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The Importance of Panavision
Highlights of Panavision's history.
Master Thesis. Department of Theatre Science, Royal University of Utrecht, Holland

The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Adriaan Bijl, September 1991. Reprinted by permission from the writer and Panavision

Date: Issue 67 - March 2002

Adriaan Bijl, October 2017.

In the four months I have been writing this thesis I have had a great deal of help, both practical and moral, from a number of people. Professor Douglas Gomery of the University of Maryland was very helpful during the entire process of research and writing.

Gregg Ruzzin at Panavision gave me a warm welcome at the company and set up the appointments with the employees for the interviews. Much gratitude goes to George Kraemer, Takuo Miyagishima, Richard Moore, Iain Neil, Phil Radin, Jurgen Sporn, Al Mayer and John Farrand for their time and effort in recalling Panavision's history. I also would like to thank Dan Hammond for his demonstration of the Panaflex Platinum.

Finally, I wish to thank Tracey Hovda and Heinrich Jessen for correcting the several drafts of this thesis. English is not my native language, so their help was very valuable during the process of writing. Tracey also did a very good job in helping me out during research for articles concerning Panavision's inventions and innovations. Thank you, Tracey.

Washington D.C.
Adriaan Bijl
September 1991

More in 70mm reading:

Super Panavision 70
Ultra Panavision 70

2002 version:
• Introduction
1 In the Beginning
2 Invention Phase
3 Innovation Phase
4 Diffusion Phase
• Conclusion
• Notes

Internet link:

60th anniversary


When people went to the movies in the 1950's, they were introduced to different film formats and projection systems. The image on the screen no longer had the ratio of a large postage stamp, as it had since the birth of the cinema, but now featured a larger width, in comparison to the height. Apart from my academic film studies, I had been a part-time projectionist in a cinema, which molded my interests in favor of the technological aspects of the movies. The widescreen systems of the 1950's fascinated me in particular. When the time came to write my masters thesis, I decided to take widescreen film as the subject. But how?

Film is, as any other academic research, very complex. Even if you decide to examine a particular film, there are a lot of choices. "Heaven's Gate", for example, was to its studio, United Artists, an economic investment which had to be recouped at the box-office. When the film was released in 1980, it was described by one critic as "an unqualified disaster" (1). But "Heaven's Gate" might also be regarded as a 35mm filmstrip, photographed in color with an anamorphic lens. Clearly, this movie can be viewed at one and the same time from three different perspectives (and more, since these are only examples): an aesthetic phenomenon, a commercial product, and an artistic object. 
According to Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery, film studies can be divided into three major branches - 

• film theory
• film criticism
• and film history

The boundaries between them are not fixed, but the three categories do outline primary areas of research emphasis (2).
Dudley Andrew states that "film theorists make and verify propositions about film or some aspects of film. Film theory brings to light what filmmakers undoubtedly comprehend intuitively" (3). 

Film theory deals more with general categories rather than analyses of any particular film. Film criticism emphasizes the qualities of an individual film or group of films. How do various aspects of filmmaking come together in one film? What is the subject of a given film and how is it told by the filmmaker?

Film history focuses on the temporal dimension of the cinema: How did film develop over time to a specific moment? The film historian, on one hand, investigates the changes that have occurred in the cinema since its introduction in the late 19th century when motion pictures were invented and innovated. On the other hand, the film historian is trying to find reasons why certain aspects resisted change (4).

After reviewing the literature on the subject of widescreen, I realized that there was not much written about Panavision, a camera and lens manufacturer which, according to David Bordwell, was able to establish itself thanks to the widescreen processes (5). Furthermore, on many (widescreen) films, it is stated that they are 'filmed in Panavision'. Other names, such as Arriflex, are seldom mentioned.

Yet there is little written about the history of Panavision. In its April 1977 issue, "American Cinematographer" published an article titled "The Panavision Story" by Scott Henderson, as well as an interview with the founder Robert Gottschalk. Mr. Henderson describes rather briefly the history of this company and its processes, which is probably due to the page limitation of the magazine (6).

Robert E. Carr and R.M. Hayes' book, "Wide Screen Movies", allocates merely a few pages to Panavision, but offers no thorough historical analysis of the company (7). 

So there was my project: A technological history of Panavision, Inc.. However, before starting I needed a method and a question from where I could depart. These two items are just as important as the content, since you cannot start an investigation out the blue, without, for example, setting the frame or limitations of the examination, and determining what it is you want to focus upon within the broader subject. A method is required to give the research structures, because writing the technological history of Panavision is not simply a matter of describing technological changes, made by this company, in a chronological order. These changes have to be placed within a certain context.

Panavision is an American company operating in a capitalist society. The main goal is to generate maximum long-term profits, meaning that technological changes evolve from economic decision making. In order to make it clear why these changes occurred, the first step should be to examine the state of technology before the changes, and thus the establishment of Panavision, Inc.. The second step is to divide the time, from the date of the beginning of Panavision until the present, into periods. According to Douglas Gomery and Robert C. Allen there are three distinct phases (8):

• Invention
This phase examines the stages of and reasons for the development of the first product of Panavision.

This phase examines the establishment of the company from the sales and modifications of its first product, through the developing and sales of later products.

• Diffusion
This phase examines how Panavision was able to stay in business and expand its activities. 

The separation of these three phases not only enhanced the clarity of the project, it also provided me with the required method of research. Now all that was left to do before starting was to find my central thesis question. A lot of possibilities came to mind, but in the end there remained only one: What made Panavision, Inc. so important to the motion picture industry?

I started my research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Looking over many articles in industry newspapers such as "Film Daily" and "Hollywood Reporter", and technical journals such as "American Cinematographer" and "Journal of the SMPTE" in search of information about Panavision. 

In July, 1991, I went for nine days to the Panavision plant in Tarzana, California, to interview several employees of the company. During my stay there I was able to speak to the following people:

• George Kraemer (vice-president, optics) who has been working at Panavision since 1960;
• Takuo Miyagishima (senior vice-president, engineering) who has been working at Panavision since 1955;
• Richard Moore, one of the co-founders of the company, who left Panavision in 1962;
• Jurgen Sporn (vice-president, manufacturing) who has been working at Panavision since 1968;
• Al Mayer (vice-president, research & development) who has been at Panavision since 1968;
• Phil Radin (vice-president, marketing) who has been working at Panavision since 1976;
• Iain Neil (senior vice-president, optics) who has been working at Panavision since 1986;
• John Farrand (president and Chief Executive Officer) who has been working at Panavision since 1985.

With all the raw material in hand, I returned to Washington, D.C., where I lived until mid-September 1991, in order to write the thesis. During my research, I found that Panavision holds the patents of numerous inventions. I would have liked to mention all of them, and investigate the reasons for their development. However, due to my financial limitations and lack of time, this was not possible. Therefore, my aim in this thesis is to present the 'highlights' of Panavision's history.

Finally, the aforementioned method was also very useful for the division into chapters: chapter one will focus on the historical context of widescreen. The second chapter will cover the first phase, invention, in the history of Panavision, Inc.. Chapter three provides information about the second phase, innovation, in Panavision's history. Chapter four deals with the diffusion, the third phase Panavision's history. Finally, chapter five will summarize my findings and explain what further research needs to be done.

Notes to Introduction:

1 "New York Times", November 20, 1980. p. 24 (C).
2 Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery, "Film History, Theory and Practice" p. 4.
3 Dudley Andrew, "The Major Film Theories" p. 3.
4 "Film History, Theory and Practice" pp. 4 and 5.
5 David Bordwell, Janet Steiger and Kristin Thompson,"The Classical Hollywood Cinema" p. 359.
6 Scott Henderson, "The Panavision Story" and "Mr. Panavision speaks out" in "American Cinematographer", (April, 1977), pp. 414 ff., and 416 ff.
7 Robert E. Carr and R.M. Hayes, "Wide Screen Movies".
8 "Film History, Theory and Practice" pp. 114 and 115.

In the Beginning

Machinery is one of the most important components of the cinema. When we watch a movie, we often forget that cinema is fundamentally dependent upon technology. It is only when something goes wrong (e.g. the image is out of focus), that we become aware of this. Of course, film is not unique in this sense. Other art forms also depend on technology.

Theater, for example, expanded her expressivity when the electrical light was introduced, by making variations in the illumination of the separate scenes (not to mention the different colors). However, there is a difference: The filmmaker has to have some technological background before he can operate a camera. The theatrical creator does not need that. It might come in handy, but it is not necessary. Theater lived for centuries without electrical lighting and, for that matter, can still do without it. Making a film without a camera, on the other hand, is impossible.

Actually, the basic instruments of the cinema are three separate devices. The motion picture camera, which takes individual photographs in a rapid succession; the printer, which transfers the images on a camera negative to a projection positive; and a projector, which reverses the camera procedure by pulling the positive print between a lens and light source, projecting the resulting image onto a screen. Since the late 19th century when motion pictures were invented, this basic triad has been expanded with a variety of mainly technological devices, creating new possibilities in filmmaking. Examples of these developments were the introduction of sound, color and widescreen.

Historical context of widescreen systems

In 1907, 35mm was standardized by international agreement as the professional film gauge. It was also agreed upon that the filmstrip was to be vertically photographed and projected, that each frame was to be four perforations high on both sides and that the projected image should have an aspect ratio (the width of the screen, divided by the height) of 1.37:1 (1). This format, called academy, remained the standard for decades. Even the arrival of sound on film did not alter the aspect ratio. An area on the left side of the frame on the filmstrip, just beside the perforation, was reserved for the optical soundtrack. There were some experiments in the beginning of the 1930's with widescreen, but no definite changes occurred.

After the introduction of sound, the major Hollywood companies considered the use of wider film. However, the studios did not all use the same film gauge. Paramount, for example, set its hopes on a 56mm system and Fox film (the later part of 20th Century-Fox) experimented with Fox Grandeur, a 70mm system. Several forums were held by the American Society of Cinematographers, among others, on standardization. One of the obstacles in the path of widescreen projection at that time was insufficient illumination. Just when the solution to these problems seemed in sight, the major Hollywood companies withdrew their efforts. The Depression economy threatened to make it an unprofitable investment (2).

The 1950's marked renewed interest. The motion picture industry was declining, which was, presumed to be due to a new technical rival: Television. 

Perhaps this is the right place to contradict the myth that television was responsible for the decline in cinema audiences, and the assumption that Hollywood did not enter the field of television.

