Remembering Cinerama Part III

posted by Coate on September 19, 2008 at 10:55 am

REMEMBERING CINERAMA
Part III: San Francisco

The following is Part Three of a series of retrospective postings on the revolutionary and historic Cinerama process (and copycat formats such as Cinemiracle and Kinopanorama), which provides a dose of nostalgia for those who experienced it when it was new and highlights the great movie palaces in which these memorable events took place.

Previous entries in the series:
Part I: New York City
Part II: Chicago

And now…Part III: San Francisco!

THIS IS CINERAMA
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: December 25, 1953
Engagement Duration: 84 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Promotional Hype: “Something Wonderful in motion picture entertainment! For the first time, a motion picture reaches out to bring you into the story to put you in the picture…with the intensely personal experience of all its excitement and thrills.”

CINERAMA HOLIDAY
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: August 2, 1955 (West Coast Premiere)
Duration: 68 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “It’s Every Holiday You Ever Dreamed Of…Come True!”

SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: November 20, 1956 (West Coast Premiere)
Duration: 68 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The New…The 3rd Cinerama!”

SEARCH FOR PARADISE
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: March 11, 1958 (West Coast Premiere)
Duration: 37 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “Far Beyond The Limits Of Human Imagination!”

SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: November 25, 1958
Duration: 51 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “Ride These Tickets To The Last Romantic Refuge Left On Earth! Escape With The New Cinerama To The South Seas!”

WINDJAMMER
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: November 17, 1959
Duration: 32 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The New…the 6th Cinerama presentation! An Electrifying Breath-Taking Adventure and Glorious Romance! Produced in Cinemiracle, Presented in Cinerama”

THIS IS CINERAMA (Return Engagement)
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: June 28, 1960
Duration: 17 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The Astounding Attraction That Revolutionized The Entertainment World… You Are Actually There… You Actually Visit These Fabulous Places Of The World!”

CINERAMA HOLIDAY (Return Engagement)
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: October 24, 1960
Duration: 9 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “It’s Every Holiday You Ever Dreamed Of…Come True!”

SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Return Engagement)
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: December 25, 1960
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “Only when you step into the fabulous world of Cinerama…will you actually live every breath-taking moment…experience every one of the seven hundred thrills of…Seven Wonders Of The World”

HOLIDAY IN SPAIN
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: May 29, 1962
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “Now Cinerama Takes You On A Manhunt… A Suspense Hunt… A Thrill Hunt… Across An Exotic World Of Excitement!”

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: August 8, 1962
Duration: 29 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “For The First Time Cinerama Tells A Story!”

HOW THE WEST WAS WON
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: February 27, 1963
Duration: 41 weeks
Format: 3-Strip Cinerama
Hype: “The Great Dramatic Motion Picture That Puts You In Every Scene!”

IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: December 18, 1963
Duration: 52 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Don’t Just Promise Them The World, Give It To Them!”

CIRCUS WORLD
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: December 21, 1964
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Cinerama Puts You In The Middle Of The Most Action-Filled Story You’ve Ever Seen!”

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: March 23, 1965
Duration: 26 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: None

THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: July 1, 1965
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Now Cinerama Sends Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Jim Hutton, Pamela Tiffin And YOU Roaring With Laughter And Adventure Down The Hallelujah Trail.”

MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: September 21, 1965
Duration: 19 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “You Sail Away And Live All The Excitement Your Mind Ever Imagined In The New Cinerama”

BATTLE OF THE BULGE
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: December 22, 1965
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “The Super Action Show In Super Cinerama”

RUSSIAN ADVENTURE
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: March 31, 1966 (West Coast Premiere)
Duration: 7 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “With the plunk of a balalaika you’re in Russia…a world in itself. With a whirl of a ballerina…you’re in the Bolshoi Ballet. With the zoom of a helicopter…you’re over the North Pole. With the excitement of Cinerama…you’re part of the most wondrous show of all.”

KHARTOUM
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: June 22, 1966 (West Coast Premiere)
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Where the Nile divides…their mighty conflict begins!”

