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Magna Theatres
The company behind a new Film development and distributor of productions made in the medium

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955 Date: 01.07.2008
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 Todd has been associated with Cinerama but had withdrawn from the project before its Broadway premiere startled the motion picture industry into new concepts.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.
More in 70mm reading:

The Todd-AO Projector

Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955:
Oklahoma! in Todd-AO
Magna Theatres
Todd-AO Corporation
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 screen.

R & H Join Up

R&H agreed to 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 "Carousel" and "The King and I", the screen rights to which are owned by 20th Century-Fox.

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 medium.

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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Updated 21-01-24