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John Harvey did bring his personal “cobbled together” print of HTWWW for the premiere of Cinerama in Seattle under the Paul Allen era, but subsequent showings have utilized the newly-struck print, and it looks fantastic on the Seattle Cinerama screen.
I have not experienced Three Strip Cinerama at the Dome, but I can say that the Seattle Cinerama is the only TRUE Cinerama theater left in the country. While Pacific Theaters should be commended by bringing back Three Strip to Southern California, that screen (as noted above) uses a single sheet, which has a curvature of 120 degrees, while the Seattle Cinerama uses a proper louvered screen with the original deeper 148 degree curvature.
It’s been about three years since Three Strip Cinerama has last been shown in Seattle, so I’m hoping that it’ll be brought back soon. I’ll post here as soon as I hear anything as I am an acquaintance of one of the Cinerama projectonists (he works the Abel booth). If he hears of anything, he’ll let me know.
Thanks for the info, JSA. I shall definitely be seeing it then.
Some corrections and comments are in order to some of the posts starting in September, 2007.
First, the theater no longer has a digital projection system. It was taken out a few years ago. I don’t know what the system was, and I have no idea if they plan to install a new one. Though AMC has announced that all their theaters will be going digital, I’m not sure if the Cinerama will be one of them since AMC only manages it for owner Paul Allen.
Second, the Cinerama screen is not “folded up.” It is permanently installed behind the second screen used for everyday showings. The second screen is dismantled (a job that takes 10 to 12 hours) so that Cinerama films can be projected on the proper screen.
Third, the rumor involving the improper installation of the screen is totally false. I was able to inspect the screen close up and the slats were always aligned correctly. There was an initial problem in that the slats were not anchored correctly so that the breezes from the air conditioning system did cause a somewhat minor rippling effect, but this has been corrected.
Fourth, neeb’s posting contains several factual errors in the first and second paragraphs. I know it is not his or her fault since the erroneous information came from the theater’s website. Contrary to what the website states, Top Gun, Ghostbusters and Titanic are simply 70mm blowups from 35mm stock. 2001 and Lawrence of Arabia were shot on 65mm stock (not sure about Tron) and the difference between those two and 70mm blowups is like night and day. And, as all of you should know, these films can be shown in any theater equipped with 70mm capabilities.
If any of you are planning a visit to Seattle, I would recommend that you plan on seeing either 200l or Lawrence of Arabia. Tron certainly has my interest for its rarity, though I wasn’t a big fan when it first came out. When I saw Ghostbusters in 70mm a couple of years ago at the Cinerama, the print was very grainy. Top Gun is already gone and you couldn’t pay me enough money to see Titanic again.
Thanks for the commments. First off, I’m not aware how they fixed the screen so that it wouldn’t ripple. I’m guessing that each slat was attached to the bottom frame, but I could be wrong.
There are two major reasons why they are not using the Cinerama screen for the 70mm series. One has to take into consideration the time and cost of tearing down the “flat” (but still gently curved) screen. As mentioned above, it takes all day and night to do the job and I’m sure those workers don’t come cheap. And since AMC is continuing with their regular programming at the same time, films not presented in 70mm or three-panel Cinerama look absolutely
horrible on the Cinerama screen. Because of the deep curvature, a standard scope film (the Seattle Cinerama never seems to show flat films) is terribly distorted, with the most bizarre masking you’ve ever seen (I can’t really describe it in words, but trust me).
In a perfect world, the Cinerama screen would be used, but logistically speaking, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, I don’t think you’ll find a better venue for 70mm in the country.
As for the ceiling obstructing some of the Cinerama screen, this is the first time I’ve heard this complaint. If it is true, and it may very well be, the effect is minor at worse and to my eyes, never even noticed (and I’ve seen four Cinerama films (HTWWW, This is Cinerama, Cinerama’s Search for Paradise and Windjammer) on that gorgeous screen).
If any of you are planning to come up to Seattle to check out one of the films, here’s a tip regarding where to sit. The theater is split across the middle with a crossover aisle. This aisle is where the handicapped seating is. The problem is that if there are any patrons there, your view will most definitely be partially blocked if you sit in the upper half. I personally love the row just in front of the crossover aisle. There’s nobody behind you to kick your seat (handicapped seating is on a ledge at about the level of your head), and the image will fill your eyes and then some. There’s also a balcony, but unless you are in the front row, blockage becomes a problem there, too. Besides, the impact of the big screen is somewhat diminished since the balcony is rather small and, in my opinion, too far away from the screen.
Of the films being screened, I personally would go for Lawrence of Arabia. Not only was it originally shot on 65mm, you’ll get to experience the theater’s amazing sound system with the films' DTS soundtrack. And, unlike some of the AFI event films at the Dome/Arclight, there WILL be a real intermission!
2001 is also very impressive, to be sure.
As I noted above, at some point, real Cinerama will make a reappearance. The moment I hear of anything (I personally know one of the three-panel Cinerama projectionists), I’ll post on the Arclight page as well as the Seattle Cinerama page.
