Cinerama Dome and ArcLight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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KramSacul on August 9, 2007 at 4:08 pm

Roadshow, since you were there for the Evita experiment how did the image look? Was there any distortion on the flat screen?

I heard that for the recent It’s A Madx4 World showing at the Dome the screen was masked so all of the frame was shown, something like this:

View link

A similar masking configuration could be used for 2.35:1. Only the bottom would have to be masked. This would decrease the projection angle and allow for more of the frame to be seen that would otherwise be cut off if all of the screen was used. The last time I was at the Dome was for Spider-man 3 and so much was cut off at the bottom of the frame that the Sony Pictures text under the Columbia Pictures logo was completely cut off.

exit on August 9, 2007 at 3:52 pm

No I meant the downstairs of the old Warner theatre after it was converted in 68 to the Penthouse/Cinerama/Orleans. They ran regular movies on the Cinerama screen for years until it was torn down about 20 years later. I saw National Lampoon’s Vacation there in its initial run. No picture distortion because the booth was in the back of the auditorium.

HowardBHaas on August 9, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Are you talking about a Cinerama screen still in New York? Where? or maybe you are talking 20 or more years ago?

exit on August 9, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Again, don’t blame the screen. Cinerama screens in places like New York, Washington DC, Seattle and Omaha, have all shown standard movies on a reduced area of a Cinerama screen for decades with very popular results. Tilting a curved screen upwards is problematic and doesn’t really solve the problem as much as change it.

Evita’s flat screen happened because Alan Parker freaked out over the throw angle making her coffin looking like a wiener. Disney engineers came in and turned the Dome into a black box. Flat ceiling, flat screen with no curtains, looked like a cheesy multiplex. I was there to see Evita. I can’t tell you how many people went down and peeked behind the flat screen to make sure the curved one was still there.

Except for using a low-gain sheet in place of louvers, the screen at the Dome is a Cinerama screen. Check with American Widescreen Museum for more information on Cinerama. There were not really a hard set of specs for the screen. Could be 146 or 126 degrees, curved sides like a cylander or flat sides like a bowtie. A lot depended on the venue.

Later processes like Todd AO and D-150 tried to imitate the Cinerama screen, and AWSM has a neat illustration about D-150 and the areas allowed for each format. You were never supposed to blow up 35mm to the full size of the screen because you lose to much light and sharpness… but the Dome does now, and you can see the result.

As for the current geometric distortion at the Dome, ArcLight’s insistance on using the entire screen for everything magnifies the distortion, and the enormous task of closing up the place to build a new frame with a flatter or tilted screen makes much less sense than simply building another booth in the rear mezzanine where it should be. It could be done in stages without missing a single screening, and the result would be a nearly straight throw to the center of the screen, eliminating any horizon sag. And since a straight line is a shorter distance than a diagonal line, the shorter throw means a brighter sharper picture. Louvers could be put onto the existing screen frame in a couple days if they had the right people working on it. BTW, 3 strip Cinerama hasn’t much problem with horizion sag becaust it’s 3 projectors, aimed directly at left, center and right, so they can stay where they are.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on August 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm


I’m pretty sure that a branch of Pacific was called Cinerama Theatres. I was under the impression that the theatres they operated in Marin County were all operated by Cinerama Theatres Inc.

KramSacul on August 9, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I should’ve added that it probably wouldn’t/doesn’t matter much if the screen in the Dome isn’t technically a Cinerama screen. As long as it’s huge and somewhat curved and the sign on the building says Cinerama then I think Joe Public will be satisifed.

Supposedly the picture at the Dome was worse before the Arclight addition. The focus across the screen wasn’t as uniform as it is now.

William on August 9, 2007 at 12:31 pm

The problems at the Dome have been the same problems it’s had for the last 40 some years. “Evita” looked good but I did not like the flat screen. The studio have over the years struck special lighter prints for that curved screen. I’ve run the Dome many times, it was a fun booth to run. (Before the automation install) The operator ran that booth, everything was run manual.

