REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 53: San Jose)

posted by Michael Zoldessy on June 15, 2012 at 8:00 am

Medium

Compiled by Michael Coate

The following is a semi-regular series of retrospectives on CINERAMA, the legendary motion picture process that kicked off the widescreen revolution. The series focuses on providing a market-by-market historical record of when and where Cinerama and its multi-panel clones were exhibited. These easy-to-reference articles serve to provide nostalgia to those who experienced the Cinerama presentations when they were new and to honor the movie palaces in which the memorable screenings took place.

And now… Part 53: Cinerama Presentations in San Jose, California!

IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD
Theater: Century 21
Premiere Date: November 24, 1964
Engagement Duration: 19 weeks
Projection Format: 70mm / 24 frames per second / 6-track stereo
Promotional Hype: “The theatre of tomorrow presents a new era in entertainment” “Northern California’s Most Unusual And Luxurious Theatre.” “The Biggest Entertainment Ever To Rock The CINERAMA Screen With Laughter!”

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
Century 21
March 9, 1966
14 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“Presented in CINERAMA”

BATTLE OF THE BULGE
Century 21
June 15, 1966
9 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“At Last! The Super Action Show In SUPER CINERAMA. Unlike anything you have ever seen.”

GRAND PRIX
Century 21
September 26, 1967
43 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“CINERAMA puts YOU behind the wheel at 180mph with the world’s greatest drivers!”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Century 21
July 23, 1968
87 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“An astounding entertainment experience, a dazzling trip to the moon, the planets and the still more distant stars.”

KRAKATOA, EAST OF JAVA
Town & Country
August 1, 1969
9 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“The NEW SUPER CINERAMA hurls YOU into the incredible day that shook the earth to its core!”

ICE STATION ZEBRA
Century 24
August 6, 1969
11 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“Ice Station Zebra…remember the name, your life may depend on it!”

ICE STATION ZEBRA (moveover from Century 24)
Century 25
October 22, 1969
2 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“Ice Station Zebra…remember the name, your life may depend on it!”

THIS IS CINERAMA (Re-Issue)
Cinema 150
August 29, 1973
4 weeks
70mm / 24fps / 6-track stereo
“The Last Time There Was A Show Like This One, It Was This One! THIS IS CINERAMA Is Back To Entertain A Whole New Generation”

CINERAMA FILMS NOT SHOWN IN THE SAN JOSE MARKET:
THIS IS CINERAMA (shown only in 1973 single-strip version)
CINERAMA HOLIDAY
SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD
SEARCH FOR PARADISE
WINDJAMMER
SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE
HOLIDAY IN SPAIN
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (general release)
HOW THE WEST WAS WON (general release)
THE BEST OF CINERAMA
CIRCUS WORLD (general release)
MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY
THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL (general release)
RUSSIAN ADVENTURE
KHARTOUM (general release)
CUSTER OF THE WEST (general release)

TRIVIA / NOTES:
San Jose was the first market to show only “single-strip” Cinerama movies.

San Jose was planned to be the 61st 3-strip Cinerama market in the United States with its Century 21 being the 10th purpose-built Cinerama theater. By the time the theater was completed, however, Cinerama had been re-engineered into a single-strip 70mm format and so the theater was equipped only for 70mm (and 35mm) presentations on a large, curved screen.

The Century 21 hosted the longest-running engagement in the United States of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

The Cinema 150 was located in the San Jose-adjacent city of Santa Clara.

REFERENCES:
Various issues of Boxoffice, (San Jose) Mercury News, and Variety.