Quote from JSA on Oct 10, 2007:
Well, next year will be “2001”’s 40th anniversary. It must be seen on the big screen, period. Since at this point it’s unlikely that it will screen at the Dome, the trip to Seattle is a possibility. I travel frequently to the city for business, so hopefully scheduling will not be an issue. And figuring out if they are using the curved screen for the special presentations should not be a problem. The only question remaining is will Warner strike a new 70 mm print (s) for the occassion. My guess is that they will not.
Given that the films to be shown are in addition to regularly scheduled programs, the Seattle Cinerama will not be using the giant curved screen for the 70mm films. However, the presentation will still be top-notch on the large 68' screen, assuming prints are in good shape.
The only time the giant Cinerama screen is used is when three-panel Cinerama is shown. It’s been a couple of years since this has last been done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it happens again. Should I hear word about another Cinerama/70mm festival where the big screen will be used, I’ll be sure to post information.
Another comment made light of the air-con system causing the louvred screen to ripple. This was an early problem, but has since been corrected. It’s a shame that the Pacific folks witnessed it, otherwise the Dome might have had a true Cinerama screen, too.
You can find that clip and many other classics from General Cinema at www.film-tech.com Can’t link to it directly, but once you’re at the home page, click on the videos button and scroll about halfway down to the Policy Trailers section. There, you’ll find it listed as General Cinema 1990s (candy and clouds).
General Cinema truly had the best policy trailers in the business.
Also, check out the RC Cola commercial from 1970. I still can’t get that jingle out of my head!
Simon, you might want to check out cinematour.com. They feature many theater “tours,” of which many have lobby and auditorium photos (including the Bagdad).
Cinematour and Cinema Treasures work very well together for the total picture. As was pointed out by another poster on another theater page, Cinema Treasures is primarily a cinema nostalgia site, while Cinematour aims to document via photos, every known (existing or not, open or not) theater in the world. It also features an entertaining forum.
So the president thought those white seats looked “elegant” huh. There are many words that come to mind when thinking about a typical 70s era General Cinema. Elegant, however, is not one of them.
DavyDuck, regarding the seating, I’ll bow to you since you worked there. Besides, it’s been many years now, and my memory could be failing… What fun it must have been to paint the backs of those white seats. And why white? Scuffs show up much more on white. Just another one of those General Cinema enigmas. They were headquartered in Boston, but I don’t believe the theaters there were any better.
Mark, regarding theater design, you make an excellent point. General Cinema was a relatively young company that aggressively began building theaters in the 1950s using, as I understand it, basically the same design through the 70s. Some, though, were true showplaces (the Northpark I-II-III-III in Dallas comes to mind) but even they
still had those Roman numerals! I’m sure you’ve seen the photos at Cinematour or Film-Tech.
Regarding a General Cinema Historical Society…I think there might be more members than you think!
Mark, you’re absolutely correct. When these theaters were built in the 60s and 70s, before the age of megaplexes and hundreds of channels of cable TV, I believe General Cinema biult these cinder-block boxes on the business model of “build it and they will come.” And we did. Despite the fact that there were no street-side marquees to announce the films at their theaters, we found our way to these out-of-the-way complexes, though less so to the Overlake. It was the first to close, long before General Cinema suffered financially. They simply gave up on the lucrative eastside market.
The chop-job at the Overlake mirrors that of the Aurora, except only worse. I don’t recall an issue with the seats being angled incorrectly since all General Cinemas had straight rows that faced directly toward the screen. But because Overlake’s large house (the
one that was split) was much smaller than the Aurora’s, the resulting wind-tunnel theaters were even narrower and just as long.
But dang it…I still miss these theaters! Despite the poor physical design and lack of comfort, they still managed to put on a great show with excellent projection and sound (even if it was in mono). Add to that, they were the first in the Seattle area to use real butter on the popcorn when every other chain used “Super-Kist” topping. And, of course, there was the General Cinema jingle!
Those were the days!
Three new screens have been added this year, bringing the total screen count to 8. This makes The Liberty somewhat unique in that the original theater (with its 3 screens is at the north end of the block, 2 screens in a separate building (originally the Vitaphone Theater) in middle of the block and the new screens in another building at the south end of the block.
This theater has since closed and has been demolished.
This theater has been closed for more than a year now.
I wish I could say some nice things about this theater, but when I was there about a week after it opened, the print of Live Free or Die Hard was already heavily scratched throughout. Also, the auditorium lighting was not dimmed enough during the screening, thus casting extra light onto the screen. Seating wasn’t very comfortable either.
On the other hand, the popcorn was quite good!
I got a little mixed up in my July 5 post. This theater opened as the Center Plaza 6. The name was changed to Seatac North in its later years.
The AMC Seatac North was actually opened sometime during the early to mid 1980s. The original theater, AMC Seatac South was located in the Seatac Mall and opened in 1975. It was AMC’s first location in Washington state.
AMC renamed the Seatac North as the AMC Center Plaza in its later years.