KramSacul on August 9, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Wouldn’t angling the screen upward help as well? How does the projection angle compare to Grauman’s or the Village? Also, for those that were there how did Evita look when the temporary flat screen was put in? Was it hung higher to avoid the distortion?

The thing is that there isn’t a Cinerama screen in the Dome. It’s a D-150, which is too curvy for anything shown on it nowadays.

exit on August 9, 2007 at 11:34 am

PS: even a flatter Cinemascope tyoe screen would have a distorted and certainly dim picture if the picture was thrown from the current booth.

exit on August 9, 2007 at 11:32 am

Mark, as I’ve said, the screen is not the problem, it’s the location of the projector. Taking the CInerama screen out of the Dome would be like taking all the Chinese decoration out of Graumans Chinese. Put another booth in the back of the mezzanine and the picture would be brighter with no dip in the horizon line. Make the screen out of properly aligned louvers and the brightness and contrast would be much better. But Pacific/ArcLight folks just don’t think that way.

KramSacul on August 9, 2007 at 8:46 am

If the Pacific/Arclight Execs are indeed so disinterested in showing true Cinerama in The Dome then I would honestly prefer they install a proper screen (Cinemascope) and fix the projection problems. Then instead of showing compromised Cinerama a week out of the year and dim distorted 35mm/2k digital for the rest they could have top notch projection the entire year.

exit on August 9, 2007 at 8:00 am

JS is the onePacific/ArcLight folks should be listening to. I’ve met RB as well. Just don’t ask him what ArcLight means…

exit on August 9, 2007 at 6:47 am

Scott: Pacific was originally called Pacific Drive-Ins, the chain was never called Cinerama. They acquired Cinerama inc. (not including any theatres) in the sixties after the Dome was built.

Mark: The Cinerama enthsiasts had more experience with and knowledge of Cinerama than anyone at Pacific, except for the two people I mentioned before. The louvered screen would be made of a high gain material, and most important, each strip needed to be angled so that is was flat toward the audience and anchored into place so that it wouldn’t move. Seattle got the louvered screen but never bothered to angle or anchor the lovvers, so it was effectively just a sliced up sheet screen. First time they showed HOW THE WEST WAS WON, the AC was turned on behind the screen, and all those strips began to flutter, causing bleck lines to appear all across the screen, so it looked like it was raining all over the picture. Apparently Pacific Execs were there and that scared them away from installing louvers in the Dome. Of course had the strips been angled properly and fixed into position, and a white scrim was hung behind the louvers, you would never get that fluttering, and even if you did, the white scrim would prevent the black streaks in the picture.

The experts also demonstrated how the severe angle from the existing booth distorts and weakens the picture, while a more direct throw from the back of the mezzanine would give a brighter undistorted picture. But Pacific didn’t want to loose the 39 seats back there.

It was also the Cinerama folks who suggested that the Dome be retrofitted for 3-strip Cinerama, further that it be shown regularly (but not too often) as a tourist attraction. There were filmmakers who were itching to shoot new footage in 3 strip, like a short prologue in real Cinerama to be shown before every feature, but again, Pacific execs aren’t really interested.

90038: who do you know that would pay for an ArcLight T-shirt? the Cinerama name and logo are more attractive and interesting than that ArcLight scribble. They had more than one design of Cinerama shirts at one time. Not by any stretch of the imagination cold ArcLight merchandise outsell Cinerama.

KramSacul on August 8, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Hey, I have an Arclight shirt around here somewhere. ;–)

I’m curious what advice Cinerama enthusiasts were suggesting. A proper strip screen would elminate the cross reflections, of course.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on August 8, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Do you think Pacific may dislike the Cinerama name because their entire chain was called “Cinerama” in the past? Perhaps they’re just tired of hearing it.

exit on August 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Pacific doesn’t want the Cinerama name and brand, they think the ArcLight brand is going to be as popular as The Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood. Delusional, huh? With only one or two exceptions, (good people who aren’t given enough clout by the owners) the Pacific/Arclight folks in currently charge have never had any knowledge, interest or respect for the Cinerama name or the process.

