Cinerama — the pioneering widesceen format — is back.
Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome will commemorate the 50th anni of the process with a weeklong run of “This Is Cinerama,” the original 1952 film, beginning Oct. 4.
Warner Bros., meanwhile, has struck a new print of “How the West Was Won,” the 1962 Western that was the last of the films made in true Cinerama, and filmmaker David Strohmaier has bowed his docu “Cinerama Adventure” at the Telluride Film Festival. The pic bowed Aug. 30, acccompanied by excerpts from “This Is Cinerama,” “Cinerama Holiday” and “Search for Paradise.”
Why the renewed interest?
The 50th anni (Sept. 30, 1952, when “This Is Cinerama” debuted in New York) is one element, but nostalgia is also a big factor.
“It was experiential, a sort of virtual-reality widescreen experience,” says Strohmaier, a TV film editor who saw “Seven Wonders of the World” as a kid in St. Louis in 1956 and never forgot the experience.
“It made the movies decide they had to do something else besides the 1:33 mono track,” he says. “Cinerama created the competition that made Fox turn to Cinemascope and Paramount to VistaVision.”
But only a handful of films were made in the format because of its cumbersome three-camera, three-projector needs and the complexities associated with making story-driven films like “How the West Was Won” vs. simple travelogues like “South Seas Adventure.”
According to John Sittig, director of Cinerama Inc., “This Is Cinerama” will play in “a newly constructed print with a newly restored seven-track, 35mm full-coat magnetic soundtrack — just like it had in 1952.”
“How the West Was Won” is about to resurface as well: Richard P. May, VP of film preservation for Warners, confirms that the studio has made a new print for theatrical exhibition.
Costs of striking the print (about $100,000) were reportedly borne by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, a film buff who bought and restored Seattle’s Cinerama Theater in 1998.
Sittig says “West” will probably debut in Seattle but is also expected to play at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome at some point.