The company behind a new Film development and distributor
of productions made in the medium
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955
Magna, in Latin, is the feminine adjective for "big" and when the
incorporators of the Magna Theatre Corporation chose that name they
displayed a singular sense of the appropriate for a company that was to
face a task that would take big, broad-gauged effort coupled with the
perseverance of a housewife persuading the master of the house that the
living room needs new furniture and drapes.
The company was born after Michael Todd, who bursts with nervous energy,
had persuaded Joseph Schenck, who is calm and deliberate, that he had a
revolutionary idea for motion picture photography and projection, Mr.
Todd has been associated with Cinerama but had withdrawn from the
project before its Broadway premiere startled the motion picture
industry into new concepts. He had immediately concluded that a system
which achieved a similar effect with one instead of three projectors was
needed and this is the idea that he sold Schenck.
in 70mm reading:
The Todd-AO Projector
Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955:
Oklahoma! in Todd-AO
Philips Collaborated On Projector Design
Todd-AO Projection and Sound
Six track recording equipment
All-Purpose Sound Reproduction
Rodgers & Hammerstein II
Six track recording equipment
Organized in 1952
|As a result,
Magna was incorporated in Delaware on Nov. 27, 1952. Schenck, a large
stockholder in the United Artists Theatre Circuit, became board chairman,
and George Skouras, president of United Artists Theatre Circuit, became
president of Magna. Magna's purpose was to finance the experimentation
necessary to develop the process now being offered as TODD-AO.
By Aug, 31, 1953, $700,000 or thereabout had been spent in research and
experimentation by the American Optical Company and its expert, Dr. Brian
O'Brien. By that time, too, the results were sufficient to justify the
enthusiasm Mike Todd had for his idea and the producing team of Richard
Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had seen, to the point of believing, that
this was the medium in which their works were to be translated to the
R & H Join Up
make "Oklahoma!" and to give Magna call on all their other properties which
had not already been disposed of, an t agreement which apparently turns over
to Magna, if wanted, all the R&H musicals with the exception of
and "The King and I", the screen rights to which are owned by 20th
With its first production set, Magna in July of 1954 sought additional
financing, reportedly raising $6,000,000 through an issue of five year
debentures bearing a six per cent interest rate. Up to this time Magna had
been interested in two phases of its operation - developing a new process of
photography and projection, and getting a production made in the TODD-AO
Now, with "Oklahoma!" launched, Magna enters the third phase - distribution.
It now must find theatres to play "Oklahoma!", theatres which not only have
capacity for crowds but whose owners are willing to invest in the retooling
necessary to play the picture.
Magna will make no four-wall deals, it insists. There are sound reasons for
this, for four-wall deals might smack of monopoly and bring the Department
of Justice around with questions and desires to look at files. Furthermore
under four wall deals, Magna would have to retool the theatre.
Seek New Outlets
|So Magna is now seeking
theatres whose owners will invest in the further development of the motion
picture. The process is too new for a rigid set of standards under which
Magna will select theatres but a spokesman said that, generally speaking,
the reputation of the house, its condition, location, management, overhead
and the population upon which it can draw for an audience, will be factors.
Two more factors, he added, will govern the spread of operations: cost of
installation and the success of "Oklahoma!”.
Magna, which owns 62 per cent of TODD-AO, which supplies the equipment, has
now put its stock on the market. Its common recently was offered over the
counter at 12½ against 11 7/8 bids while its preferred was up for officers.
Officers of Magna are George Skouras, president; Ralph Newburger, secretary;
and Malcolm Kingsberg, treasurer, There is no vice-president.
The board consists of Chairman Joe Schenck, Malcolm Kingsberg, Frederick W.
Warburg of Kuhn and Loeb (chairman of the Magna Finance committee), Michael
Todd, James Landis of the United Artists theatre Circuit, Charles Seligson,
an attorney, Bud Morris, another attorney, Richard Rodgers, Oscar
Hammerstein II, Charles B. McCabe and James F. Burns.
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