Actually the CInerama stuff sold just fine. They really took a bath on the ArcLight branded merchandise, because really, who cares about that name?. Cinerama is one of the more recognizable names in entertainment history, and it actully means something, while the ArcLight name (“borrowed” from a foreign theatre chain that sued Pacific over it) means nothing. Ask one of the employees what ArcLight means. They have no idea. I once asked someone in middle management there, and the answer was comically clueless.

Adding the 3 Cinerama projectors was not corporate Pacific’s idea at all, it was the result of much prodding from Cinerama enthusiasts, and Pacific chose to ignore much of the expert advice about how to get a good picture on the Cinerama screen, which is why movies at the Dome are generaly dim and fuzzy.

Seattle and Pacific aren’t the ones who wanted to restore any or all of the Cinerama movies, and they aren’t willing to pay for it all. And by the way. none of the films has been “restored” They just struck new prints of two features and that’s all. The costs were shared by special arrangements. Again it was the Cinerama enthusiasts (many of whom are employed in entertainment and know how to do it right) that prodded these theatres into doing what’s been done so far, and both theatres' execs resisted fully installing the screen and process, so the screen image in both Seattle and the Dome are not as effective as they could be.

If Seattle execs really cared for Cinerama, they would have listened to the experts and permanantly installed a proper Cinerama screen (with the strips anchored to the front) instead of rolling it up behind a flatter screen. Their designers were so enthralled with making that showy new ceiling that they neglected to allow for the full size of the Cinerama screen. The ceiling obsturcts part of the picture, so the screen has to be masked down from its full picture size because of the ceiling.

The Cinerama name and process was not really being kept alive by the corporations in charge of Pacific or Seattle, it was some vocal and resourceful enthusiasts and experts who prodded both into action, and in both cases their expert advice was not fully carried out and the installations are compromised.

Cinerama inc. is a very small division of Pacific, and has maybe a three person staff consisting of the two experts mentioned before and a secretary. Again these are good people who know showmanship, and if they were in charge of things, the Cinerama Dome experience (and the rest of the theatres) would be far superior to what it is today. The execs only listen to money.

terrywade on August 8, 2007 at 6:51 am

The gift store in the lobby of the Pacific Arclight no longer sells Cinerama shirts. The rude lady told me they took a bath on them.I don’t think so. I have seen many people with them in the last few years. They had many styles with the Cinerama logo. They don’t even sell the new Cinema Treasure book that has the Cinerama Dome in it. I asked about the book she never heard of it. Of all places to sell this book this is the place. the Pacific people don’t care about Cinerama anymore. In the LA Times the theatre is just called the Dome. Why not call it The Cinerama Dome. They can put in the little logo for Cinerama. At one time the Seattle people and the Pacific guys wanted to restore all the 3 proj prints. Is this ever going to happen?

William on August 4, 2007 at 8:46 am

The ArcLight is running “Hairspray” Sing-A-Long version now. Enjoy!

KramSacul on August 4, 2007 at 1:40 am

Well, I’ll take your word for it. There was no curtain show when I saw Ratatouille last month though. Probably to accomadate the stage show.

I know this is OT but it’s pretty neat how the El Capitan’s screen operates. I wonder how big the screen speakers are as they must go up and down with the screen.

exit on August 4, 2007 at 12:48 am

Mark, actually the El Cap did not discontinue the curtain show. All 3 curtains are still there, I’ve seen them all used in the usual manner within the past few months, and the management has confirmed they’re all still in operation. The curtain opening is preprogrammed, and if they have the screen in front of one of the curtains (as was the case for a couple of the 3-D features) or the stage show set precludes use of all three curtains, if one of them is being cleaned or replaced, or whatever, then they can’t do it. The Pirate movies had their own curtain show, (and their own curtain).