The Westgate and the Westgate 5 are the same theaters. The original triplex was completely gutted sometime in the early 90s when it was operated by ACT III and reconfigured into a five-plex. The only similarities between the Westgate and the Westgate 5 were the outside walls.
The Federal Way Twin Cinema building is still standing, though vacant and looking very run-down. Would not be surprised to see it torn down soon.
Just drove by. It’s not open yet. Walls are up, but interior still needs to be completed. No opening date announced.
Mark, the floodgates have opened!
There are so many debacles with Luxury’s presentations. Three instantly come to mind:
Somehow or another, The Coliseum, a once grand palace but already on its death bed, managed to get an exclusive engagement of “Dune” in 70MM no less. However, leave it to The Coliseum to have the film break five times in one screening, which actually caused rioting. Seattle police had to be called in, and the event made the late news. Some people say ‘all publicity is good publicity.’ I don’t think that was the case here.
A couple of years after Luxury bought out the National General Theaters in the Seattle area, they carved up the large 900 seat house of the Crossroads, a twin theater in Bellevue. They did this in a most odd fashion, carving out two small houses in the back corners of the theater and leaving a hallway between them to access what was the front half of the original house. Anyway, they never bothered to realign the seats, so that the seats angled toward the wall instead of straight to the screen. Should you find yourself sitting towards the front on the side bordering the hallway, you had to crane your neck to see the screen. Brilliant! Also, they opened the theaters before they were finished. There was NO masking at all on the screens, and the walls had not been covered with any kind of soundproofing or drapes! I guess Luxury is just a word.
Finally, in my local Luxury house, the Aurora Village 4, it was opened with just one of the theaters finished and the lobby not even close to being completed. We’re talking a hard concrete floor in the lobby, the snack bar consisting of a folding table with a popcorn warmer, a portable soda dispenser and stacks of various candies to pick from. As far as I was concerned, this theater wasn’t even up to their standards (low as they were). It was built inside a former supermarket and the large theater (600 seats) had a ceiling so low that the main air-conditioner duct protruded down far enough from the ceiling so as to block out a small, but significant enough part of the screen at the top center of the picture. At one film I saw there (I think it was one of the Agatha Christie films), the left half of the screen was out of focus, while the right side was in focus. When I complained to the manager, he said that was the way the film was supposed to be shown. I kid you not! I asked for my money back, and (surprise) he refused. I never set foot in that hellhole afterwards. By the way, this theater was so cheap that they didn’t even install any of those nice high backed seats.
But I would like to end on an up note for Luxury. When Close Encounters initially played in Seattle, it was in 35MM four track dolby at the King in downtown Seattle. Even though the film critic of the Seattle Times railed against GCC for their refusal to show it in 70MM, they would not budge. Therefore, I drove 175 miles down to Portland to see it at Luxury’s Eastgate 3 in glorious 70MM on a huge screen. It was an excellent presentation in a great theater.
So once in a while, they’d actually get it right. But just once in a while.
Mark, I was just about to enter my own comments, but you beat me to it! You did forget to mention a couple of items, one being the awful gold/orange/brown color scheme in all of Luxury’s theaters built during the 70s (and in the case of the Kent, remaining that same way until it closed about three years ago.
Another unique feature of Luxury Theaters was the placement of waste recepticals placed strategically inside each auditorium along the aisles every four or five rows. Now, that’s luxury! When Act III took over, that was the first thing to go!
Although truly not a Cinema Treasure, I sometimes wax nostalgically for these built-on-the-cheap cinemas that were plopped down in some of the worst locations imaginable (think the above mentioned Puyallup 6). They are truly part of a bygone era and have now completely disappeared from the Seattle-Tacoma market.
Lest anyone think that I love dumping on Luxury Theaters (which I do not deny), I will say that they were the first to install high-backed chairs in their new builds with lots of legroom in most of these cheap theaters. Being 6'4", that was a much appreciated feature.
Mark, the old wood seats are still there, but only the ones in the back below the projection booth. About three years ago, the theater was altered to improve the sound by walling off the side balconies, so there are no longer any posts to obscure viewing.
And, yes, during the Seattle International Film Festival, the balcony is frequently opened up. I “tested” one of those old seats once and the word “painful” comes to mind. By the way, the altering has lowered the seating capacity to about 450 seats.
I love this theater. During the festival, it becomes my home away from home. Many people still complain about the sound, but I’ve never had any issues. New seats on the main floor, no stadiaum seating, a big screen and a curtain…what’s not to love?
Since Pathe spent the money to restore this beautiful theater to its original splendor instead of doing it the American way (closing it), then forgive me if I cut them some slack for throwing up a gaudy sign advertising their cinema company name. We Americans should be so lucky!
According to the Pathe website, the City closed on Feb 1, 2007 and will reopen in mid 2008.
Sounds like you and I are looking for the same thing. But I think I’ve found what you’re looking for. Check this out:
I haven’t been there yet (I live about four hours away) but it looks intriguing. It’s located in Vancouver, WA, just across the river from Portland.