The Biggest Format,
in the Smallest Cinema
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev
Issue 55 - December 1998
Nielsen in Karlsruhe 2. October 2009. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
this interview Danish cinematographer and 70mm cinema owner Mr. Orla
Nielsen, DFF, gives your Editor his thoughts on why he is managing the
smallest public cinema on the planet with a DTS 70mm installation and a
curved screen. The interview was done on November 21st, 1998, after another
"Titanic" in DTS 70mm. The cinema "Biffen" is located in
Aalborg, Denmark and has
appeared before in The 70mm Newsletter.
Further in 70mm reading:
Todd-AO at "Sea"
Orla Nielsen opens
temporary cinema to show "The Hateful Eight" in Ultra Panavision 70
Biffen - 70mm cinema profile
DP70 Home Page
70mm Get Together
2,45 meters (20 x 8 ft). Curved.
CP65, Dolby mag pre amps, Dolby Digital, DTS for 70mm and 35mm
DP70 and DP75
+45 9816 9977
+45 9813 8388
I run 70mm at Biffen for the simple reason I think it
is a fabulous format
Picture by Thomas Hauerslev.
Click the image to see enlargement
We opened our Cinema café in May 1997 after getting our own entry door.
For many years we shared the entrance with a concert venue. We have a few
café tables, antique film equipment on the walls, and various other
"old" things everywhere. Mahogany furniture, mirrors and glass
shelves contain numerous film books. We got the furniture from an old sweet
shop. The interior reminds me of my childhood cinema. It is a mixture of old
and new. Old furniture and modern illumination. Just above the entrance to
the cinema there is an old Arriflex 35mm camera and a reel of 70mm film.
We have a small auditorium with 50 seats. There are very good sightlines to
the screen from all seats. We have a curved screen made according to the
plans for a CinemaScope curve, originally drawn up many years ago. The
screen is 6,15 meters along the curve and 2,45 meters high. It is a bit
larger than our previous screen built when we opened in 1989. It's a very
What we have tried to do with our cinema is to take all good parts, or the
best things, from the large cinemas where we like to see films, and
downscale them to our cinema. We have excellent sightlines and a large
screen. Our screen isn't huge, but it does appear large to the spectator.
You really get maximum impact here. We give the light on the screen much
attention, and of course we have good sound. We have analogue optical and
magnetic sound but also two digital formats; DTS and Dolby Digital. DTS even
in 70mm! Our audiences appreciate our sound, and our good seats. They often
tell us how good they are to sit in. They are soft and comfortable, of
Spanish design and more than 10 years old. Originally they came from
Nřrreport Bio in Copenhagen, after it closed in 1981.
projection. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev.
Click the image to see enlargement
We have many good pieces of projection equipment in our booth. I am very
impressed by the Dutch
DP70 projector from Philips, and one is
installed as our main projector. All performances are run on the DP70, both
70mm and 35mm. The DP70 is located dead-center, slightly above the center
line. Every effort has been made to ensure a perfectly sharp picture.
Secondly, we have a DP75 to run the commercials and trailers. It is also a
very fine projector. We also have a 70mm/35mm 4-table non-rewind platter
system which we built a few years ago when we needed to run several 70mm
films on one machine. Originally we wanted to buy a Kinoton, but at a price
of DKK 100.000 (USD $15.500), it was too expensive for us. The price has
dropped since, I believe. Some of our projectionists at that time convinced
me, however, we could build our own non-rewind for DKK 30.000, or DKK 35.000
if we were extravagant. It would not be a problem at all, they assured me.
Anyway, they started working on it and they ran into many problems along the
way and there were many delays. When it was finally finished, it ended up
costing as a Kinoton, and it took us three years to pay for it. Not a very
good solution, but that is life. We should have bought a Kinoton in the
first place. The quality is very good though, and we rarely have problems
Our sound system is centered around a Dolby CP65 processor with 70mm Dolby-A
noise reduction and a Dolby DA-20 digital sound unit. Last year we had a
good offer from Nordisk Film in Copenhagen to buy DTS 70mm including
installation. We thought we were going to show
"Vertigo" in 70mm DTS.
In the end UIP imported a 35mm version. Anyway, we have now shown our first
70mm DTS film;
"Titanic" a year and a half later. We ought to run more of that. It
is so easy to run, and looks and sounds excellent. No more problems with
magnetic sound. Magnetic sound can be exceptionally good with a new print
and all that, maybe even better than digital sound.
logo / poster.
I run 70mm at Biffen for the simple reason I think it is a fabulous format.
I like to look at it, it is easy to handle and we can run it. It is a
pleasure for me to see a large well-illuminated 70mm image on the screen.
And with that large hole in the projector aperture plate, it is easy to
punch some light onto the screen. Those are the primary reasons why I run
70mm here. Our CinemaScope picture looks good too, but there is something
special about 70mm which is hard to describe. If you see a picture filmed in
that format, it is beyond competition, like
"Baraka". All those details, the definition and brilliance,
it is unbelievable. It is like looking out of a huge window. It is almost
Our audience is very happy to see 70mm. There is a large faithful crowd
coming back every time we show 70mm. And especially
"Baraka". I think we have shown it more than 85 times,
which is a record here at Biffen. We are running it again in two weeks time,
and 83 tickets are already booked. We have also shown
"2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in 70mm many times, and "Spartacus"
once which was seen by many people. And finally we have shown
"Far and Away".
The audience prefers for our cinema and the equipment to be in fully working
order, and they like to have a chat with us before or after the film. We are
there every evening and quite often they address us. If they are technically
interested, we invite them to the projection room for a chat. A typical
complaint in cinemas is a picture out of focus. It can happen here too of
course, but I do make an effort to tell our projectionists to focus. If they
can't, they are asked to get glasses or find a new job. Above all, it must
be nice to work here, but a well-focused picture is essential here. We have
a guest book, and when the audiences time after time write how happy they
are with our techniques and presentations, well, that makes us happy.
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