I never said I despise ArcLight, just that they don’t live up to their hype. One is just as likely to be bothered by inconsiderate people there as anywhere else, and though they make a big show of staying inside to check on things, they really don’t monitor the audience for disturbances, even when they are in there. The new seats AMC put into Universal are way more comfortable than ArcLight’s. (though the new Uni lobby is hideous) For the record, ArcLight happens to be the closest plex to me.

KramSacul on August 3, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Actually the El Capitan doesn’t have the grand curtain opening preshow anymore. Apparently they stopped doing it a a few years ago, around the time of the first Pirates movie. Now there’s just one yellow curtain that rises and falls between the stage show and trailers. It’s still a very nice curtain though.

Roadshow, if you despise Arclight so much why did you go there? It would be like me going to an AMC theater.

exit on August 3, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Mark, I know what you mean about the Bruin, but the Majestic Crest is designed opulence from the marquee to the screen, so it beats the hell out of the Bruin. Disney has no need to notice the Crest’s presentation… their El Capitan has a great opening curtain and light show… by the same designer as the Majestic Crest. The Crest is an example of what Joe Musil could do without interference from the Mouse Factory.

And speaking of the ultimate curtain show, Me. Musil’s Musem of Theatrical Design in Santa Ana has a theatre with something like a dozen curtains! Makes the El Cap look like a puppet show. The Crest/Hairspray page you were were looking at has a link to his website. He’s ahveing a show Saturday with clips from movie musicals, and his museum has an entire wall dedicated to designing and outfittng the Crest.

Hwd9, I am no expert but I can recognize fake audience surrounds (it was one of the first surround sound I ever heard decades ago) I have to warn you that the last time ArcLight’s zero decor “Black Box” showed GREASE (with Director Randal Kleiser present) either the print was flat mono (highly unlikely) or the surrounds weren’t even turned on. Sounded like loud mono. Part of the problem is most of the “black boxes” are wider than they are long, so the surrounds are probably too far apart to be noticed. Just don’t expect much from GREASE.

ArcLight is just SO FAR away from being what they say they are…. but more of that will surface elsewhere later.

KramSacul on August 1, 2007 at 2:41 am

The Crest certainly looks like great eye candy but the auditorium looks a lot like a jazzed up version of the Bruin(ie shoebox shape with a screen at the end). An opening curtain show sounds great though. Disney should take notice.

Not going to defend the Dome’s projection/screen problems although the sound can be VERY GOOD when the planets align, which is kind of rare now. LOTR 1 sounded INSANE.

exit on July 31, 2007 at 2:36 pm

When I tried to see HAIRSPRAY at the unpublicized midnight preview, I had a run-in with an arrogant manager, and got a ticket to return later. I said I’d just wait until CHUCK & LARRY got moved to the back, because HAiRSPRAY would inevitably end up in the Dome, and she swore that HAIRSPRAY would NEVER play the Dome again. She also swore that her staff never allowed feet on the seats and always looked for disruptive patrons. Wrong on every point.

Went back to the Dome yesterday afternoon and found HAIRSPRAY a joy, but the picture was dim and fuzzy as usual because of Pacific’s bad projection decisions. You can read more on that elsewhere… I have also never found the Dome’s sound system to be particularly impressive. Sure it’s loud, but I don’t ever remember hearing much in the way of discrete channels or high fidelity. Ditto the ArcLight’s “Black Boxes”…

I still want to see Hairspray at the Crest. Their picture will be sharper and brighter than the Dome’s. For More on HAIRSPRAY at the Crest and a look at the interior, Visit View link There will eventually be an in-depth review of Arclight/Cinerama Dome there, among other theatres.

KramSacul on July 27, 2007 at 6:12 am

Well, according to Arclight’s website Hairspray is now playing in the Dome.

HAIRSPRAY is playing in the Dome.


Not a joke.