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Historic Big Screen Films Get Major Digital Makeover

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by:  Press ReleaseDate: 02.09.2011
September 2nd, Hollywood, California / in70mm.com newswire/ -- Remember those classic old Cinerama travel adventure films of the 1950s? Many parents of today’s baby boomer generation escorted their eager children to over 260 specially equipped theaters the world over to see these uniquely American large screen Technicolor extravaganzas. In an era when many could not afford to travel, audiences were able to visit all the continents and exotic places of the world by flocking to these virtual reality presentations. Cinerama sported a giant curved screen and a contraption called stereo sound that would surround the audience with speakers. Its immersive 3D like image ”puts you in the picture” as early ads would proclaim as well as “no special glasses required” to see Cinerama’s “you are there” productions. It took three 35mm film frames running side by side blended together on the giant curved screen to create this extra feeling of being in the movie.
More in 70mm reading:

The Cinerama page

"Windjammer" in Cinemiracle

"Russian Adventure"

"This is Cinerama"

"How The West Was Won"

Renault Dauphine

Dave Strohmaier

Internet link:

Pacific Theatres

Arclight Cinemas

Image Trends Inc.

David Strohmaier
After the premiere of "This is Cinerama" in 1952, only a handful of shows were produced in this process. But that’s all they needed as each film would play as much as 50 to 70 weeks at any given major Cinerama theater location. Film historians may remember that it was Cinerama that spawned the acceptance of other widescreen motion pictures. When Cinerama first opened on Broadway, the major studios were stunned at its solid popularity and realized they had to develop their own processes such as CinemaScope, VistaVision and other wide screen formats to compete with Cinerama and to get people away from their black and white TV sets. The popularity of the process lasted over 10 years and ended with the MGM/Cinerama production of "How The West Was Won", which became the top of box office draw of 1962 just as "This Is Cinerama" had been in 1952.
A SmileBox formatted scene from one of the wonder hunting productions slated for full digital restoration: Search For Paradise 1957.

Now there is good news for those eager baby boomers and their surviving parents. The complete catalog of these large screen 3 panel travelogue epics will be remastered in high definition for limited theatrical screenings at any digital venue and a home video release will follow. The remastering will feature the special computer generated process called SmileBox, a letterbox style 2K digital format which will simulate the original curved screen experience even when projected on conventional flat movie and TV screens.
John Sittig, director of Cinerama Inc. at Arclight Cinemas says that his company has just finished remastering 2 of the classic titles, "Windjammer, The Voyage of the Christian Radich" (1958) and the first film produced in Cinerama, "This Is Cinerama" (1952). “The results of this have inspired our company to proceed with restoring the rest of the travel adventure catalog, which also contains a few 70mm productions.”

John has been working closely with Michael Forman from Pacific Theatres, the owners of Cinerama. Michael, a long time board member of the American Film Institute, is very concerned about film preservation, and has funded this digital scanning of all the Cinerama three strip travelogue negatives.
Early scanning efforts uncovered severe fading and damage of the original Cinerama negatives.

This is a scene from "Cinerama Holiday", the 2nd production released in 1954.

After Digital ICE and other special treatments are performed at Image trends, the color is fully recovered and the 3 images image blended back together for the first time in 57 years.

David Strohmaier, noted Cinerama historian and director of the popular feature documentary on Cinerama’s history "Cinerama Adventure", will be spearheading the entire project for Cinerama Inc. “Not only will we have the complications of bringing back to life these incredible film images but also replicating Cinerama’s amazing sound system. Cinerama sound was a whopping 7-channels of stereo surround sound, pretty amazing for 1952.”
Image Trends Inc., an Austin, Texas film restoration company, will partner with Cinerama Inc. in this massive digital effort. The Image Trends scientists and engineers invented a process called “Digital ICE” which actually restores the original filmed images from beneath the dust, dirt, wear and scratches of over 50 years, returning to the viewer the original Cinerama images that so captured the audience and industry. No other process actually restores the images; only Image Trend’s Digital ICE. Dan Sullivan, Image Trends CEO, commenting on the opportunity to restore these priceless, irreplaceable films, said, “Image Trends is proud to be a part of this historic effort. Our team all remember seeing Cinerama movies, even as kids, and are very excited to be able to work with John Sittig and David Strohmaier in restoring these classic movies that will entertain new generations of moviegoers.”
A special 6 perforated film-scanning gate has been created for this purpose. Cinerama film is unusual in that it’s not the normal 4 perforations per frame but 6. Cinerama is also unique in that it has more than 3 times the normal amount of film per feature and also requires a faster projection speed. In some cases the 3 film images will be blended together for the first time in more than 50 years into one widescreen image.
Example #2 Raw 3 panel scans from "Cinerama Holiday". After Image Trend’s Digital ICE scanning procedures and color correction.

These Cinerama digital restorations will take many months to complete but Sittig and Strohmaier’s ultimate goal is to have them ready for a special Hollywood premiere festival for September 28 through October 4, 2012, on the giant Cinerama Dome’s 90 foot wide curved screen.
An original Cinerama Camera is being readied at Stone Cinema Engineering for shooting a short film in 3 panel Cinerama.

Although actual scheduling of titles is far off, cinephiles will be able to see every one of the 3 strip films, in one form or another, during this celebration. At this time, we are planning on showing "This Is Cinerama", "How The West Was Won", an archival print of "Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm", as well as the ultra rare "Renault" 3 minute commercial restored in 3 strip. "Cinerama Holiday", "Seven Wonders of the World", "Search For Paradise", "South Seas Adventure", "Windjammer", and possibly "Russian Adventure" will be presented in restored 2K digital. All titles are still tentative at this time.
The old Cinerama camera is also slated to play a part and is being refurbished and readied for one last fling: A short subject called "In the Picture" will actually be filmed in and around Los Angeles in the coming months and shown in the original format as part of the fall 2012 showings. This event will be a major 60th Anniversary celebration of the birth of Cinerama and the beginning of the widescreen era that is still with us today.
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Updated 21-01-24