The decline of cinema ticket sales started as early as 1945, immediately after World War II, while the number of television sets in the US did not increase until 1948. Therefore, the genuine cause for this change had little to do with television but was instead related more to economic factors. During the war, durable consumer goods (e.g. cars and refrigerators) were not manufactured, and thus not available to the public, because of the increased production for military purposes. Since there was enough employment for everybody in this sector, the average income of the American household had grown. As a result, a lot of money was saved. Just after the war, these goods became available again and were bought on a large scale, despite the fact that incomes had now fallen. Two types of consumer goods were especially popular: 

1. Houses. The creation of suburbs made people leave the city centers where the cinemas were. Going to the movies became more costly both in time and money. 

2. Children. People chose the benefits of these 'goods' above others (3).

Theses trends were responsible for the decline in movie attendance. Most goods are consumed in a combination and as the majority of young American families wanted to stay at home, because of their kids and the transportation costs to the center of the city, they wanted entertainment at home. Radio met that demand. When television was introduced, people preferred this medium and they abandoned radio, not the cinema (4).

Another assumption was, as mentioned above, that the Hollywood studios would not have anything to do with television. This is not true. Hollywood tried to obtain licenses for television broadcasting as early as the 1930's, but was refused by the Federal Communication Commission due to anti-trust legislation. When this strategy did not work out they tried another: Theater television. The main advantage of this was, of course, the presentation of news and important sporting events which could be transmitted live to theaters all over the country. Theater television failed due to extremely high costs. It was an experiment which began in the late 1930's and ended in the beginning of the '50's (5). Whatever the causes, Hollywood needed a solution, so new technologies were tried.

One of the first innovations was called 3-D, released in 1952. This consisted of a special recording technique that created depth in the originally two dimensional image and required the audience to wear a special set of polarized spectacles that were handed out before the screening. It was considered to be a gimmick by critics and the public, and within a few years the novelty had worn off (6).

Cinerama was also introduced in 1952. This system consisted of three synchronized cameras placed next to each other, each one covering one third of the scene, and shown in the cinema by three synchronized projectors placed at the same angle as the camera positions, thus creating one large screen with an aspect ratio of 2.72:1 (7). 

The main problem was the synchronization of the three images. For a start, the three projections had to be equal in quality. The first could not be brighter than the second or the third. If one of the filmstrips broke and a few frames had to be cut out, the other two had to be treated in the same way and in the same place, otherwise the synchronization would be lost. This technical aspect was partially responsible for the failure of Cinerama. It had a nice effect, but the two join lines of the adjacent projections were too obvious and distracted the audience from following a dramatic narration. Subject matter of films were at that time restricted to sensational documentaries, such as a roller coaster ride. Cinerama was, therefore, very limited in its subjects and the public eventually lost interest (8).

Michael Todd was one of the members of the board of Cinerama, Inc. and saw the disadvantages mentioned above as early as 1952. He tried to convince the others within the company of these drawbacks, but did not get any response, so he divorced himself from the Cinerama company, and set out to developin a single lens system whose projected image could fill a screen as amply as Cinerama did. He found cooperation at the American Optical Company, which took charge of the technological aspects of the new system. Dr. Brian O'Brien, head of research at this company, decided that if this system was to be comparable with Cinerama (but less complicated because there would only be one projector) the area exposed on the original negative would have to be increased.

There is a limit in magnifying the standard 35mm image onto a screen without losing either its brightness or definition of the grain. Wider film had to be used in order to fill a screen of the same size as Cinerama, because, first, a larger aperture allows more light to reach the screen, providing more contrast in the projected image and, second, a larger negative has a smaller magnification factor, providing a less grainy picture. The sound was another aspect: 35mm had, and still has, an optical soundtrack, which means that it is reproduced by means of light. The variations in perceived light by a solar-cell are transformed into variations in sound. If there are strains or scratches on the soundtrack, they are also reproduced, which is the reason for the 'knispering' sound in old films. Whereas Cinerama had a six-track magnetic sound reproducer synchronized with the projectors, Todd wanted a multiple-track magnetic sound system along the edges of the film (9). 

The result was called Todd-AO, a 65mm (camera) film system, with an additional 5mm for the release prints containing the six-channel magnetic soundtrack. Its projected aspect ratio was 2.05:1, not as wide as Cinerama. Apparently, this was the maximum they felt which could be obtained out of a 65mm negative.

CinemaScope was introduced in 1953. Much earlier, in 1927, Henri Chretien, a French inventor, had constructed a lens with a specific distortion which he gave the name Hypergonar, but which was eventually renamed anamorphoser (taken from the Greek word anamorphosis = distortion). The basic technique is simple: An additional lens distorts the photographed image, by squeezing it horizontally. Then the same type of lens is used during projection, thus removing the distortion and creating a wider image. It appears that the Hypergonar was met with little enthusiasm in the 1920's and '30's, since there was no widespread use of this invention at that time. However, in the beginning of the 1950's Spyros Skouras, president of 20th Century-Fox, saw possibilities with this invention in the battle against television. The required investment for the production as well as for the theater mode of the movies was relatively low. Standard 35mm film could be used, cameras and projectors did not have to be changed; only the extension of an anamorphoser and a wider screen were required. Fox bought the patent rights of Chretien, renamed it CinemaScope, and used it for the first time on "The Robe" (1953).

However, the principle of distortion could not be copyrighted. As a result, after a while a lot of other names (e.g. Alfascope, Ultrascope) were introduced, using the same effect. This was merely a 'trick' to avoid paying patent rights, a suspicion which is easily confirmed with the so-called expansion factor. Fox had this set on two, meaning that the extension of the anamorphot doubled the width of the projected image, which was the aforementioned academy format. So it became twice as wide as academy. The majority of the other names imitated this technical feature. Considering this, one would think that the aspect ratio was 1.33 x 2 = 2.66:1. However, that was not feasible due to the limited area of the frame. It eventually became 2.35:1.

Originally, Fox tried to sell CinemaScope with a four-track magnetic sound system. Research had shown that the new acetate film introduced around 1950 would not shrink like the nitrate film stock did. The perforation holes could, therefore, be diminished. This would lead to a larger area for the addition of four magnetic soundtracks (for a stereophonic effect just like Todd-AO and Cinerama) along the smaller perforations (10). However, this posed problems, in that the magnetic strips decayed with use. Also, theater owners were not enthusiastic about the cost of installing the soundhead and the additional speakers. According to David Bordwell, "By 1956, only about one-fourth of the CinemaScope installations in the U.S. and Canada had magnetic playback facilities" (11). 

There were weak spots in the so-called anamorphic systems at that time. The perspective distortions and a shallow depth of field, for example, were very obvious. Characters on the side of the frame appeared to be thinner than in the middle. However, the anamorphic format became very popular, largely due to its compatibility with 35mm cameras and projectors. Also, films shot in Todd-AO could eventually be transformed to 35mm anamorphic prints, thereby allowing exhibitors who had not acquired 70mm projectors to show these films in their theaters as well. 

CinemaScope also changed the traditional academy 1.33:1 ratio. In order to make the difference between anamorphic and non-anamorphic projections less obvious, the frameline on the non-anamorphic filmstrip was enlarged. Less image was used per frame, so the resulting image resembled the form of a rectangle and was therefore more appropriate to the shape of the wider screen than academy. The aspect ratio differs by country. The US has a standard 1.85:1 and Europe in most cases 1.75:1. The latter format is called Wide-Screen by some film scholars. To avoid any confusion it will be referred to as spherical in this paper.

Finally, Paramount Pictures offered VistaVision. This system featured a horizontal negative travel instead of the traditional vertical one. The width of the frame was therefore not limited by the perforation edges and was thus wider than the standard 35mm image, since it used eight perforations both on the top and the bottom of the frame. Paramount's VistaVision was supposed to be the answer to Fox's CinemaScope. In 1928, George Hill, a British cinetechnician and Filoteo Alberini, an Italian inventor, had presented this system to the Hollywood studios but it was rejected just like Chretiens' earlier Hypergonar. Paramount purchased the system in the 1950's and named it VistaVision. Initially, the purpose was to shoot and show the film on its horizontal axis, but that did not work out. Instead, the horizontally taken negative was vertically printed on a positive. During this printing process, the original image was reduced from a large negative to a small positive. When projected, the resulting image had an extreme enhancement of its focus. The aspect ratio was 1.66:1. Probably due to the high costs (some sources mention four times as high compared to standard costs of film use) it went out of use (12) except for special effects shots.

These were the main alternative formats of the 1950s. Others, that were not mentioned, were either basically the same systems, or combinations of the main ones. Technirama, for instance, was developed by Technicolor. It combined VistaVision with an anamorphic lens as a camera system. The release prints were either 70mm, identical to Todd-AO, or 35mm anamorphic.

All these systems had one thing in common: The proclaimed enhancement of reality. Television had a smaller screen and was viewed in a familiar surrounding (at home). If the audience wanted to be moved, thilled or gripped by another (escapist) emotion, only a cinema equipped with one of these systems could provide this.

But it was not all sunshine. 3-D and Cinerama were novelties unable to establish themselves as regular camera and theatre systems. Todd-AO was highly specialized, meaning that it was the only system which required different projectors and sound equipment in the theatres. A lot of films had to be produced in this system in order to make the investment of the theatre owner worth while. In the 1950s, it was by no means certain whether that would happen or not. CinemaScope was adaptable to every cinema, but had some technical problems. Finally VistaVision was too expensive to become a regular camera and projection system.

It was in this state of technological and economical turmoil that Panavision entered the business of motion picture equipment.

Notes to In the Beginning

1 "Wide Screen Movies", p. 1.
2 "Classical Hollywood Cinema" p. 359.
3 Douglas Gomery, "Who killed Hollywood?", "Wilson Quarterly" Volume XV, Number 3 (Summer, 1991), pp. 106-112.
4 ibidem.
5 Douglas Gomery, "Failed Opportunities: The integration of the U.S. Motion Picture and Television Industries", "Quarterly Review of Film Studies" Volume X, Number 2 (Summer, 1984), pp. 219-228.
6 "Classical Hollywood Cinema" p. 359.
7 "Wide Screen Movies" p. 26.
8 ibidem p. 165-166.
9 ibidem.
10 Herbert E. Bragg, "The Development of CinemaScope" in "Film History, (International Journal)" Vol. 2., nr. 4. (November/December 1988), p. 363.
11 "Classical Hollywood Cinema" p. 360.
12 "Wide Screen Movies" p. 147.

