Vinterpalatset A Story of Magnificence, Proud and
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Pictures and text by:
Peter Andren, engineer, Sweden
Issue 51 - December 1997
poster. Click to enlarge. Courtesy:
Bengt Norman, Film Collection 2006
This is the story of one of the greatest
cinemas in Sweden. It was called "Vinterpalatset" ("The
Winterpalace") and was situated in Stockholm, the lovely capital of
Sweden. Mr. Andren has a long career behind him as a train engineer and
projectionist. He is currently building his own 3-strip setup and expects to
be able to show Cinerama in a few years. Mr. Andren is a technical
consultant to a municipal film museum in Säterne, Sweden, and he is an
expert on AGA, Bauer U2 and Philips FP2 projectors.
The story of Vinterpalatset cinema ("VP" for short) can be traced
back to the year 1914, when the "Auditorium" cinema opened. It was
built on a foundation of an old gas storage tank, which resulted in the
circular hall with a diameter of some 32 meters. The height to the ceiling
was 16 meters at the highest point and it had 1751 seats. The Auditorium was
used for concerts one evening a week, the remaining evenings for filmshows.
In 1926 a remodeling increased the seating capacity to 1952 seats. During
the thirties the filmshows gradually were dropped, and from 1942 onwards the
Auditorium became a ballroom and exhibition hall. At this time the name was
changed to Vinterpalatset. VP was owned by Mr. Carl Nelson, who at that time
ran Royal Film AB, a cinema circuit with cinemas all over Sweden.
In 1956 Mr. Nelson started investigations into the possibility of converting
VP back to a cinema for the new Todd-AO system. The Philips company of
Holland made up a set of drawings, and offered a complete projection system
proposed. The projectors would be installed in a completely new projection
room on the balcony, resulting in nearly level projection. The throw, 23,8
meters in combination with Cine-Apergon lenses of f=3" would result in
a picture size of 15 x 6,87 meters. The depth of the screen was calculated
to 2,4 meters. For unknown reasons this conversion was never carried out.
Further in 70mm reading:
in70mm.com's Cinerama page
In April 1958 the film "Windjammer", shot in the new
Cinemiracle system, had its European premiere in Oslo, Norway. At this
event, among others invited, Mr Nelson and representatives of Svensk Filmindustri
AB (SF) met up. SF was, and still is, the leading cinema circuit in Sweden.
This show must have been very impressive to them, as they immediately agreed
to start a joint venture to bring this exciting form of entertainment to
Mr. Nelson, who by this time had sold his cinema circuit, immediately
started negotiations with Robin International, the company marketing
Cinemiracle outside the USA. Through his company Monark Film, he aquired the
exclusive rights to show "Windjammer" in Sweden. At first
it was meant that Draken, a very beautiful Stockholm cinema in the SF
circuit would be utilized. Eventually this plan was abandoned and the VP was
selected the best location.
Construction work started in the beginning of July 1958 and included a new
projection room on the balcony, new slanted floor in the circle, a gigantic
screen frame in front of the old proscenium, and a complete refurbishing of
the interior. The seating capacity became 913 seats.
|The screen frame was made of steel tube making up a curve being some 80
degrees of a circle. The screen size was 20,4 x 8,3 metres giving a picture
size of 20,1 x 7,9 metres. Remotely controlled maskings were applied to the
sides and top. In front of the screen, hung from of the top of the
screenframe, was a nice curtain in four colors. The seating was of the
latest design, providing superior comfort. The first rows were so close to
the screen that they were nearly inside the screen (curve).
In the projection room the equipment consisted of 3 Century "G-1"
Cinemiracle projectors on heavy duty bases. Both magazines were mounted on a
floor stand underneath the projector head, eliminating for the projectionist
the need to lift the heavy filmspools over their heads. The lower magazine
had motor driven take ups. Ashcraft "Super Cinex" watercooled
arclamps provided sufficient light when projected at 140 Amps. Because of
the heat, even the gate assemblies in the projectors were watercooled. The
lamps were modified to allow for longer running time neccesary with
Cinemiracle. The D.C. was supplied from 3 Gaumont Kalee 140 Amp rectifiers.
For the prologue and commercials a standard Bauer 35mm projector was used.
Originally water circulators were used for cooling water but they proved
inadequate. The water was nearly boiling, so the circulators were eliminated
and water was taken directly from the main supply.
|The sound system was RCA with a rated output of 60 W per channel, coupled to
a sound reader built by Stancil-Hoffman. For emergencies, the center
projector had a magnetic soundhead reading a soundtrack mixed down to mono.
It also read a 1,6 kHz control track for switching the surround channels. To
achieve synchronism of all projectors and the soundreader, selsyn
interlocking motors by General Electric were used. As the whole equipment
package was designed to be mobile, all connections between the apparatus
were carried out by means of plugs and rubbercovered cables, greatly
reducing the time required to assemble the lot.