PREVIOUS ENTRIES IN THIS SERIES:
Part 1: New York
Part 2: Chicago
Part 3: San Francisco
Part 4: Houston
Part 5: Washington, DC
Part 6: Los Angeles
Part 7: Atlanta
Part 8: San Diego
Part 9: Dallas
Part 10: Oklahoma City
Part 11: Syracuse
Part 12: Toronto
Part 13: Columbus
Part 14: Montreal
Part 15: Northern New Jersey
Part 16: Charlotte
Part 17: Vancouver
Part 18: Salt Lake City
Part 19: Boston
Part 20: Philadelphia
Part 21: Fresno
Part 22: Detroit
Part 23: Minneapolis
Part 24: Albuquerque
Part 25: El Paso
Part 26: Des Moines
Part 27: Miami
Part 28: Orange County
Part 29: Pittsburgh
Part 30: Baltimore
Part 31: Syosset / Long Island
Part 32: Kansas City
Part 33: Milwaukee
Part 34: Nanuet / Lower Hudson Valley
Part 35: Denver
Part 36: Worcester
Part 37: Toledo
Part 38: St. Louis
Part 39: Tampa
Part 40: Calgary
Part 41: Hartford
Part 42: Albany
Part 43: New Haven
Part 44: Sacramento
Part 45: Las Vegas
Part 46: Seattle
Part 47: Phoenix
Part 48: Orlando
Part 49: Cleveland
Part 50: Portland
Part 51: Rochester
Part 52: New Orleans

Comments (14)

MPol
MPol on June 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I never saw any of the above-mentioned films, except for “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, back in the early 1960’s, when it first came out. I loved it, but it’s not a film that I’d see more than once.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm

87 weeks for “2001” – wow! Isn’t San Jose part of Silicon Valley? I wonder if the movie inspired some of the locals to go into the computer field?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

As it happens, this is the day I first saw “2001” 44 years ago – June 15, 1968 – on the Cinerama screen at the Loew’s Capitol in New York City. A real life-changing event.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on June 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

A mind-boggling engagement for “2001!” That 70mm print had to have been worn out by the end of the run. Wonder if it was replaced with a new print after a year or so of showings?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Nick: Thanks for steering us to the Boxoffice Magazine vault. It will soon be up there with Cinema Treasures as one of my favorite websites. Their critic, Jim Watters, wrote an extremely perceptive review of 2001 in the 4/8/68 issue, at a time when some of our most esteemed critics just didn’t get the film (or didn’t want to get it). Thanks again.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on June 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Anyone know if when they showed “THIS IS CINERAMA” at the Cinema 150, did they show it on the FULL Dimension 150 SCREEN with the D-150 Super Curvulon Projection Lens or was it shown on the masked off 70mm screen?

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on June 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I am speculating, but my guess would be that it was masked down for one or both of two reasons. First, as you probably know, 20th Century Fox’s licensing agreement with D-150 equipped theaters required the screen to be masked down except when showing anything but a film lensed in D-150 (all two of them). I have read that some D-150 equipped theaters did not always do this, but I have no knowledge of any instances of noncompliance.

Secondly, those 70mm prints of “This is Cinerama” had a projected ratio of only 2.20 to to 1 rather than the original ratio of about 2.60 to 1 when the three-panel process was used. It was not possible to transfer the full width of the original three-panel images onto the 70mm stock – the left and right original images were cropped. So, “This is Cinerama” in 70mm had the projected ratio of just about any wide screen film of its era except for three-panel Cinerama films and those shot in Ultra Panavision 70/Camera 65.

MPol
MPol on June 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Oh…I forgot about “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I saw that when it first came out, and several times thereafter. A good, well-done film, but the last time I saw it, I’d forgotten how freaky that film was.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on June 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Bill, I’ve spent hours at a time in the Boxoffice vault. A warning should be posted—this site highly addictive! Thanks for the “2001” review link. The film was a life-altering experience for many who saw it in Cinerama. Seeing it in any other format is not quite the same.

plinfesty
plinfesty on June 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Interesting it took until August of 1969 for San Jose to open ICE STATION ZEBRA as a 70mm (presumably roadshow) engagement. The film had opened in Bakersfield in 35mm 4-track as a regular run in June of that year.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on June 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm

It has to be kept in mind though that until November, 1964 when the Century 21 opened in San Jose, Cinerama regarded the Bay Area as a single market with the exhibition site being San Francisco. I am sure many people, especially Cinerama fans in the greater San Jose area, made the forty mile or drive to San Francisco to see Cinerama films at the Orpheum or the Golden Gate and were accustomed to doing so.

By the time “Ice Station Zebra” opened in San Jose, it had completed its run at the Orpheum several months previously in San Francisco and, in a way, Cinerama (at least the 70mm version) in San Jose was sort of catching up to the Cinerama exhibition history that was now fully played out in the City.