The Invention Phase

As was stated previously, Panavision was founded when the motion picture industry was in great turmoil. But this particular 'movement' was not the cause of its foundation, it was formed by people. In order to make it clear why Panavision was founded and by whom, one must inevitably look at the issues which preceded the creation of the company.

Robert Gottschalk was born in 1918, in Chicago. His father was a contractor, who specialized in motion picture theaters. This work provided his family with a wealthy financial status. Robert's brother, Howard, moved to California to become a medical doctor. Robert followed him, after graduation in theater and arts at Carleton College in Minnesota. His intention was to become a filmmaker. Being a voracious reader, he had many interests, and photography was one of them. In 1949, he bought an interest in the Campus Camera Shop in Westwood Village and went to work there. This position allowed him to become acquainted with photographers. He made short subjects on 16mm by himself, and was able to sell them to local tv-stations as news items (1). 

Located in the neighborhood of the Campus Camera Shop was the distributor of Jacques Cousteau's aqualung, a device for underwater-photography. Before this invention, in the early 1950's, filming underwater had been difficult. Cameras were great bulky machines but the aqualung made the equipment mobile. Gottschalk was fascinated by it. By virtue of this neighbor, he and John Richard Moore, a personal friend and one of his colleagues at the camera shop, got a good taste of underwater photography. However, the refraction of the water narrowed everything down, and there was no wide angle lens available to undo this limitation. Gottschalk had read about the anamorphic process developed by Henri Chretien in France in the late 1920's. By snooping around, he discovered that C.P. Goerz, an optical company in New York, had a few of these lenses in stock. He bought a couple and did some experiments with them. 

Gottschalk found out that by placing one in front of the other and counter rotating them, the expansion factor could be varied. The original expansion factor of these two lenses was 1.5 each. The two lenses combined together in a certain position would give an expansion factor because CinemaScope had the same expansion factor. It was the beginning of 1953, 20th century Fox had purchased Chretien΄s process and given the name "CinemaScope" a lot of publicity. Gottschalk΄s intention was to make a demonstration reel, in which he could show that he also was able to make an anamorphic film, since CinemaScope seemed poised to become a hot item (2)

By the time 20th Century Fox announced the production of "The Robe", Gottschalk, Moore and Meredith Nicholson, a professional cameraman and friend of Moore and Gottschalk, had filmed several anamorphic scenes of interest. Harry Eller, president of Radiant Screen of Chicago, contacted Gottschalk in the camera shop with the intention of selling screens. When he heard about their anamorphic experiments, he mentioned his business of selling wider screens to the theatres. He also mentioned the expanding market of anamorphic projection lenses. Fox had a contract with Bausch and Lomb, an international lens manufacturer, which would provide the photographic, also known as taking, or camera lenses. However, Bausch and Lomb was not able to fill the market for the required anamorphic theatre projection attachment lenses.

The reason why seems unclear. According to Richard Moore, Bausch and Lomb was not interested in it, because the market for projector attachments was too small for its standards (3). According to George Kraemer, mass-production of Bausch and Lomb's cylindrical type lenses was not possible at that time (4). An advertisement from Bausch and Lomb for their lenses in the SMPTE Journal in 1954 added to the confusion (5). The advertisement stressed the specific qualities of the cylindrical lenses. It is not likely that a company would issue an advertisement for a product in which it is neither interested, nor capable of making in large quantities.

And soon the idea was born to manufacture anamorphic projection lenses. One of the first elements required to make them is glass. William I. Mann was the owner of an optical company in Monrovia, California, and Gottschalk contacted him. Mann introduced Moore and Gottschalk to Walter Wallin, a mathematician, who was interested in optics. He told them that the anamorphic effect could also be achieved with prismatic rather than cylindrical lens elements which was the way Chretien had originally invented, patented, and sold the package to Fox (6). Panavision, Incorporated was founded in the fall of 1953 by Gottschalk, Moore, Nicholson, Wallin (who would design the prisms), and Mann (who would grind the lenses). Gottschalk would be the president, owning 51% of the shares. Moore would be executive vice-president with 12.25% of the shares, and the others would have what was left of the titles and the shares. The starting capital was a total of $5,000, each founder raised, according to his part in the stock, his share of that total amount (7).

The company primarily manufactured prismatic anamorphic theater attachments. The advantage of this projection lens over the cylindrical type lenses was that it was less elaborate and less expensive to make. An additional feature was the variation knob on top of the lens. The lens consisted of two prisms (doublets) which were oriented in such a way that they could be swiveled from zero expansion to two. In other words, the aspect ratio of the projected image could be varied during projection from the traditional 1.33:1 to 2.66:1. This made it feasible to project the non-anamorphic newsreels and trailers, as well as the anamorphic feature through this attachment. The cylindrical lens did not have this ability. Instead, it was fixed on an expansion factor of two, meaning that this attachment had to be removed for non-anamorphic projection. Apart from that, in the early 1950's there always was the possibility that a company would come up with an anamorphic process which featured another expansion factor (8). This would mean another anamorphic lens would be required, unless the expansion factor could be varied.

The Panavision attachment, named the Super Panatar, was capable of covering any possible anamorphic process between zero and two. Finally, the variation knob also functioned as a gimmick. During particular scenes theater projectionists could expand or contract the image on the screen (e.g. during a cartoon) by turning the knob (9). However, there was one disadvantage to this lens: Due to the construction of the prisms, the projection had to go through eight glass surfaces. This meant a final loss of light of about 15% (10). 

But manufacturing is one thing, trying to sell the product was something else. Gottschalk had a gift for that. He started at the end of 1953 by giving a presentation to a group of Hollywood cameramen, technicians and others interested in commercial and educational motion pictures, called the "Reel Fellows". He presented Panavision as a new widescreen process, identical to CinemaScope but with a higher quality in definition and sharpness. During this demonstration, Gottschalk stated that Panavision anamorphic lenses would soon be available for 35mm taking lenses, 16mm taking and projection lenses, 8mm taking and projection lenses, and a Panavision lens for still photography. One of the attendants wrote:

There was less bending of the horizon than was experienced with CinemaScope and excellent depth of field. Straight edges were straight with no barreling or distortion: lines remained square But it is only fair to say that the Panavision demonstration was done in a relatively small room with a small throw, while CinemaScope was on a regular theater screen (11). 

Of course Gottschalk was not lying when he said that the Panavision lens was available for anamorphic photography, but the patents on anamorphic photography belonged to 20th Century-Fox. In Chapter 1 it was stated that within a short period of time other anamorphic processes were presented in order to avoid paying patent rights. This was not the case in Hollywood where Fox dominated the making of anamorphic motion pictures for a number of years, via its subsidiary, CinemaScope. Fox could have prohibited the actual projection in the cinemas. The first thing to do, therefore, was to get permission from Fox to sell Panavision projector attachments to the theaters. According to Richard Moore, Spyros Skouras (president of 20th Century-Fox) granted permission during a meeting in New York, to show Fox anamorphic prints through the Super Panatar (12). 

Thus, the road was now free for selling anamorphic projection attachments. Gottschalk presided over product-demonstrations which he arranged for exhibitors in Los Angeles and New York.


Panavision had now manufactured projection attachments, made up of less expensive components. However, that does not imply establishment in an economic market. The subject of establishment is even more important when one realizes that the market would be limited since there were only a fixed number of theaters. In other words: Following the invention of the anamorphic prismatic projection attachments, new products had to be developed, in order to prevent the company from going out of business once the market of projection attachments had been saturated.

Notes to
The Invention Phase

1 Richard Moore, interview by author, 4 September 1991, Hollywood, California, telephone interview.
George Kraemer, interview by author, 11 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
2 Richard Moore, interview by author, 11 July 1991, Hollywood, California, video and audio recording.
Moore, 4 September 1991.
3 ibidem.
Richard Moore, interview by author, 10 August 1991, Hollywood, California, telephone interview.
4 Kraemer, 1991.
5 Bausch and Lomb advertisement, "Journal of the SMPTE" (November, 1954) p. 201.
6 Moore, 11 July 1991.
7 ibidem.
Moore, 10 August 1991.
8 That actually happened. VistaVision films were for a short period of time available as anamorphic prints with an expansion factor of 1.5, according to two Panavision advertisements in the "Film Daily" 15 October 1954, p. 9, and 12 November 1954, p. 13.
9 "Film Daily" 1 November 1954, p. 21.
10 Kraemer, 1991.
Takuo Miyagishima, interview by author, 11 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
11 "Film World" December, 1953, p. 510.
12 Moore, 11 July 1991.


The Innovation Phase

Panavision started delivering its attachments in March 1954 (1). Sales and distribution rights of the Super Panatar were held exclusively by Radiant Screen Corporation. The original price was $1100 a pair, but by July 1954 they were advertised at $895 a pair (2). This was considerably less than the Bausch and Lomb lenses, which were available at a minimum of $1095 a pair, probably the reason for the price-reduction of the Super Panatar (3). By the end of 1954, another reduction was announced: The retail price of the Super Panatar was established at $695 a pair (4).

Between March and May 1954, over 300 pairs of Super Panatar attachments were sold and delivered worldwide (5). The price was one factor in its success, but there were others. On March 29th of that year, 20th Century-Fox officially declared their withdrawal from the marketing of anamorphic projection attachments. Apparently, there had been some confusion among exhibitors as to whether or not Fox approved their showing of Fox film product with the Super Panatar, or with other non-Fox equipment. Spyros Skouras, the president of Fox, even stressed "the great contribution of Robert Gottschalk's Panatar process in the perfection of variable projection" (6).

This must have made quite an impression upon the confused exhibitor, mainly because Panavision was not the only company with a variable projection attachment. SuperScope, also an anamorphic taking and projection system, had been modified by Irving and Joseph Tushinsky by order of Howard Hughes, president of RKO pictures. Hughes did not want to pay a license fee to Fox, so he developed his own system for RKO. Due to patent rights, he couldn't make it exactly the same, however, so he therefore modified the image area on the filmstrip: A black border on the right side of the frame reduced the projected aspect ratio to 2:1. A normal Bausch and Lomb attachment could still be used during projection, since the expansion factor was still 2. 

Like Fox, the Tushinsky brothers apparently wanted a share of the theater market (7). Skouras mentioned SuperScope in his statement, but did not praise it like the Super Panatar, probably because it belonged to another studio, while Panavision was an independent company. The price of the SuperScope attachments was $700 a pair, considerably less than the Super Panatar. The support of Skouras, however, the man who had given the world CinemaScope, might have been an additional encouragement for the theater owners to buy the Super Panatar (8).

