Sixty years ago today saw the debut of a revolutionary type of film called Cinerama. For those living in Los Angeles, you might just associate “Cinerama” with the cool looking movie theater in Hollywood (near Amoeba Records). However, it was first a type of movie – one that was shot in a unique 3-lensed camera, made into a 3-strip film and projected on a special, extra-wide screen.
In the Fifties, when films and cinemas were seeing their business “threatened” by the growing popularity of something called television. To keep people coming into cinema, the film industry came up with a number of new technologies or gimmicks to attract patrons. There was everything from Smell-O-Vision or the Tingler (check out B-movie legend William Castle for more of this B-movie film lore) to 3-D films and wide screen movies.
Cinerama was one of the widest of the wide screen movie formats and used three 35 mm projectors (although later, one 70 mm projector was used for convenience but it sacrificed some of the visual panorama).
The reason behind this film history lesson is that Hollywood’s Arclight Cinerama Dome is hosting a special festival through Oct. 4 that celebrates the glory of Cinerama films. Many of the films being shown haven’t seen screened publicly for decades.
On Friday, I went to see the second ever made Cinerama movie, 1955’s Cinerama Holiday. It is part of travelogue, part proto-Reality TV and part “Soarin’ Over California” forbearer. The film has an American couple going to Europe for the first time and visiting Switzerland and Paris, while a Swiss couple coming to America for the first time. While a bit corny and dated, it also provides a fascinating look at mid-Fifties society in Europe and America as well as offering some very cool visual sequences (such as a Cinerama camera taking the audience down a bobsled run and on a ski slope).
Tonight, Sept. 30, the Cinerama Dome will screen This Is Cinerama, which premiered on this date at New York’s Broadway Theatre. The Dome’s series will also include screenings of the documentaries Seven Wonders of the World, South Seas Adventures, Cinerama’s Russian Adventure, Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich and Search for Paradise. It will also screen the two Cinerama fiction features: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as well as a special non-Cinerama presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 will be screened in 2K digital and other films will be shown in restored digital versions or in 3-strip Cinerama.
For more details, visit www.arclightcinemas.com/news/promotion-cinerama?promo=spotlightH