Cinerama Dome and ArcLight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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William on October 17, 2007 at 9:21 am

Nick it sounds plausible. But it might have been that the studio needed that 4-Track Mag print for another engagement. When the change happened was the grosses still great or just good on the business. Studios have done that by pulling the print if the grosses were falling to a point too. So if they moved that print to the upstairs booth thta booth must have had the mag penthouse on the projector since the CinemaScope conversion days in the 50’s.

neonitenick on October 16, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Thanks William. That’s amazing! Had no idea there was so much more involved regarding licensing fee/screen size/print exhibition. I think your explanation may clear up a mystery I’ve been wondering about since 1965 when “The Sound of Music” first opened.

They projected the print (I’m assuming it was 35mm ) from the Cinerama booth on the main level. The screen was masked at the top and sides for 35mm Scope, and I recall changeovers being made. I’m guessing the three Cinerama projectors had already been stripped out, and the print was being projected on the recently installed 35/70mm projectors. I do recall the soundtrack being in stereo.

Now here’s the mystery: after the first few weeks of showings they suddenly switched from the downstairs booth to the old upstairs 35mm booth. There was no change in screen size, and the only noticable difference was the sound…it was no longer in stereo.

My guess is that a print with a stereo soundtrack was more expensive to lease so once they got the crowds in and were assured of an extended long run, the decision was made to save some dollars and exchange the stereo print for a monural print. As such there was no longer any reason to project print from the 35/70mm booth. That’s my take on the switch. Sound plausible?

William on October 16, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Well “2001” was photographed in Super Panavision to begin with and Presented in Cinerama. MGM made a licensing deal with Cinerama for three pictures (2001, Ice Station Zebra, Grand Prix) tobe presented in Cinerama. And that’s what the logos say on most of the films. There was a similar licensing agreement with the D-150 process. In the projection booths of the Cinerama and D-150 houses there was masking setting control buttons. That controlled the size of the screen to be used. There was flat/scope/70MM and then the full screen setting for Cinerama. So if the producing company/studio paid that special licensing fee they could advertise and use the whole Cinerama name and screen for their films. So there was a dual-invertory of prints of these titles. So later reissues of those titles many not carry the Cinerama logo on them.

neonitenick on October 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Bill and Roadshow:
Your 2001 Cinerama postings brings to mind a big dissapointment. When 2001 opened in ‘68 it played at the PALACE here in Tampa in 70mm Cinerama, and it was breathtaking to see AND hear. The film was brought back at least two additional times in 70mm within 2 years after the initial roadshow engagement. By now the Cinerama logo had been replaced by Super Panavision.

The last time the film played it was part of “MGM’s Fabulous Four” series (Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter, and 2001.) Knowing these films had played in 70mm in years past I was anxiously chomping at the bit in anticipation of seeing 2001 once again on the big screen, although there was no mention of 70mm in the ads.

I remember thinking, “surely they can’t run 2001 in 35mm in a Cinerama theater when they have 70mm capability not to mention the big Cinerama screen!” What a rude awakening it was when the curtain parted revealing the screen had been masked down for 35mm presentation…one of the biggest letdowns for me ever in a theater. Seeing 2001 in 35mm on the same screen where it had been shown many times in 70mm was a total downer to say the least :–(

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on October 12, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Maybe we should report all this to Paul Allen, so he can get on their case. Didn’t he pay for the Seattle renovation specifically because of his fond memories of Cinerama?

exit on October 12, 2007 at 11:28 am

Exactly, Bill. As I said, Seattle patrons have been enjoying movies on the real Cinerama screen for decades. They are on the edge of inaccuracy and certainly misleading when they refer to the second screen being developed by “Cinerama architects,” They are referring to an independant company that has no relation whatsoever to Cinerama, other than being hired to revamp a theatre with that name. The way that sentence is written gives wholly undue credence to a group whose main objective was to get the real Cinerama screen out of the way.

The line about “2,000 independently angled louvered strips” was written before the screen was ever used, and at that time, the strips were not in fact angled at all. Anchoring the strips firmly in place is one thing, angling them correctly is another. The strips were attached to the top and bottom of the frame, but they are held to the frame with something elastic enough to allow them to flutter in the breeze of the AC.