Another reason for the success of the Super Panatar was support from MGM. This studio had tested the Super Panatar which resulted in an order of over 30 pairs by Loew's International, MGM's parent company (9). Due to the anti-trust legislation of 1948, all studios had to divorce themselves from their theaters in the US. But the Hollywood film companies still owned a number of theaters abroad, and that is where Loew's needed the Super Panatar (10).

However, the projection attachment was not the company's only product at that time. Gottschalk had become acquainted with the head of the technical department of Columbia Pictures. In the beginning of 1954, this studio wanted a conversion printing device. Since not every theater was equipped with the required modifications for showing CinemaScope, every film had to be photographed in an anamorphic and a non-anamorphic, also known as "flat", version (11).

There could be another way: Expand the printer, a device explained in Chapter 1, with a de-anamorphoser. In other words: during printing, the exposed negative of an anamorphic film could, by means of a converted printer, be transformed to a positive with a different ratio such as 1.85:1. Of course this meant chopping off the left and right edges of the wider anamorphic image, but it eliminated the cost of so-called double shooting with both anamorphic and flat camera lenses. The conversion process could also be reversed from non-anamorphic to anamorphic if, for example, library stock footage had to be inserted in an anamorphic film.

Columbia was not the only company to install this so-called Micro Panatar. In 1954, Technicolor, Universal International, and MGM each ordered one as well. The purpose was the same: Avoid double shooting (12). 

In March 1955, one year after the Super Panatar was introduced, another projection attachment was presented by Panavision: The Ultra Panatar. Whereas the Super Panatar was a large and heavy sandcasted object, the Ultra Panatar had a thin diecasted shell, which resulted in a reduction of the weight. The Super Panatar was too heavy to be mounted on the projector's prime lens. Instead, it had to be mounted on the projector, meaning that a lot of dirt and dust could easily get caught between the prime lens and the attachment. Because of the weight reduction, the Ultra Panatar could be mounted onto the prime lens, becoming part of a completely sealed optical train. Another advantage of the Ultra Panatar was the elimination of image shift. When the expansion knob on top of the Super Panatar was turned, the image would expand but also shift from the center of the screen. This was normal, the Super Panatar would swivel its prisms in a linear way, which caused the image shift because the projectors were not on the center line of the screen. The Ultra Panatar had a built in correction device, which during expansion, left the image in the middle of the screen. Finally, the price was also an improvement: $495 a pair, compared to $695 a pair for the Super Panatar (13). 

By this point, Panavision had manufactured devices for two of the three fields of the cinema: A printing lens, and two projection attachments. There was only one field left, namely the actual photography of motion pictures. The article in "Film World", mentioned earlier in Chapter 2, stated that Panavision would manufacture anamorphic photography lenses.

But it took some time before an official announcement could be made.
In April 1955, MGM declared that a 65mm photography process would be employed for future important pictures and that special lenses had been developed by Panavision. MGM had done some experiments with 70mm dating back nearly 25 years. Those early [Mitchell] cameras could easily be obtained and modified. Douglas Shearer, head of the technical department at MGM, supervised the work and was assisted by Franklin Milton (14). Shearer had tested the Super Panatar and Micro Panatar extensively before purchasing them, which explains why Panavision would be brought into this project (15). 

The special Panavision camera lenses, to be known as the APO Panatar, had been under development for more than a year. The project emphasized the simplified operation of the lenses, since they would consist of an anamorphoser (expansion factor 1.25) and a prime lens. Normally, you would have to focus those elements separately. Ultimately, the main goal - to integrate them into one unit - was accomplished. Eddie Manx, studio general manager of MGM, "praised the focus sharpness and elimination of distortion" (16). The new system, not exclusively owned by MGM, was originally named MGM Camera 65, but later renamed Ultra-Panavision. Apart from the lenses, Panavision also modified the cameras, in co-operation with MGM (17). According to Richard Moore, "the cameras were as noisy as a cement mixer, so we had to blimp them" (18). An outer shell was placed over the camera, for the purpose of sound reduction. This shell, also known as a blimp, kept the sound inside the camera. A special feature of this system was the versatality of being able to make regular release prints in any aspect ratio required. In other words, the anamorphic camera negative would be adaptable to three strip Cinerama as well as 16mm flat (19). Of course, this meant chopping off the edges in the narrow ratios, like academy. On the other hand, the producer could now decide what release form to use after the picture was shot, instead of before. For this reason, Panavision provided MGM with a special Micro Panatar which converted the anamorphic 65mm image to any other decided ratio. The first film made in Camera 65 (Ultra Panavision) was "Raintree County" (1956, a year after the announcement by MGM), followed by "Ben Hur" (1959). Apparently, MGM considered only these films to be important enough to merit this system. Meanwhile, the legal contract was completed between the two companies, containing screen credit agreements plus an exchange of patent rights, and, a stipulation concerning further lens orders and optical developments (20). 

Perhaps this is the right place for a comparison of Camera 65 (Ultra Panavision) with Todd-AO, the 65mm system introduced a few years earlier by Mike Todd. The two systems are practically identical in almost every way. Both use 65mm film for photography and both have a release print of 70mm including the extra 5mm for the magnetic six-channel soundtracks. The difference is the aspect ratio. Due to the anamorphic attachment in front of the MGM Camera 65 (Ultra Panavision) lens, the projected image had a ratio of nearly 3:1, whereas Todd-AO used spherical lenses and had a projected ratio of 2.05:1. The different systems could therefore be shown on the same projector, except that the former needed an anamorphic attachment with an expansion factor of 1.25. To be completely accurate: The original expansion factor of the MGM Camera 65 system was 1.33. Why it was reduced to 1.25 is uncertain. George Kraemer recalls that the 1.33 expansion would eliminate two sound­tracks. A modification like that would mean that Todd-AO would have a more diversified and sophisticated sound system, since Todd-AO and Camera 65 had been identical in sound system technology. MGM could not accept agree that lesser idea, because it wanted to have a superior (or equal) system in every way compared to the already-existing systems (21). Other sources state that the expansion factor was never changed from 1.33 to 1.25 (22). 

When the author saw a 70mm fragment of "Ben Hur" projected in the theater at Panavision, he checked the attachment which said "1.25 anamorphic power", a term identical to expansion factor. There are a lot of things concerning the Ultra Panavision issue which are unclear. The released 70mm prints seen today are rarely anamorphic, but mainly spherical and thus identical to Todd-AO. According to George Kraemer, there were only 100 theaters worldwide that could show the anamorphic 70mm prints because of the larger dimensions of the screen. The ratio of the 70mm spherical image does not differ that much from the anamorphic, so it is hardly noticeable that the original camera negative is wider. Of course, theater owners could modify their screen in such a way that the 70mm anamorphic print could be shown, meaning that the height of the screen had to be diminished. But why bother if a 70mm spherical picture was available? (23).

The question then remains: Why did MGM develop it in the first place: Richard Moore stated that MGM just wanted a larger picture, not something identical to Todd-AO (24). MGM probably thought it could change all the theaters to 70mm anamorphic but theater owners had invested a lot of capital in obtaining the 70mm equipment and it seems likely that they were not eager to make another costly modification by installing a new screen and obtaining an extra anamorphic projection attachment at that time.

But "Raintree County" was never released in 70mm, spherical or anamorphic, but only on 35mm anamorphic! This was due to the huge popularity of "Around the World in 80 Days", Mike Todd's second feature, which was being shown in every theater equipped with 70mm projectors. There was simply no capacity available for another 70mm release (25). In 1960, Shearer, Gottschalk, and Moore received an Academy Award for "the development of the system, producing and exhibiting wide film motion picture, known as Camera 65" (26).

By that time [1960], Panavision had developed the first hand-held 65mm camera. It was the first camera Panavision had designed from scratch. Previously, production at Panavision had merely involved fitting lenses and attachments to preexisting devices (27). Another taking lens was made for 16mm in the beginning of 1955 (28). Richard Moore recalls it as not being a commercial success. "Our main business was 35mm; 16mm was marginal" (29). Another issue was another special Micro Panatar. "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts" (1955) was a CinemaScope film. Several shots, photographed for the purpose of background projection, were made with VistaVision equipment and 'squeezed' into the anamorphic negative by a Micro Panatar. The printer lens was ordered by Technicolor which supervised the laboratory work on the film (30).

Perhaps now is the right place for a quick summary of Panavision's beginnings to this point. The company was two years old at the time of this Micro Panatar installation. So far, it had developed two projection attachments and sold more than 7,500 pairs to theaters throughout the world. Panavision had developed lenses for a new 65mm camera system for a large film company. Finally, it had developed three printer lenses and sold them to other companies. In particular, these Micro Panatars were important for the establishment of the company in the market of motion picture equipment. The first and second Micro-Panatar avoided double or even multiple shooting: One camera could be used during photography while the printer lens would take care of all other required ratios. This eliminated the extra cost during filming. Panavision became, therefore, very valuable to cost-minded film companies. The third Micro Panatar is important from a political point of view: The actual combination of two competitive systems, VistaVision and CinemaScope, in one film production seems like a milestone. One might safely say that Panavision was well under way to establishing itself.

In October 1957, the formation of Panavision Films, a sister company, was announced. Gottschalk stated that the 65mm system had been so successful, that the company should now plan to make its own films. The first production was to be based on the novel "The Magnificent Matriarch" by Kathleen Dickenson Mellen. The content of the novel tells the - supposedly authentic - story of the conflict between the native inhabitants of Hawaii and the newly arrived white man. It was to be shot on location in Hawaii, in Camera 65 and Eastman color. The film was budgeted at $2,000,000 and would have a running time of approximately three hours. Shooting would start in the spring of 1958. The released film, completed by the end of 1958, would first have a 'roadshow' version in 70mm. Panavision would handle the distribution itself, carefully selecting the theaters capable of showing it on a 3:1 screen, since the minimum width of the screen had to be 60 feet. After one year, the film would be released in a 35mm anamorphic version and distributed by a major studio. David Lewis, producer of "Raintree County" was hired, as was a scriptwriter by the name of Frank Nugent, who had written "Mr. Roberts" among others. At the beginning of 1958, they both went to Hawaii to scout for locations and confer with the author of the novel (31). 