At the beginning there were 5 projectionists on duty. One at the center
projector, the chief, checking the other projectors before the start (lacing
up, carbons etc), starting and stopping the show, maintaining focus, carbon
trim and sound operation, one projectionist at each side projector,
maintaining focus, ranking (framing), carbon trim and mirrorposition. One
projectionist at the soundreader, and one for rewinding and relieving other
members of the crew when neccesary. Later the crew was reduced to 4 men.
The whole installation was supervised by Mr. Samuel Bale, who also installed
Cinemiracle in London, Munich and Denmark. Mr. Bale was very pleased with
the VP installation, claiming it to be one of the best Cinemiracle cinemas
in the world. Because of the circular shape, it was an excellent hall to
adapt for Cinemiracle. VP also created some spinoffs, like the Cinerama Dome
in Los Angeles.
On September 4, 1958, the grand opening was held with a lot of honoraries
attending. "Windjammer" became a great success, running for
an amazing 20 months to full capacity.
By the beginning of 1959, a pair of Philips DP70 projectors were ordered for
VP, making it possible to show Todd-AO as well as ordinary 35mm films.
However, the DP70s were never installed since "Windjammer"
did so well over such a very long time. Instead it was decided to switch to
Cinerama. In the spring of 1960, an engineer arrived in Stockholm for the
modification of the Cinemiracle projectors to Cinerama. The major work was
to install the jiggolos in the gates. The conversion was carried out during
the day, one head at a time, eliminating the cancelling of any shows. The
first Cinerama show was held on June 13, 1960 when "Seven Wonders of
the World" had its premiere. From this point on, all 7 Cinerama
films were shown, as well as 2 re-runs of "Windjammer" and
one Russian Kinopanorama film ("Great is My Country").
By 1964 it was obvious that no more films would be made in the 3-panel
system and it was decided to go for 70mm. Cinerama in England insisted on
using Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 projectors, since they could be converted for
70mm as well as Cinerama and standard 35mm film. Both Victoria 8s received
were second hand projectors, probably from England. The RCA sound equipment
was retained although an amplifier rack from Cinemeccanica was supplied
along with the projectors. Also the Ashcraft lamphouses were retained.
|The first 70mm show was held on November 11, 1964 when the film "It's
a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 had its
Swedish premiere. Specially calculated lenses by Cinerama, Inc. were used to
fill the big screen but it was impossible to achieve a sharp picture. This
led to massive complaints from the audience. A Philips DP70 projector was
installed temporarily for testing but the result was only slightly better.
After a while, two second hand Cinemeccanica lamps were installed on the
Victoria 8s. This, combined with Philips BF lenses solved the problem. The
optical alignment between the Cinerama arcs and the V8 were not compatible
for 70mm projection. The picture size for standard 70mm film, Todd-AO, was
set to 7,8 x 17,23 meters. The Cinemiracle equipment was dismantled and put
into storage, except for the soundreader, its built-in magnetic preamps
still in use. Later on, they were removed and placed in a box on the front
wall of the projection room. The Cinerama soundreader went into storage.
The years went by. VP ran many nice 70mm films but in the early 70s it was
decided to put the 3-panel system back for a selected re-run. All the
equipment was once more installed and aligned, only to reveal that prints of
"Windjammer" and "This is Cinerama" were
badly faded. "How the West Was Won" still had excellent
color. "Windjammer" and "This is Cinerama"
could not be shown to the public. What a disappointment. Projection
equipment went back to the storage room. Now commenced a time of 70mm
re-runs but in the mid 70´s VP fell victim to standard 35mm anamorphic even
if it was not as good because it was too grainy.
Everything must come to an end, even so for Vinterpalatset. In 1977 it was
announced that Sweden's largest union had acquired the site to build an
office block. The last performance was to be held on December 31, 1977.
Despite several attempts, it was not possible to save this magnificent
cinema that had become a legend in its own time.
During the last 6 weeks, a cavalcade of VP's best films were held, giving
the people of Stockholm a last chance to once again see their favorite film
on the big screen. Included were, among others, a 70mm print of "How
the West Was Won". The last public performance started 7 pm December
31, 1977; the film was "Earthquake" in Sensurround. *)
The following day a party for all employees and the management was held. Of
course there must be some screening on such an event and so "The
Miracle of Todd-AO" was screened. As a souvenir, small pieces were
cut from the screen and handed over to everyone.
During the next weeks the cinema was cleared of all equipment, seating,
decorations etc., and within a few more days the building was demolished.
The story of Vinterpalatset had come to its end.
Vinterpalatset was a truly magnificent cinema, having a very fine interior,
big screen, excellent projection and very attractive film programming.
Former staff are very proud to have worked in this renowned cinema and its
closing down is mourned by them as well as by many of its spectators who
went to see a film there. Even now, 20 years after the closure, it is not
unusual to meet people who clearly recall their visits to VP and the
experience they witnessed when "Windjammer" or any other
great film swept across the vast screen.
It was a 35mm print of "Earthquake" in Sensurround which
was shown, 31/12 1977 kl. 6.45.
The premiere of "Earthquake" in Sensurround was in 70mm.
The Vinterpalatset was considered one of the worlds finest Sensurround
photographer, and projectionist at the Vinterpalatset, Stockholm, Sweden
July 31, 2002.
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