The strips would have to be anchored horizontally with thin wire (often the same stuff used on fishing rods). It would take great care, and attention to detail, to anchor and align the 1" strips into proper position, and it’s not likely to have been done right if it was done by Seattle’s own staff without some kind of guidance and supervision from Cinerama experts. Just imagine the precision necessary to turn 2000 one inch strips, which overlap each other, so that they are facing straight to the front around the entire curve.

The entire setup for the two screens in Seattle was deliberately designed (by the non-Cinerama designers) for the real screen to be the lowest priority. It is a very complicated and expensive process to bring out the big screen, which guarantees that it would rarely be used. It would probably take about 2-3 full capacity houses to pay for the conversion. Seattle would need to be sure of at least a dozen full houses to be willing to pay for the switch, which would require them to close for 2 days before and after.

I would hold out no hope at all for the big screen to be used for 2001. It’s a shame, but a reality.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on October 12, 2007 at 9:27 am

This was taken from the official Seattle Cinerama website:

“True to its namesake, the new Cinerama also features a completely restored curved screen for special presentations of 3-strip films such as "How The West Was Won” and 70mm Cinerama classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

This massive, 90-foot-long, 30-foot-high screen, constructed of 2,000 independently angled louvered strips, provides a clear, brilliant picture for patrons sitting anywhere in the theater. For screenings of modern 70mm/35mm first-run movies, however, Cinerama architects developed a second screen that sits immediately in front of its massive counterpart. An impressive display of engineering, this modular 68-foot-long screen breaks down in a matter of hours in preparation for special Cinerama presentations on the larger screen."

After reading that, should I get my hopes up for “2001” on the Cinerama screen after all? It’s baffling to me to have a real Cinerama screen installed in a theater named after Cinerama, and then not to use it.

I e-mailed the theater about this yesterday and am awaiting a reply. If they’re not using the bigger screen, I won’t be going.

droben on October 12, 2007 at 4:33 am

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.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Yes Chris, I know the “cheap” screen ; ) is slightly curved and not bad. But it’s not worth schlepping all the way to Seattle for. Did you know when they were designing that big-deal rippled starry ceiling they did not take into account that there would be a bigger screen for Cinerama? Yup. It obstructs part of the big picture, so they have to mask it down, and because of that ceiling you will never get to see the full size of the Cinerama screen. It always bothers me when the people in charge won’t listen to the people who know better.

JSA on October 11, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Thanks D Roben for the info. The standard screen will do it for me. I’m sure the 70 mm presentations will be top-notch. But I agree with Roadshow: they should use the giant screen!!!


Chris Utley
Chris Utley on October 11, 2007 at 8:36 pm

I’ve been to the Seattle Cinerama and saw the standard screen. It ain’t that bad. And…it’s curved, too.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 5:32 pm

DR: How exactly was the loose strip problem corrected?

It is unfortunate Seattle’s decision makers think that the curved screen is only for Cinerama. The Seattle Cinerama Theatre has been a local favorite for decades because of that screen. A Cinerama theatre without a Cinerama screen is a shame. It’s like going into Grauman’s Chinese and taking all the Chinese stuff out.

droben on October 11, 2007 at 5:24 pm

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.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Thanks, William.

LOL! Joe!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 11, 2007 at 4:35 pm

If Arclight’s management has made up a secret meaning for their theatre’s name, then I’m as clueless about that meaning as anybody else who doesn’t belong to their special club. For all I know, those who named the place might simply have been bad at spelling, and actually meant for the place to be called Ark Light, in oblique homage to Spielberg. Or maybe the current staff members are bad at spelling and actually think the place is named in oblique homage to Spielberg: “It’s, like, the Arc is full of light, dude. You open the Arc and the light comes out! It’s an Arc of light!”

William on October 11, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Roadshow, you’re right there.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 4:01 pm

I was a projectionist back in the mid seventies, carbon arcs, changeovers, etc. I know Xenon lamps made the platters possible, which rendered most professional projectionists expendible to owners. Not such a good thing as it turns out. You and I know that, but does the public? The ArcLight name, doesn’t represent movies to the general public it’s a stretch even to imagine what it refers to. But Cinerama, even for civillians, is not such a stretch, it conjures thoughts of movies, maybe panoramic movies, you know, like a combination of Cinema and Panorama. ; ) A far more effective brand name for a “specialized” movie chain, don’t you think?