Everything has to be perfect, and was going to be, except for one 'but': According to Richard Moore, it was all a dream. "Gottschalk and I were, deep down in our hearts, filmmakers. We entered the business of making attachments for the industry, because we saw the opportunity. What we really wanted was to make feature films. But there was no way we could realize a project like this, it was just too big and nobody would let us produce it" (32). 

So an alternative film was set up: "Dangerous Charter". Gottschalk presented it as an exercise, as a means of making a $100,000 picture look like a $500,000 production (33). The story was a melodrama: Three fishermen salvage an ocean-going yacht, find out that it belongs to drug dealers who force the fishermen to help them with their illegal operations. After the usual bloodshed, the good guys triumph. Shooting of the film was completed by the end of 1958 (34). However, the film was released in late 1962 by Crown-International. The critiques were not bad. It was considered as a good second half of a double-bill, due to its length, 75 minutes, and its strength, which was stated by "The Hollywood Reporter" as: "not strong enough for the top place. .... Gottschalk demonstrates a competent hand as a director, although the script is not very inventive" (35). Interesting though, was the fact that the movie was shot in 35mm spherical, which was somewhat embarrasing for a company that focused on widescreen processes. According to Takuo Miyagishima, who made the spherical lenses, it was just a matter of economics. "We could not tie up our lenses for this film" (36).

The Auto Panatar Arrives

What probably settled Panavision in the motion picture industry was the introduction of the Auto Panatar, a 35mm taking attachment. At this point, a comparison between the Auto Panatar and the already existing CinemaScope process is necessary. As was stated in Chapter I, CinemaScope had a lot of faults, shallow depth of field being one of them. However, the major short coming was the effect of the so-called 'anamorphic mumps'. 

When, say, an actor, moves toward the camera, or the camera moves to him, the camera lens has to focus during this movement in order to keep the image sharp. While the camera lens focuses during the movement from, say, a long shot of his entire body to a close-up of his face, his face becomes larger. This is normal, due to the magnification factor. During focussing a camera lens, there is a magnification change. But with a traditional anamorphic attachment in front of the prime lens, the anamorphic power reduces due to the magnification change. The closer the actor's face, the more the anamorphic power is reduced. This is only about 10%, but it is noticeable on the theater screen, where a constant anamorphic power is used to project the image. So in a close-up, an actor's face appears slightly fatter than normal. In the early CinemaScope films, the Director of Photography could find his way around this. The medium was new, the audience was getting used to it, so it was not that much of a problem that there were no close-up shots. But as more and more directors began using CinemaScope, it became an annoying limitation. In addition to that, actors were reluctant to be photographed in CinemaScope, because, while carefully watching their diet, they had fat faces during close-ups (37). This technical shortcoming was a severe limitation on CinemaScope, and Gottschalk knew that if he could eliminate this, he would have a major breakthrough.

According to statements from some people at Panavision, it was Wallin who came up with the solution (38). On the other hand, according to Richard Moore, it was originally Gottschalk's idea. "When he bought two anamorphic attachments from C.P. Goerz for his underwater camera in the beginning of the 1950's, he discovered that by counter-rotating the first in front of the second the anamorphic power could be varied. It is my recollection that he would spend nights experimenting with lenses until he had found the solution. It might have been Wallin who designed the Auto Panatar, but it was Gottschalk's idea. He found out that, by inserting two counter rotating lens elements, the anamorphic power could be stabilized" (39).

The Auto Panatar was demonstrated during a press conference at the end of July, 1958. Prior to that, it had been developed and supported by MGM, who provided the required facilities for tests (40). According to George Kraemer, MGM asked Panavision to manufacture anamorphic taking lenses because it no longer wanted to pay license fees to 20th Century-Fox for CinemaScope lenses (41). This might be true, but the writer did not find any newspaper announcements of actual collaboration between MGM and Panavision on this project. However, Gottschalk did mention the support from Eddie Manx and Douglas Shearer during the development of the Auto Panatar. 

An additional feature was the single focus, identical to the one the APO Panatar had. This allowed the anamorphic attachment and the prime lens to be focussed in one action.

Another lens, the Ultra Speed Panatar, was demonstrated as well. It was also an anamorphic lens, but it could be used to shoot with a minimum of light. This allowed the director to shoot a film on location without the cumbersome generators needed to provide electrical power for the lighting equipment. Both lenses were hand-made and could be supplied to customers at the rate of two per month. The demonstration was very successful. MGM had already ordered 15 Auto Panatar lenses at $11,000 each, and Columbia also ordered a few (42). George Stevens, who was currently directing "The Diary of Anne Frank", wanted to use it on that film and bought one on his own account. However, as the film was a 20th Century-Fox production, he was refused the right to use the Panavision lens (43). 

Panavision later received an Academy Award for the Auto Panatar, in 1959. Other studios and independent producers, that could afford it, used Panavision anamorphic lenses from then on. Finally, in 1967, 20th Century-Fox dropped their own CinemaScope in favor of Panavision. According to George Kraemer, Fox was never able to eliminate the 'anamorphic mumps' in their system (44).

Meanwhile, in October 1958, Panavision presented another widescreen process. It did not have a name at first but it was eventually named Super Panavision. This system was identical in every way to Todd-AO. Rowland V. Lee, was to produce "The Big Fisherman" and wanted to film it in a widescreen format. However, he was not satisfied with the existing systems, so he asked Gottschalk to develop a system that was adaptable to any theatre equipped with conventional widescreen. It appeared to constitute an improvement over Todd-AO since it was stated as being "capable of throwing a bigger, clearer picture than any widescreen process now in use" (45). Richard Moore, however, does not recall any significant difference between the two: "This is Hollywood. Put a name to it and sell it" (46).

Around 1960, there were some changes in the management of the company. William Mann sold his optical company to Texas Instruments and then retired (47). Then Walter Wallin left. The reasons why are unclear. According to Richard Moore, "he was only interested in mathematics, did not care much about money, so there was no need for his stay" (48). According to George Kraemer, "He founded his own consulting company, mainly for military purposes" (49). That would indicate that he did need a major source of income. Another reason may also have been that there was not much for him to do at Panavision anymore. The Auto Panatar had been invented, so the years to follow might not have involved much more than refinements of existing technology. However, he remained friendly with Gottschalk who consulted him occasionally. Meredith Nicholson also left. He had served as a secretary treasurer at Panavision, but did not have any education in this field. He was a trained Director of Photography and chose to leave to become one again.

Their shares were sold partly to the company, and partly to Gottschalk and Moore (50). A few years later, in 1962, Richard Moore left the company for reasons similar to those of Meredith Nicholson. He had a degree in Naval Plants, obtained from USC during WWII. He felt comfortable in designing mechanical parts, but he was more interested in shooting film. Nicholson had provided him with a union card, which enabled him to work at the big studios. "Without such a card you can only do marginal things" (51). However, unlike the others, Moore didn't sell his stock.

In the 1960's, a new project was proposed. According to Takuo Miyagishima, the original idea was to go into a joint-venture with Mitchell Cameras, the largest camera manufacturer who had supplied all of the studios with their equipment. Panavision would design a 35mm silent reflex camera and Mitchell would build it. However, Mitchell was not interested (52). In 1962, MGM produced "Mutiny on the Bounty", a movie that went over budget (53). It caused that company severe economic losses, whereupon MGM decided to diversify its numerous departments. The costume, prop, and camera departments were sold to supply companies. Panavision was offered the cameras and related equipment. However, the company's financial resources were not sufficient for a complete acquisition, so future credit was given to MGM (54).
Instead of going to Mitchell Cameras, the company now owned a large amount of cameras itself. However, the majority of the equipment was obsolete, and thus had to be modified to meet the standards of the day. The latest development in photography was the principle of "reflex". This device is a set of mirrors, located behind the lens and in the viewfinder. The photographed image is reflected via those mirrors into the viewfinder, which enables the camera operator to see precisely what is being filmed. Before the reflex-cameras, there was a separate viewfinder, located near the lens. The camera operator had to make compensations because he could not see precisely what was being filmed. Another issue was the noise level: The cameras were quite noisy. Some degree of noise reduction could be obtained by simply modifying the sprocket teeth. There are several different sound-causing movements during transportation of the filmstrip inside the camera. First, the film is taken out of the magazine by the sprocket­teeth. Second, it leaves the sprocket teeth in order to be exposed. Third, the film is taken up again by the sprocket teeth. Fourth, the film leaves the sprocket teeth and goes back into the magazine, pulled by a belt-driven take-up motor. It makes a difference, concerning the soundlevel, whether the film is taken up, or leaving the sprocket teeth. So, in order to make the camera less noisy, the sprockets had to be modified for those different movements (55). But, again, the remedy involved a modification. The actual reduction of sound was mainly accomplished by an outer housing, a "blimp", which kept the sound inside. The result was called Panavision Silent Reflex, also known as the PSR.

It is difficult to locate the exact date of the PSR's introduction. According to George Kraemer, it occurred around 1967-68 (56). Other sources mention "the early 1960's" and dates in between (57). This confusion of information supports the idea that the development of the PSR might have been a more evolutionary process, instead of a definite step forward, especially since neither "American Cinematographer" nor the "Journal of the SMPTE" mention anything about the PSR in the period between 1960 and 1969. 

Although there was a reduction in weight, the PSR was still heavy and bulky, according to today's standards. However, it was reported as being successful, one of the reasons being the introduction of the zoom lens. This type of lens gives its best performance when attached to a reflex-camera (57). 

During the same time period, the early 1960's, television used more and more film instead of videotape. Film cameras were needed to shoot TV series, and Panavision was approached for cameras and lenses. However, with the exception of the Super Panavision 70 lenses, the company only had anamorphic lenses. As a result, spherical lenses began to be manufactured for television and 1.85:1 motion picture photography (58). 

Finally, there was another event in the early 1960's which should be mentioned here. Panavision developed another printer lens in collaboration with Technicolor and Eastman Kodak. It featured a blow-up technique of a 35mm anamorphic image onto a 65mm filmstrip. Panavision designed it, Technicolor experimented with it in its laboratory facilities, and Eastman Kodak developed new color negative stock. It was first used on "The Cardinal" in 1964 (59). 
There are several reasons for the development of this device. 

• First, in the early 1960's, the number of theaters equipped with 70mm projectors was increasing. As a consequence, the potential audience for 70mm projection increased as well. 

• Second, especially outside the US, it was customary to raise the admission fee for a theater ticket if a film was projected in 70mm. American producers thus gained more revenue from foreign releases, if their films were projected in 70mm versions. 

