On The Screen: Cinerama
Is there a Cinerama theatre near you? Cinerama was a novel film process developed to create a unique experience at a time when movie theatres were beginning to feel the effects of television’s popularity.
The brainchild of engineer Fred Waller, Cinerama was devised as a viewing experience that would capture the full vision spectrum, immersing viewers in the film experience.
This diagram, published by Cinerama Films, Inc., gives the clearest idea of the complexities involved in the Cinerama experience. At the bottom you see a camera man recording on three film reels, capturing a broad view. At the same time, multiple microphones are placed to capture a wide range of sounds. At the top, a trio of projectors work to cover the curved three part screen.
While the diagram does it’s best to sell Cinerama, it points out one of the process’ biggest flaws. Looking at the auditorium, it’s clear that people in the center would have an immersive experience, but those on the farther ends certainly were clearly at a less enveloping event.
You can find some cinerama theatres today in the USA, Canada, South America and Europe. Diagram courtesy of THS archives; Seattle Cinerama image by Bill Huelbig via Cinema Treasures; Cinerama Filmtheatre in Rotterdam by Eric Leeuwenberg via Cinema Treasures; Pacific Theatres Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, decorated for Shrek 2