GRAND PRIX
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: January 25, 1967
Duration: 39 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Cinerama Sweeps You Into A Drama Of Speed And Spectacle!”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Theater: Golden Gate
Premiere: June 19, 1968
Duration: 73 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “An Epic Drama Of Adventure And Exploration!”

ICE STATION ZEBRA
Theater: Orpheum
Premiere: November 13, 1968
Duration: 9 weeks
Format: 70mm
Hype: “Ice Station Zebra…remember the name, your life may depend on it!”

Compiled by Michael Coate

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle and Variety

(Thanks to katerw for providing the photo.)

Theaters in this post

Comments (72)

markp
markp on September 19, 2008 at 11:45 am

As I said in parts 1 & 2, look at some of those runs, 37, 52, 73 weeks. Amazing!!! Try getting that in todays multiplex world. Those were truely great times in the industry.

terrywade
terrywade on September 19, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Thanks again Mike for having my home town ‘San Francisco’ on the Cinerama list this week. The Cinerama screen at Orpheum was one of the largest for Cinerama. I remember seeing all the films you have listed as a kid. As a young person I wondered how the three projectors had three different lights and they didn’t get mixed up with the picture when they criss crossed in the middle of the theatre. The whole theatre was painted Cinerama pink. The curtains had a light grey look with pink/red lights on them. Every time I go into the Orpheum today I think of the huge presentation this was at the SF Orpheum. The 70mm Super Cinerama screen put in down the street at the RKO or Beacon Golden Gate was a major disappointment. They did a cheap job and just put in a small curved screen on the back of the large stage. Flat curtains were used. When you first went into the Golden Gate it looked like any other theatre with curtains on the stage till they opened them up then you saw a curved screen. The huge Cinerama curved screen at the Orpheum curved into the audience and extra drape around the whole front sides of the orchestra seats.

philbertgray
philbertgray on September 20, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Here are some Cinerama related photos at The Orpheum in Cinerama

Cinerama sign being delivered to Orpheum View link

Auditorium of Orpheum being readied for Cinerama curved screen View link

Cinerama screen being installed in auditorium of Orpheum View link

Cinerama marquee at Orpheum during showing of (one strip) It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World View link

All photos from San Francisco Public Library on line photograph collection

Coate
Coate on September 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm

A few more details…

San Francisco was the eighth market to equip a theater for Cinerama presentations. (Cinerama installations made ahead of San Francisco were New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh.)

A Cinerama film that never commercially screened in San Francisco was the 3-strip travelogue compilation film “The Best Of Cinerama” (1962). “Custer Of The West” (1968) played only as a 35mm general release. Additionally, no booking details could be found for the 1973 re-issue of “This Is Cinerama.”

“Krakatoa, East Of Java” (1969) played an engagement promoted as “Super 70mm” in the Golden Gate Penthouse. (Only presentations in the main, downstairs auditorium of the Golden Gate were promoted “in Cinerama,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” was playing there during the 11-week “Krakatoa” booking.)

Following its 73-week run in the Golden Gate’s main auditorium, “2001: A Space Odyssey” played an additional 15 weeks in the Golden Gate Penthouse.

San Francisco was among the handful of markets that did play “Holiday In Spain.” The film was a re-edited, converted-to-3-strip, re-issue version of “Scent Of Mystery,” which received limited U.S. playdates in 70mm & Smell-O-Vision in 1960, San Francisco not among them.

Steve2
Steve2 on January 1, 2009 at 2:23 am

As a kid I caught the tail end of the Cinerama engagement. I wish I had been an adult back then. As a kid I did see “2001” and “Krakatoa” at the GG. I can only imagine how mega-great it must have been in the late 50’s-early 60’s. Thanks for posting.

asok10
asok10 on February 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Unless I misread something here, I would have to disagree with Terry Wade above as I was in the Golden Gate Theatre once after Cinerama was taken out and it did have a huge curved front curtain on the main floor anyway. It was quite possible that the screen was stashed at the back of the stage which would have been weird no matter how you look at it (pun intended). BTW, I saw Cinerama at the Warner Theater (I think) in Hollywood (This is Cinerama) as well as at the RKO Boston Theatre. It is a damn shame what happened to that lovely place after Cinerama.

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