William on October 11, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Movie theatres use xenon type lamphouses now, but before that theatres use carbon arc rods as a light source. Carbon Arc gives off a purier white light than xenon. But it needs for have someone maintaining it, during the show. So theatres had projectionists to maintain them and a full set of pos/neg rods would give just over 60mins of burning time.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 3:41 pm

I know about the obsolete use of carbon arc as a light source, (even the “roach clips” we used to burn the carbon rods down to stubs)… and the big lamps used for searchlights, and sometimes on movie sets. But the ArcLight management has denied that their name refers to either. They said, as if groping for an answer, “uh… it’s an arc of light.”

The blurry slide, that doesn’t quite fill their screens, is their corporate logo: a fuzzy pair of hands trying to form the letter A. Line up a dozen people (including the staff), ask them what it is and what it has to do with movies. Good luck with that. They have a name and logo that are apropos of nothing, yet they think it’s brand that people will want on t-shirts.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Arclight refers to the method used to produce light for projecting movies, and also for those big searchlights which are so closely associated with movie premiers. In an arc lamp, electricity arcs, or jumps, between two electrodes, generating an intense but harsh light as the electrodes are consumed. Arc lights were actually invented in the early 19th century, but didn’t become practical until later. Early electric lighting systems were based mostly on arc lights, but during the late 19th and early 20th century arc lamps were displaced by single-filament incandescent lamps for most uses other than movie projectors and searchlights.

Wikipedia has a fairly decent article about arc lamps.

I don’t know anything about the slide they project on the screen at Pacific’s Arclight Cinemas, as I’ve nver been there.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Back to ArcLight: Does anyone know what the name refers to, and what the heck that blurry slide they project onto the screens is supposed to be?

exit on October 11, 2007 at 1:18 pm

PS: I do like some of the Cinematheque’s programming, it’s the venue that ruins it for me. Yes William, I miss the Egyptian’s former configuration, and don’t think it was worth ruining that just to put a screening room in the lobby.

exit on October 11, 2007 at 1:12 pm

The reason I participate in Cinema Treasures and Cinema Sightlines Is their focus on real THEATRES, and the value placed on showmanship. I do not consider ArcLight or most multiplexes to be theatres. Good theatres are special environments that make you feel special, and provide a proper showcase for the film, perhaps like a frame to a painting or a setting to a jewel.

Keeping on topic here, I am not overly fond of ArcLight, because they have made misguided choices to stray from their better potential, and they have absolutely no clue about presentation and showmanship… (the only time you see a hint of it is when someone not on their in house staff is involved) They hold themselves up as the best of the best, with a substantial degree of attitude and arragance, but in most ways they are really just another multiplex. Their level of customer service is not up to their ostensibly high standards. The staff is not in the room through the movie, to look out for talkers, noisemakers and feet on the seats. At their prices, they make it your job to get up, miss the movie, and go look for someone, to report something they often don’t understand is a problem. They don’t understand why feet on the seats is wrong, which is why I have to choose the last row every time.

Having said that, I would absolutely prefer to see a movie there than the Egyptian or Aero. Bland as the ArcLight rooms are, at least they’re somewhat finished – you don’t see the bare walls of the building’s shell. American Cinematheque couldn’t affford an El Capitan calibre restoration, and there was nothing left in there but four walls, so they opted for this overly modern metal box built into the old space. It was purposely desifned to be removable in case anyone found enough cash to do a real restoration. You can pretty clearly see that this is not the intended configuration for the place.

The Egyptian is not remotely a theatre anymore. it’s not even fixed up like a standard multiplex. The metal panels, that slide out to close you off from the original walls, make the seating area feel like a cage. They could have at least fixed up the room’s focal point. Instead all they did was paint the inside of the building shell black. The wall you look at the most is unfinished, not shaped like the front of any theatre or screening room. It looks decidedly makeshift and temporary, like a basement or a warehouse. So yeah, draping off the screen area would have helped… some carpet, a little wall covering… not a lot of money needed for that. The Egyptian, as it is now, is not a pleasant place to watch a movie. Bland as the ArcLight rooms may be, theyre not exposing the bare walls.

William on October 11, 2007 at 12:00 pm

For me it’s the size of the screen compared to what was in there before. To put that second screen in the complex, the main house was downsized. During it’s last conversion for D-150 it seated around 1100 seats and the screen was huge.

HowardBHaas on October 11, 2007 at 11:43 am

Roadshow & Chris,
What is upsetting about 70mm at Egyptian? Auditorium and/or screen not large enough? Don’t use any curtains?