Comments from garyrc

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garyrc commented about Coronet Theatre on May 13, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Believe it or not, the Coronet had an EVEN BIGGER screen at the time of the FIRST THREE 70 mm Todd-AO films, The Miracle of Todd-AO, Oklahoma!, and Around the World in 80 Days. I saw them all at the Coronet, 80 Days Repeatedly. For those three films, the deeply curved screen filled the ENTIRE AREA behind the curved curtains, with no masks on the sides, top, or bottom (the usual black masks, when fully open, were hidden behind the very small trimmer curtains). The image on the film running through the projector was 2.2:1, but it became more like 2:1 on the screen, when viewed from head-on, because the curve took up some of the width, as intended. It was only for these three films that the film ran at 30 frames per second (instead of the usual 24 fps), to smooth out the action, and allow for extraordinarily bright (“Sparkling,” one critic said) image without the flicker that bright projection sometimes causes (the Critical Flicker Frequency —the frequency in frames per second at which persistence of vision fails — is a function of brightness). They actually used two Todd-AO cameras simultaneously to shoot these films, one running at 30 fps and one at 24 fps for the inevitably disappointing 35 mm print downs for lesser theaters. In the 70 mm versions, all of the factors that increase arousal in the cerebral cortex were maximized — brightness, largeness, loudness and complexity of the sound (6 channel stereo, with great dynamics, and, in the case of 80 Days, a 114 piece orchestra). Consequently, the audience was “up.” It was near hypnotic! 80 Days ran well into its second year at the Coronet, forcing the chain to equip the inferior Alexandria down the street for 70 mm for South Pacific. At the Coronet, 80 Days began with a small 35 mm image of Edward R. Murrow introducing the film then the curtains, black masks, and image dramatically widened out to the full Todd-AO size, with the black masks disappearing behind the trimmer curtains.

When other 70 mm processes that didn’t use Todd-AO’s optical correction for the deeply curved screen started to be used, the Coronet tore down its big curved screen, and installed a more nearly flat, and smaller, one behind the same large curved curtains. Although it was still larger than most screens (at least from the front set of rows that extended right down to the screen, because there was no orchestra pit, and no stage to get in the way, it lacked the sense of total, engulfing involvement that the earlier screen provided. Had the owners of the newly arriving 70 mm processes (Super Technirama 70, Panavision 70, Camera 65, etc.) been able to get together on sharing an optical correction, the Coronet might have been able to hang on to the big screen, making everything from Ben-Hur to Star Wars more spectacular but this was a competition as misguided as HDDVD vs. BlueRay. or Beta vs VHS, or SACD vs. DVD-A …. everyone lost.

Now the Coronet is rubble. When we heard this, my friends and I sank momentarily into misanthropy.