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Welcome to the Todd-AO 70mm-Festival
Schauburg Cinerama, Karlsruhe, Germany, 3 - 5 October 2008

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev Date: 02.10.2008
The film is ready to run. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

"Roadshow", "Six-track", "Intermission", "Curved screen", "Epic" -- all familiar words for the knowledgeable 70mm fan. Words we all know and love, because we know what they mean: A return to the Schauburg in Karlsruhe, and the annual gathering of fans of large format film. 3 days where we all go wide-eyed for 12 hours each day.

2008 is coming to an end, October is here. It is time once again to start spending less time outdoors, and moving indoors. Today we can look back and reflect on the fact that it has been more than 50 years since Todd-AO was introduced in Europe, at the 1956 Photokina exhibition in Köln. Six months later, the first two 70mm cinemas were operational: the Adriano in Rome and the Savoy in Hamburg. The premiere film "Oklahoma!" became very popular, and soon almost every big city across Europe had at least one Todd-AO cinema.

The really big push for 70mm came after the premieres of Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days" and Fox's "South Pacific". Their successes were so massive, that it cemented the cinema owners’ faith in 70mm, and so following those movies, many new cinemas were built with super large screens and state of the art projection. The next 10 years were the golden age of 70mm and 6-track stereophonic sound.

A decade later the spectacle of 70mm super productions had faded somewhat to make room for films with a new visual style. Gone was the need for 70mm, and large screens were sacrificed in hundreds, in favor of the first multi-screen complexes. Often done in haste simply by cutting a cinema up and dividing it into smaller screens with fewer seats and small screens, the result was often less than attractive.

70mm was mothballed, hidden, and almost forgotten for nearly a decade when suddenly, the super format was re-introduced 1977 when Dolby Stereo arrived. 70mm experienced a 15 year revival, but which sadly, ended almost over-night in 1993, when digital sound was introduced.

Ironically, thanks to the growth of home video, DVD and blu-ray, 70mm has again experienced a limited renaissance in selected cinemas across the world. Distributors have struck new prints of their classic 70mm productions and made them available for public showing. 20th Century Fox has been the absolute front runner in this field. With the exception of "Can Can" [which is unfortunately no longer printable] they have recently concluded reprinting of all their Todd-AO titles. A huge undertaking, which is to be seriously applauded.

Few cinemas still maintain their commitment to 70mm, and the Schauburg is the leading cinema here on the continent to carry the banner, with screenings of vintage 70mm films almost every month. And amazingly, the old classics, however good, bad, long, short, faded or smelly (from vinegar), there seems to be an increasing interest in seeing these films again in a cinema. The Schauburg meets this challenge and this year presents a fantastic selection of titles which includes dramas, musicals, travelogues, nature animation, religious epics and humor. And all that, in those long forgotten trade names which all 70mm-fans treasure: Todd-AO, MCS-70 Superpanorama, Super Panavision 70, DEFA 70, Cinestage, Dimension 150 and ARRI 765. And of course all presented in 6-track Todd-AO stereo, 70mm Dolby Stereo, DTS 70mm Special Venue and 35mm 4-track Cinestage with Perspecta decoding.

I am particularly pleased to welcome our special guests this year. All of them were pioneers in the large format field. Walter Siegmund, of Todd-AO fame, will share his memories with us on Sunday. And several MCS-70 Superpanorama pioneers, including cinematographers Gerhard Fromm and Heinz Hölscher, will attend the festival and share their memories. Ole Mads Sirks Vevle has flown in from Norway to be here and present the world premiere of his new 4-min 70mm short film on Sunday.

The Todd-AO Festival celebrates the large format and it offers a unique possibility to see some of the classics for the first time, or for the n'th time, the way they were meant to be seen -- In a cinema on a huge curved screen. On behalf of the Schauburg kino I welcome all of you to the 4th Todd-AO festival

Enjoy the greatest show(s) in Todd-AO
More in 70mm reading:

Todd-AO Festival Home
4th Todd-AO Festival
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Intro | Festival Images
2008 Festival Flyer (PDF)

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Festival Through the Years
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Updated 30-06-22