The Century 21 certainly would have wanted to play successful Cinerama films as long as they were substantially profitable, and, at the same time, may have had contractual obligations to play other Cinerama films at certain times. It seems to me that it is obvious, looking at the list of Cinerama films that did not play in San Jose that by the end of the run of “Ice Station Zebra,” the San Jose Cinerama houses had pretty much given up on Cinerama.

The run that impresses me on this list (and on some others) was the relatively long run “Grand Prix”. Considering how relatively forgotten that film is now, that racing photography must have impressed many people in some markets at the time.

terrywade
terrywade on June 17, 2012 at 7:58 am

The old Century 21 still stands today but in the worse way. The Syufy brothers under the name West Wind still run the place and many years ago they took many feet off the sides of the large curved screen and made it 35% smaller. They un plugged the giant curtains and run the projector light at about a 60% level. Good thing they never put in 3-D. No more showmanship at this old classic dome theatre. When the old man MR Ray Syufy got rid of the union projection guys and had candy help to put up 70mm film at the Century 21 they ruined many prints and the studios did not give him anymore 70mm prints to run for a long time. I remember going to see a 70mm print at the C21 and it was put on backwords. How sad this great Super Cinerama Theatre is still run so bad. They have a long lease on the land worth big bucks along with It’s neighbor the Century 22 3 plex, days of going to a a film on the huge screen are gone in San Jose. The Syufy family was so upset when the Fox West Coast (Mann) people opened another Super Cinerama type curved screen across the street at the Town & Country. If you go see a film at the Dome 21 complain about the light level, talk to the manager if you can find him or her. Get a refund like I did and see a film at a AMC Theatre in the area that has good light level.

Coate
Coate on June 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Regarding CSWalczak’s analysis and speculation…

It seems obvious to me that the reason it took so long for ICE STATION ZEBRA to play in San Jose was because of the extended run of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Up until the ISZ run, all Cinerama films in San Jose played exclusively at the Century 21. The long run of 2001 is clearly what prompted the Town & Country to “become” a Cinerama house to play KRAKATOA, and in turn prompted Syufy to show ISZ in another one of their roadshow domes instead of waiting until the 2001 run to end. The fact that ISZ had already played in San Francisco is irrelevant.

It seems absurd to suggest that San Jose gave up on Cinerama during the time you cited when they were at that time showing what turned out to be the country’s longest run of 2001. The fact that San Jose played 2001 for so long and still found a way to play KRAKATOA and ISZ suggests they had not given up on Cinerama.

I think you may have misinterpreted the list of Cinerama films that did not play in San Jose. The first 12 on the list were released before San Jose came online as a Cinerama market, and the first 10 titles on that list obviously weren’t played because of format incompatibility. The Century 21 did not play exclusively Cinerama product, and an extended run of MY FAIR LADY is what prevented THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL from being booked. A lengthy run of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO prevented first-run bookings of RUSSIAN ADVENTURE and KHARTOUM. And CUSTER OF THE WEST not being shown carries little weight since its Cinerama/roadshow release was jettisoned by its distributor before it had a chance to get many playdates. California had six Cinerama markets and only one of them played CUSTER.

By the time of the THIS IS CINERAMA re-issue, there’s no reason to believe the D-150 licensing agreement would still be in effect in regard to projecting a 70mm image onto the entire screen at a D-150 house since nobody was producing any films in D-150. There’s no way any of us can prove it at this late date, but I can’t imagine THIS IS CINERAMA or any other 70mm film not being shown on anything but the entire screen.

This has been incorrectly explained in comments on this page as well as other entries in this series, but Cinerama presentations of films shot in Super Panavision and Ultra Panavision were shown in the same aspect ratio and with identical screen dimensions. The difference between the two was accounted for with the rectification added into the prints. I know it’s confusing and difficult to explain, but for 70mm presentations on a deeply-curved screen, to calculate aspect ratio one must measure along the cord not the curve.

ctrwd
ctrwd on May 26, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Regarding whether D-150 theatres could show other widescreen movies on the full screen by 1973, the answer is YES. The Cinema 150 in Santa Clara (now demolished) showed both “This Is Cinerama” (70mm version advertised as Cinerama) and “The Sound of Music” (advertised as Todd-AO) in September of 1973. I saw them both, and they were projected full screen.

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