• Third, the drive-in theaters had to wait until late in the evening before they could start with their show. As was pointed out in Chapter 1, a wider negative allows more light to reach the screen. As a result, the projected image increased in brightness. In other words, a 70mm print would allow the drive-in theaters to start their shows earlier, since it was no longer necessary to wait until it was totally dark. The number of shows per evening could therefore perhaps be increased, which was good from an economic point of view.
• Fourth, the producer does not have to decide whether or not he is going to shoot the film in 65mm. He can use 35mm anamorphic, and after completion, decide if the film is going to be released in a 70mm print.

• Finally, it is cheaper. The 70mm film gauge (for exhibition) became available for the medium-budget producer, who couldn't afford the more costly 65mm photography. There were some drawbacks of course, but they were not noticeable to the average viewer. Gottschalk stated that this blow-up process was not meant to replace Super Panavision and Ultra Panavision (60).

Even though the printer lens was a breakthrough, it was also the death blow to most 65mm photography. As it was cheaper, the new lens eliminated entirely the more costly handling (acquisition, developing, and editing) of 65mm film. If a 35mm film was ready to be released, a blow-up could be made for the theatrical release. This particular technique was actually carried out. In the years to follow, the number of blow-ups would increase, whereas the number of 65mm productions would diminish. In 1969, David Lean used 65mm cameras for principal photography on "Ryan's Daughter", and it was not until 1991 that they were used again. In between, 65mm equipment was only used for special effects photography, or special sequences. 

For those who do care for 65mm photography in combination with 70mm projection, there is some good news coming up in Chapter 4.


Panavision could establish itself because it filled the right market niches. There are two prime examples:

1. The prismatic anamorphic projection attachments. This product was inexpensive to make and could, therefore, be marketed at a lower price compared to the existing cylindrical attachments.
2. The anamorphic camera lens. This item eliminated the so-called 'anamorphic mumps'.

However, after introducing these innovations, how could Panavision retain its position as an established company?

Notes to The Innovation Phase

1 "Film Daily" 18 March 1955, pp. 10-12.
2 "Motion Picture Herald" 'Better Theater Section' 3 July 1954, p. 2.
3 "Film Daily" 30 March 1954, p. 1 ff.
4 "Film Daily" 24 December 1954, p. 7.
5 "Film Daily" 26 May 1954, p. 1 ff.
6 "Boxoffice" 3 April 1954, p. is unknown. The author received this paper clipping at Panavision headquarters with no page number on it. This issue is missing in the Library of Congress. Other tradepapers do report this meeting, but not this quotation.
7 "Wide Screen Movies" p. 67-68.
8 "Film Daily" 25 May 1954 p. 12.
9 ibidem.
10 "Film Daily" 27 August 1954, p. 11.
11 "Film Daily" 26 May 1954, p. 1 ff.
It should be made clear at this point, that after "The Robe", Hollywood did not abandon the academy ratio.
CinemaScope was only used for important films.
12 "Motion Picture Daily" 10 December 1954, p. 3.
13 "Hollywood Reporter" 18 March 1955, p. 3.
"Film Daily" 18 March 1955, p. 10-12.
"Showmen's Trade Review" 2 April 1955, p. 21 (E).
14 "Hollywood Reporter" 27 April 1955 p. 1 and 19.
15 "Daily Variety" 10 December 1954, p. 17.
Moore, 11 July 1991.
16 "Hollywood Reporter" 27 April 1955, p. is unknown.(see note 6.)
17 "Film Daily" 27 April 1955, pp. 1 and 5.
18 Moore, 11 July 1991.
19 "Motion Picture Daily" 13 October 1955, p. 3.
20 "Film Daily" 19 October 1956, pp. 1 and 4.
21 Kraemer, 1991.
22 Herbert A. Lightman, "Why MGM chose Camera 65" in "American Cinematographer" (March, 1960), p. 162 ff.
23 Kraemer, 1991.
24 Moore, 11 July 1991.
25 "Why MGM chose camera 65".
26 Literal text perceived from Takuo Miyagishima, interview by author, 15 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video + audio recording.
27 Kraemer, 1991.
Takuo Miyagishima, interview by author, 12 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video + audio recording.
Moore, 11 July 1991.
28 "Boxoffice" 30 April 1955, p. is unknown (see note 6).
29 Moore, 10 August 1991.
30 "Motion Picture Herald" 19 November 1955, p. 25.
31 "Hollywood Reporter" 30 October 1957, p. 1.
"Film Daily" 9 January 1958, p. 3.
"Daily Variety" 6 March 1958, p. 4.
"Daily Variety" 26 November 1958, p. 3.
32 Moore, 10 August 1991.
33 "Film Daily" 5 November 1958, p. 1 and 7.
34 "Daily Variety" 26 November 1958, p. 3.
35 "Hollywood Reporter", 29 September 1962, p. 3.
36 Miyagishima, 1991.
37 "Film Daily" 30 July 1958, p. 1 and 4.
38 Kraemer, 1991.
Iain Neil, interview by author, 15 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
39 Moore, 10 August 1991.
40 "Film Daily" 30 July 1958, p. 1 and 4.
41 Kraemer, 1991.
42 "Film Daily" 30 July 1958, p. 1 and 4.
43 "New York Times" 3 August 1958, (2) p. X5.
44 Kraemer, 1991.
45 "Boxoffice" 13 October 1958, p. 14.
46 Moore, 11 July 1991.
47 ibidem.
48 Moore, 10 August 1991.
49 Kraemer, 1991.
50 Moore, 10 August 1991.
51 Moore, 11 July 1991.
52 Miyagishima, 12 July 1991.
53 "Wall Street Journal" 25 June 1962, p. 24.
54 Kraemer, 1991.
Miyagishima, 12 July 1991.
55 Miyagishima, 12 July 1991.
56 Kraemer, 11 July 1991.
57 "The Panavision Story".
58 ibidem.
59 Moore, 11 July 1991.
Charles Loring, "Breakthrough in 35mm-to-70mm print-up process" in "American Cinematographer" (April, 1964) p. 224.
George Kraemer and John Farrand stated that "Doctor Zhivago" was the first film which was printed up from 35mm to a 70mm release print but this article in AC confirms Mr. Moores' recollection.
60 "Breakthrough in 35mm-to-70mm print-up process".

The Diffusion Phase

In order to answer the question asked previously there are a few aspects to be taken into consideration: after the sales of the projection attachments and a few anamorphic 35mm taking lenses, Panavision began limiting its operations to renting out its equipment, and ceased selling it. Initially, the reason for this policy was that the anamorphic taking lenses were complicated and needed constant tuning and maintenance work. Apart from that, the company would work itself out of business by selling equipment. The policy of renting worked well for everybody. The producer could completely write off the cost of lenses on one production, whereas buying the lens would imply a period of years before the lens had amortized its costs. Another advantage was that Panavision could, during maintenance, improve or update its equipment, since it belonged to the company (1.

This rental policy, in conjunction with continued maintenance and improvement, enabled the company to tailor its equipment to the requests of the customers. As a matter of fact, the design of the Ultra Panatar was partly a result of complaints from theater projectionists (2). The Auto Panatar was built with the purpose of eliminating 'anamorphic mumps'. The modification of the Mitchell equipment into the PSR was accomplished in collaboration with directors of photography and camera operators. The crystal-controlled camera motor, which eliminates the cumbersome sync cable between camera and soundrecorder, is one example of such a modification based on costomer feedback.

The policy of customer engineering is still important in the company's philosophy. A lot of capital is spent in developing an improved product, because, again, it is not limited by a sales price. If, for example, a lens is designed for the sole purpose of being sold to purchasers, it cannot cost more than a certain amount of money in the development and manufacturing phases. Otherwise the company will gain no profit from it - or nobody will buy it. Sales always involve having to reckon with competitors that operate in the same market. However, if a lens is developed and manufactured for the purpose of being rented, it may cost as much as the company desires (within reason, of course), since the costs will be returned over a certain period of time, and eventually profit will be made. As a result, the best material available can be used to manufacture the lens. In fact, from a customer's point of view, this is an important consideration since, otherwise, equipment which is for sale would be preferred. In other words, something 'extra' has to be presented which encourages the customer to rent the equipment, instead of buying that of a competitor. The equipment must also be of superior quality for the reason that it has to last for many years, (whereas the equipment manufactured for selling has to break down or wear out after a certain amount of time, to ensure continued sales). 

However, the rental policy also implies something else: In order to pay highly specialized personnel that are qualified to do the job of designing and engineering equipment, capital is needed upfront. Since profits will not be earned for quite some time, investors are a necessity. 

In 1965, Panavision was purchased by Banner Productions which was headed by Sy Weintraub. The deal involved a cash payment of $3,600,000. Gottschalk would remain president and Weintraub become chairman of the board (3). Banner bought the company because "Panavision is the IBM of the motion picture industry in optics and electronics, perhaps the most important of our business today" (4). This is an interesting comment. Weintraub mentioned "optics and electronics" but not cameras. This seems to indicate that the PSR was either not ready yet or was not considered special.

Gottschalk justified the sale to Weintraub by stating that he was obstructed "from his inability to keep up with the demands of production on equipment and also to devote his time to research and development" (5). This is all very noble, but there might be another reason. According to Richard Moore, Gottschalk had mentioned during the early 1960's that he would sell the company, if he could personally gain a net profit of $1,000,000. There were potential buyers in that period of time, but Weintraub was the first to offer Gottschalk this amount of money. Actually, he might have earned more than that, since he owned more than 50% of the shares. In any case, the purchase meant that Moore was cashed out of the company. He had owned a little over 13% of the shares. The money exchanged for the remaining shares, owned by the company itself, was an investment (6). 

The buy-out enabled Panavision to expand geographically. Until that year, the company had only been supplying Hollywood with its equipment. Gottschalk now looked all over the world for rental companies that were well established in their areas and that provided the equipment Panavision didn't have, such as grip, sound and lighting (7). However, within three years the company changed ownership again. According to Richard Moore, Weintraub was a businessman, who's first goal was to make profit (8). In 1968, he received an offer from Kinney National Service, Inc., a conglomerate involved in a wide variety of activities, from entertainment to building cleaning. The transaction involved more than $10,000,000 in stock. Gottschalk still remained president, but Weintraub retired from the company (9). One year later, in 1969, Kinney bought the Hollywood film company Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, thereby concentrating its activities more in the field of entertainment. This last take over resulted in a change of name. In 1971, Kinney National Service, Inc. was renamed Warner Communications, Inc. The purchase by Kinney (Warner), enabled Panavision to build up a large rental inventory (10).

