever going to have a chance to see a lot of old 70mm films, this is the
1988 issue of Image Technology with the first announcement of The 70mm
Q: What would you like to do after your retirement as secretary?
If I get the chance I would like to promote 70mm to cinema managements and
maybe fly to Los Angeles to talk to the managers of film companies. I will
also try to write one or two stories which I have toyed with a long time. I
will offer them to a film director, but I will only sell them if they are
made in 65mm.
Q: What do you think should be the future of The 70mm Newsletter?
A: I think
it is very important because it is the only magazine with a special interest
in 70mm and it is very important that managers of the movie companies know
the existence of The 70mm Newsletter.
Q: What is the future of The International 70mm Association?
A: The 70mm
Association, in fact, has never existed. We only had one meeting in 1992 in Kinepolis. The 70mm Newsletter is the important thing in this. With members
all over the world you can still keep the Association as a promotion club
for 70mm film. Members must write more and come with ideas. I was
disappointed that no one came up with any ideas of what to do.
Q: I wish you a
lot of success in the years to come and hope you will carry on for many
You are still a part of this because you started it.
A: Well, I am happy
that you say that. It is a nice hobby and it is far more than that. If you
look at all those 70mm films made since the 50s, there are a lot of
important films. I do not understand why the Americans do not restore old
films and keep them in such condition so that they can be shown in cinemas.
Because I think cinemas, despite all new inventions, despite computers,
Internet and fiber optics, will stay open. There are new cinemas being built
everywhere and the cinema interest is also rising. That is a very good
Q: Do you think there is hope for 70mm?
A: Yes I do. Over the past years we
have seen "Far and Away", "Baraka", "Little
Buddha" and now "Hamlet". And I hope a lot of
people will see them and say "Hey, let's use 65mm again!!!!".
Q: Thank you for your time.
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