Apart from this quantity expansion, Gottschalk had an idea for a new camera. The PSR was doing well from a business point of view, but there had to be a way to build a camera which was as silent as the PSR, but much lighter. Before modification, the weight of the original Mitchell camera was 165 pounds. After modification, the weight was reduced to 140 pounds (11). This was progress, but it was a long way from being a hand-held camera system. Gottschalk hired Albert Mayer, an engineer from Mitchell Cameras, and gave him the task of designing a 35mm hand-held camera system which would also be silent. Mayer worked on the project for about a year, before Gottschalk requested an additional feature: apart from being hand-held and as quiet as possible, it also had to be versatile for hand-held and studio purposes. The entire project took more than four years. The result is known as the Panaflex (12).

The Panaflex was the first 'real' Panavision camera, with no influence from Arriflex or Mitchell (13). The weight was now under 100 pounds, enhancing the possibility of filming on location, away from the studio and thereby avoiding background projection. That was in itself no major step forward since other 35mm hand-held cameras had been invented during the 1950's. But...they were not silent. It was never possible to shoot sync-sound with these cameras, since they were much noisier than the Panaflex, which had a soundreading as low as 24db. The PSR had the same soundreading but was not a hand held camera (14). 

The reduction of the sound was done differently than it was with the PSR. As stated earlier, the PSR was blimped, meaning that the sound was kept inside by means of an outer shell. Eliminating this blimp, in order to reduce weight, would imply that the camera itself had to be quiet. What makes the most noise inside the camera is, of course, the movement of the film. There will always be sound during the transportation, since there is a moving mechanism, a motor running and transporting a plastic medium at a speed of 24 frames per second in an intermittent motion. Every image had to be photographed behind the lens, meaning it has to come to a halt for 1/24 of a second at that position and afterwards be replaced by another section of film. There was some modification of the sprocket teeth during the development of the PSR but it was not enough. Robert Shea designed the camera movement of the Panaflex. He worked closely with Jurgen Sporn, a machinist at that time, who would build the prototype of the camera movement. After months of experimentation, three additional prototypes were built, whereupon a decision could be made as to which one was the best (15). It should once again be stressed that Panavision did not design its equipment with the intention of selling it at a competitive price. The policy of renting eliminated any cost-cutting priorities that would have ultimately worsened the sound level of the camera. 

After the decision had been made as to what movement was the best, four Panaflex cameras were built and used for a number of days on different productions in order to test them. Everything went according to plan and by the end of 1972 the Panaflex went into production. Jurgen Sporn recalls, "We were always behind with the camera movements. I became the lead man of that department and we were always fighting sound. The first step is to make the camera run quietly by itself. Then, after threading the filmstrip along the sprockets of the movement, make it as quiet as possible while the film is moving. This is a very time-consuming process, which requires a great deal of patience and results in numerous headaches" (16).

But this process of product-improvement involved more than sound reduction: Some electronic features, such as a digital display for speed and frames per second (fps), were introduced. The magazine had its own take-up motor, meaning that it was no longer belt-driven from the camera motor. "The Sugarland Express" (1973) was the first production filmed entirely with Panaflex cameras (17).

During the mid-1970's, video became more important for producers. Its advantage of allowing the same tape to be used over and over again as well as the lack of processing costs and time, made its use more economical, especially when compared to film. As a result, some people thought that video would take over. In response, Panavision developed a video camera called the Panacam. Panavision lenses could be used for photography and a special feature, the optical viewfinder, was added. This was in contrast with the more common electronic one, since it again used the principle of reflex. The electronic viewfinder is identical to a small TV-screen. According to Jurgen Sporn, it was not a great success due to the competition. "The electronic technology become obsolete very quickly, we could never keep up with it like the giant electronic companies can. They turn out a new video camera every year" (18).

As was stated before, Panavision updates its equipment during maintenance. The Panaflex Gold was an improvement over the earlier Panaflex, especially because of the electronic features. Introduced in 1976, it featured a completely different electronic drive, all the electronics were re-designed, and the viewfinder was improved. According to Albert Mayer, "We take notes on the complaints of our customers in order to modify the cameras to their wishes" (19) To make the improvements known to the industry, the name Panaflex was changed to Panaflex Gold.

Panavision introduced something completely new in the late 1970's: The Panaglide. It was actually a harness enabling the camera operator to walk with the Panaflex attached in front, which dampened out the jolts and vibrations during walking and even running. Needless to say, it made the filming of a moving object (e.g. the actor) less cumbersome. There was no need to set up a dolly track anymore; the camera operator could simply walk behind, or in front of, the object. At a testimonial dinner at the University of Southern California in 1979, director Sidney Pollack called the Panaglide "probably the greatest breakthrough since the camera came out of its sound-enclosed box" (20).

The 1970's also saw the introduction of the Panastar, a high speed camera ranging from 6 to 120 fps. The speed of the Panaflex could be varied between 18 and 39 fps. But another camera was required for slow-motion photography. However, the production of the Panaflex was given greater priority, so not that many Panastars were built. Also, the competition was very strong. Arriflex had a similar camera, called the Arri III, which resembled the Panastar very much, although, according to Tak Miyagishima, there is a difference in the steadiness. Special Effects photography requires pinregistrated photography. The Arri III does not have this refinement, whereas the Panastar does (21).

In the early 1980's, the Panaflex 16 was introduced. This was a 16mm camera with all the features of the Panaflex. It was possible to convert the original Panaflex to the 16mm filmgauge (Jurgen Sporn designed the movement for that) but it was never widely used. Although it was very silent for a 16mm camera, it was too large (22). The Panaflex 16 was an original 16mm, developed for the purpose of low-budget photography, music videos and TV-commercials. Just like the Panatar 16, it was marginal from an economic point of view. The main business of Panavision remained 35mm. 

In 1982, Robert Gottschalk passed away. It is difficult to give him the proper place in the history of Panavision, since there is a lot of confusing information. He would present new inventions and innovations to the press as being his own when they were not. He had many fields of interest, and was therefore able to participate in a variety of conversations. He was also very creative, but he was not an engineer. He needed George Kraemer, Takuo Miyagishima, Richard Moore, Walter Wallin, Jurgen Sporn and Albert Mayer, just to name a few, to realize his ideas. Richard Moore credited him with great showmanship. 

"He was a very good salesman and he knew how to get the name Panavision out. He insisted on having a full chart screen credit, with nothing else on it, and the newspaper advertisement credit. It was his idea to add the prefix 'Pana' to the name of every product of the company. Some people ridiculed that by saying that the restrooms at Panavision were called Panatoilets. And he also was the driving force behind everything" (23).

This is confirmed by others (24). He would encourage everybody to come up with new ideas and work on their realization if he liked them. During the interview, for instance, George Kraemer, stated that he once asked Gottschalk why black paint was used for the equipment; it looked dirty so easily. So Gottschalk started to experiment with colors and better paint and succeeded in improving the appearance of the Panavision equipment. The new look made the camera crews handle equipment it with more care (25).

During the development of any product, Gottschalk would look over everybody's shoulder and check the smallest detail. Perhaps the most accurate statement about him is given by Philip Radin: "He was difficult to work with, but you had great respect for the man, because look at what he has done!" (26).

Gottschalk's successor was Jack Holzman, originally the vice-president, appointed by Warner Communications. When Warner Communications faced financial trouble in the mid-1980's, Panavision was sold to another group of investors, headed by Ted Field, John Farrand, and Alan Hirschfield. 

Jack Holzman was a member of the board at Warner Communications and when Warner sold Panavision, he had to retire from Panavision. John Farrand was his successor.

The new owners saw their purchase as an investment. Warner had stated that it had positioned Panavision as a company which supplied 65% of the worldwide feature film market with its equipment.

Within a few months of assuming his new position as president, Farrand found that this was not true. In reality, Panavision supplied only 25% of the world­wide feature film market. According to John Farrand, it was a growth company, not one to be left on its own while the management sits back to wait for the investment to be returned. Also, in his view, the company had gone backwards since Gottschalk's death: "It was not that it had done anything wrong, it just had not done anything" (27). 

After five months, Ted Field and John Farrand bought the other investors out. Farrand believed that product honesty is very important in the professional business. When that is accomplished and the product is the best, it will sell itself. He reviewed the products to see if they were still the best. A few aspects of the cameras were not as precise as they were said to be. Certain methods of calibration on the optics were, in his view, not accurate enough because they were done by eye, instead of by computer (28). That was straightened out, and Panavision embarked on two new projects:

The Platinum, a new Panaflex camera, was introduced in 1986. It featured a reduction of sound to under 20dbB as well as an improved viewfinder. 

Furthermore, the Primo lenses were introduced in 1989. These lenses feature color-matching. Before the Primos, the director of photography had to shoot several tests, since there could be a difference in color between the required set of focal­length lenses. The Primos are color-wise identical to each other, meaning that the director of photography does not need to shoot tests anymore, before he starts filming the actual production. 

In 1987, the company was sold by Farrand and Field to Lee International, also a supply company of the motion picture industry (primarily of light equipment). The management of Lee International reasoned that by purchasing Panavision, it could become a more complete service company. However, the purchase was over-financed and the company couldn't repay the bank. In 1989, E.M. Warburg, Pincus and Co., a major investor in New York, took over and is still the owner today (29). [Not anymore November 2000, Editor].

In late 1987, when the initial program of the "Platinum" was completed, John Farrand gave the order to build a new 65mm camera. According to him, most people wanted 65mm back, but nobody put any effort into revitalizing it. The existing 65mm cameras were too cumbersome, so the goal was to make a camera equal in performance to the Platinum. "In that case, you can give producers the choice to film either in 65 or in 35. You cannot give a producer a choice between a new and an obsolete camera" (30).

In the early days, the new camera was given a lot of priority. However, by the time it was half-way developed, it was obvious that nobody would use it in the near future, so priority was shifted to other projects. In late 1989, the decision was made to film "Far and Away", directed by Ron Howard, in 65mm. As a result, plans to develop the 65mm camera were speeded-up. However, the project involved not only a camera, but also new lenses, new accessories, in fact a completely new package (31). 

In addition, the use of 35mm anamorphic lenses has increased in filmmaking. When the revenues from TV and video releases became more important from a commercial point of view in the mid-1970's, anamorphic photography lost popularity, due to the different ratios.

This seems ironic, since 35mm anamorphic photography, as well as 65mm photography was invented for the purpose of attracting audiences to the cinemas, away from the entertainment provided at home. Equipment at home has become even more sophisticated, the introduction of the DVD being a prime example. However, there is still a difference between watching a movie individually at home, and as a member of an audience in a theater. According to Philip Radin, the renting of anamorphic lenses is currently not the major business of Panavision, but it has increased in importance by approximately 20% in the last three years (32). The reason for this development is probably, though not necessarily, identical to that of the 1950's: To emphasize the difference between home and cinema entertainment. To evaluate this would require another investigation.


Panavision has been able to stay in business because of its rental policy. Since the equipment is its own, improvements and modifications requested by customers can be made during maintenance. Because of the fact that profits will only be generated in the long run, investors are necessary. Besides the modification of existing products, Panavision prospered by developing new inventions like the Panaflex, the Panaglide and the Panaflex 16. An invention that was less successful from an economical point of view was the Panacam.

Notes to The Diffusion Phase

1 Kraemer, 1991.
2 "Western Metals" (August, 1955) pp. 23-26.
3 "Variety" 16 June 1965, pp. 3 and 18.
4 ibidem.
5 ibidem.
6 Moore, 4 september 1991.
7 Kraemer, 1991."
8 Moore, 4 September 1991.
9 "Variety" 14 February 1968, p. 3.
"Wall Street Journal" 12 February 1968, p. 27.
10 John Farrand, interview by author, 16 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
11 Kraemer, 1991.
12 Albert Mayer, interview by author, 16 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
Actually it is not a big issue, since the 65mm hand­held camera was also named Panaflex. However, an alternative to the name was, according to Mr. Mayer, Panascope.
13 Arri is originally a German camera manufacturer, with representatives in the U.S., referred to as Arriflex.
14 Jurgen Sporn, interview by author, 12 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
"Designed for shooting from the shoulder" (author unknown) "American Cinematographer" (May, 1963), p. 77-78.
15 Sporn, 1991.
16 ibidem.
17 ibidem.
18 ibidem.
19 Mayer, 1991.
20 "Variety" 9 June 1982, p. 4 and 35.
21 Miyagishima, 15 July 1991.
22 Mayer, 1991.
23 Moore, 1991.
24 Kraemer, 1991.
Sporn, 1991.
Mayer, 1991.
25 Kraemer, 1991.
26 Philip Radin, interview by author, 15 July 1991, Tarzana, California, video and audio recording.
27 Farrand, 1991.
28 ibidem.
29 Farrand, 1991.
Radin, 1991.
30 Farrand, 1991.
31 Mayer, 1991.
32 Radin, 1991.


In the fall of 1953, Panavision started, as a company which supplied theaters with anamorphic projection attachments. By the time this market was saturated, the company had established itself in the field of motion picture equipment by developing and marketing other products. 

Examples of these products are printer and photography lenses, and cameras. 

The company remained in business by virtue of its rental policy, which had the following consequences:

1. A large amount of capital can be invested during the design of a new product, since that product does not have to be sold at a competitive price.

2. During engineering and manufacturing, the best quality of individual components has to be used since the equipment has last for a long period of time. Selling the equipment would imply a lower quality of material in order to enhance continued sales.

3. Panavision can improve its equipment during maintenance, since it belongs to the company, and modify it according to the customer's wishes.

It is this last feature, described by the company as customer engineering, that gives Panavision its importance in the motion picture industry. The filmmakers are guaranteed the best equipment available (within their financial limits, of course, since there is a difference if a Panaflex 16 or a 65mm camera is rented). Another advantage is that filmmakers do not have to worry about maintenance, or writing off costs since Panavision takes care of that.
However, what does this knowledge mean? These are all important statements, mentioned in the preceding pages, but they do not make for a concise conclusion. Perhaps this is the right place for a personal opinion, since my own personal interests were what inspired this investigation.
When I started this research, I found out that there was a mystique surrounding Panavision. Here was a company, which is mentioned during the title sequence of many films as "filmed in Panavision" or "lenses and cameras by Panavision", yet little was known about the actual company. Articles in "American Cinematographer" mention Panavision's innovations but not the people behind these innovations, and it is the people running the company who ask for such a screen credit.

When I visited the Panavision plant in July 1991, I was amazed to see how much the employees cared for movies. Walking around the premises, I saw several movie posters on the walls of individual offices, and I heard people constantly talking about movies. During my visit the company received 'rushes' of "Far and Away", which were shown to all employees of the company in Panavision's own theater. The auditorium was completely filled. Also, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, employees are able to watch recent movies in that theater. During interviews, people mentioned movie titles in conjunction with new equipment. Of course, the names of favorite movie titles cropped up as well. I mention these examples to make it clear that, at Panavision, life is not just about manufacturing equipment for the motion picture industry. It is about interest in, and improvement of, the making of films, in a practical sense (user friendly equipment), and in a quality sense (best components available).
I hope I didn't destroy that mystique with this research paper. Instead, I hope that I have been able to encourage people to become as intrigued with Panavision as I was, and still am, because I think that what Panavision represents is only partly captured in this thesis. I have examined the history of Panavision from a technological point of view. It should by no means be considered to be "the" history of Panavision, Inc.. Technology has been placed in the context of economics, but other issues, such as Panavision's marketing policies have not been investigated. Apart from that, as was stated in the introduction, Panavision holds the patent rights for numerous inventions which also have a proper place in the history of the company. This could be addressed in future studies.


• Allen, Robert C. and Douglas Gomery, "Film History, Theory and Practice" (New York, 1985).
• Andrew, Dudley, "The Major Film Theories" (London, 1978).
• Bordwell, David, Janet Steiger and Kristin Thompson, "The Classical Hollywood Cinema" (London, 1985).
• Bragg, Herbert E., "The Development of CinemaScope" in "Film History, (International Journal)" Vol. 2, nr. 4. (November/December 1988), p. 363.
• Canby, Vincent "Review Heaven's Gate" in "New York Times", November 20, 1980, p. 24 (C).
• Carr, Robert E. and R.M. Hayes, "Wide Screen Movies" (Jefferson, North Carolina and London, 1988).
• Gomery, Douglas, "Who killed Hollywood?", "Wilson Quarterly"Volume XV, Number 3 (Summer, 1991), pp. 106-112.
• Gomery, Douglas, "Failed Opportunities: The integration of the U.S. Motion Picture and Television Industries", "Quarterly Review of Film Studies" Volume X, Number 2 (Summer, 1984), pp. 219-228.
• Henderson, Scott, "The Panavision Story" and "Mr. Panavision speaks out" in "American Cinematographer", (April, 1977), pp. 414 ff., and 416 ff.
• Lightman, Herbert A. "Why MGM chose Camera 65" in "American Cinematographer" (March, 1960), pp. 162 ff.
• Loring, Charles, "Breakthrough in 35mm-to-70mm print-up process" in "American Cinematographer" (April, 1964), pp. 224 ff.
• Pryor, Thomas M., "Anamorphic Lenses Unveiled", in "The New York Times" (3 August, 1958), p. X5.
The following articles do not have a specific author, unless it is noted. They are taken from the following newspapers and magazines:

• "American Cinematographer"
• "Designed for shooting from the shoulder" May, 1963 pp. 77ͺ78.
• "Boxoffice"
• "20th-Fox to Stage Sound Tests to Compare Stereo With Other Processes" 3 April, 1954, p. is unknown.
• "65mm photographic process to be used for MGM films" 30 April, 1955, p. is unknown.
• "Improved Widescreen Process Developed by Panavision" 13 October, 1958, p. 14.
• "Daily Variety"
• "Metro, Now Printing Via MicroPanatar, Reverts To 1 Lens" 10άv December, 1954, p. 17.
• "Lewis, Nugent Return From 'Owyhee' Scounting" 6 March, 1958, p. 4.
• "Shooting on 'Charter' Ended by Gottschalk" 26 November,1958, p. 3.
• "Film Daily"
• "New Ultra Panatar Lens" 18 March, 1955, p. 12.
• "$1,095-$1 Prices For C-Scope Adapters" 30 March, 1955, p. 1. ff.
• "Panavision Conversion Process Adopted by Col." 25 March, 1954, p. 12.
• "New Process To Be Used For Top Pix. With Prints Also in Standard C-Scope" 27 April, 1955, pp. 1 and 5.
• "M-G-M, Panavision in $250,000 Contract Deal" 19 October, 1956, pp. 1 and 4.
• "Nugent to Pen Script For Panavision's 'Owyhee'" 9 January 1958, p. 3.
• "Gottschalk Entering Production, Direction" by William R. Weaver, 5 November, 1958, pp. 1 and 7.
• "Panavision Reveals No-Distortion C'Scope" by William R. Weaver, 30 July, 1958, pp. 1 and 4.
• "Film World"
• "Panavision... new wide screen system" by Henry Provisor December 1953, p. 510.
• "Hollywood Reporter"
• "New Low-Priced Anamorphic Lens" 18 March, 1955, p. 3.
• "MGM Adopting Panavision's 65mm Process on Big Films" 27 April, 1955 p. 1 ff.
• "Panavision Forms Unit to Produce 65-70mm Films" 30 October, 1957, p. 1
• "'Dangerous Charter' good item for double-billing" by JamesPowers 20 September, 1962, p. 3.
• "Motion Picture Daily"
• "No Auxiliary Camera For MGM in Filming C'Scope in Future" 10 December, 1954, p. 3.
• "New 'Squeeze Ratios' Set by Gottschalk for All Panavision Prints" 13 October, 1958, p. 3.
• "Motion Picture Herald"
• "Develop Technique with Panavision Printer" 19 November, 1955, p. 25.
• "Showmen's Trade Review"
• "New Ultra Panatar Now On The Market" 2 April, 1955, p. 21(E).
• Variety"
• "Sy Weintraub In $3,600,000 Cash Buy Of Panavision Inc." 16 June, 1965, pp. 3 ff.
• "Kinney Services to Buy Panavision; Follows Book & Ashley Takeover" 14 February, 1968, p. 3.
• Obituary Gottschalk, 9 June, 1962, pp. 4 ff.
• "Wall Street Journal"
• "Brando Not Guilty Delay 'Mutiny'" 25 June, 1962, p. 24.
• "Kinney buys Panavision" 12 February, 1968, p. 27.
• "Western Metals"
• "Wide Screen Projector Lens Unit" (Volume 13, No. 8) August, 1955, pp. 23 ff.

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The Importance of Panavision


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Updated 26-06-24