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In June of 1973 I saw the 70mm version of “This is Cinerama” at the Ziegfeld Theatre, NYC, NY. I went with a friend while visiting NYC, and as I recall, the large screen was wall-to-wall, in front of the curtains, flat in the center and curved just a little on either end. It was obviously not a typical louvered true Cinerama screen. The people in the audience behind us were heard to say, “This isn’t Cinerama”, and “This is not how we remember Cinerama.” I felt the same way. I’d seen two 3-strip Super Cinerama films at the Palace Theatre in Tampa in 1962 & 1963 – “7 Wonders of the World” & “How the West Was Won” and this 70mm triptych version just wasn’t like the real thing. I was very disappointed. The 70mm Cinerama films were just not that good when it came to being put in the picture. The Palace Theatre in Tampa did a good job with the fake 70mm Cinerama films, however, especially with “Grand Prix” & “2001, A Space Odyssey”. They filled the screen except for a few feet on either side, and from top to bottom very well.
Yes, Nick, I do believe it was “Grand Prix” which was the first of the 70mm single-lens Cinerama films at the Palace. The installation of 70mm in the old orchestra Cinerama booth must have taken place in the period after “Mary Poppins” moved to the Tampa Theatre to make way for “The Sound of Music”. The other 35mm presentations you mentioned I did not see in 1964 or 1965—just “…Mad World” in June 1964. They had reserved seats for IAMMMMW, and sold programs with presented in Cinerama on them. My friend and I went up to peer through the balcony projection booth windows—but we couldn’t tell for sure if it was 70mm. I assumed it was 35mm because I don’t remember IAMMMMW having stereo sound. Plus, my friend had been in Cleveland, OH, and did see “…Mad World” in 70mm Cinerama in late 1963—and he pointed out during the Palace showing that many scenes had been cut out of the film. Since you mentioned the old Palace CinemaScope film “The Robe” having been presented with stereo sound it prompts me to wonder why it wasn’t present for “…Mad World”. It is true that a lot of theatres installing CinemaScope in the 1950’s didn’t put in the four channel stereo sound system, opting for cheaper mono optical sound. And it is also true that when United Artists struck the 35mm Scope prints of IAMMMMW, most all of them probably didn’t carry the four channel magnetic tracks—this was the early sixties and only first run theatres might present Scope films with stereo sound. Confusingly, I’ve also read about 35mm projectors being converted to 70mm with a special kit that Panavision, Inc. made available—so it’s entirely possible that the balcony booth could have been converted to 70mm for “…Mad World”. But honestly, I just don’t believe that happened at the Palace, as the “Mary Poppins” 35mm run as well as all the other 35mm Scope 2.35:1, and Flat 1.85:1 films at the Palace were all projected from the balcony booth. It would be great if Palace theatre projectionists could be found to comment on this—there must have been a lot of them considering the 3-strip presentations required five. Of course, they must have all lost their jobs—you only need one for 35mm or 70mm presentations. By May of 1964, the run of 70mm single lens Cinerama presentations was already seven months old—I’m sure United Artists was anxious to get the Scope prints of “…Mad World” to the theatres so as to increase their profit margins.
It’s so nice to have you respond to my comment about the Palace Theatre in Tampa. Yes, I think at the time, Todd-AO 70mm prints were not allowed contractually to be presented on the screen as large as the Cinerama Single-Lens films. And yes, all the 70mm projectors I’ve read about show 35mm as well—so why Palace management kept using that balcony booth, I’ll never know, because for the orchestra audience, the keystone distortion was pretty bad—sitting in the balcony helped to solve the problem for viewers. I wish I’d seen the rerun of SOM later in 1973 when the full 70mm screen area was used—same as that projecting “Grand Prix”, & “2001, A Space Odyssey” which I also saw. The screen being masked down length wise to a lesser 120 degrees was a disappointment. On a couple of occasions I went behind the screen to see how the louvers were attached—they were always visible to me from the audience, but it was such a unique design & perfect for a curved screen to prevent light being scattered back on itself. Also, in the late 1960’s early 1970’s I saw a couple other films, again projected from the balcony booth in 35mm—“A Clockwork Orange”,& one with actress Sandy Dennis titled “The Fox”. The 1964 35mm presentation of “IAMMMMW” was such a disappointment, & I can understand why the Palace didn’t have time to get the 70mm equipment because “HTWWW” was such a long run before it finally closed to make way for the ‘new’ single-lens system. What bothered me at the time was that the “…Mad World” programs were sold with ‘presented in Cinerama’ on the covers, & the tickets were ‘reserved seat’ prices. Though I didn’t see “Circus World” I did write to the Palace theatre management & have them send me a program—It also states on the cover ‘presented in Cinerama’. Once “Mary Poppins” began no other Cinerama engagements ran for a long time. I’ve always felt sorry for 3-strip Cinerama theatres like the Palace having to convert to the less satisfactory 70mm process which didn’t utilize the entire 146 degree screen or have the visceral impact of the original 3-strip process.
Palace in Tampa, circa 1962/1963. I saw “Seven Wonders of the World” & “How the West was Won” in 3-strip Cinerama. Over a year later, in June of 1964, I saw the ‘roadshow presentation’ of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, seemingly in 35mm Scope projected from the balcony booth—NOT the orchestra 3-strip booth. The Cinerama screen was cropped severely. The image had terrible keystone effects—deep arching of horizontal lines. I didn’t see the very next ‘faux’ Cinerama film “Circus World”, though management did sell the programs and charge roadshow prices for both ‘Cinerama’ films. “Mary Poppins” long 35mm engagement was next, projected from the same balcony booth, and I had to sit up there where the distortion was not as apparent. Disney’s run ended with the 70mm—not 35mm Scope as suggested—1965 presentation of “The Sound of Music”, projected from the orchestra’s 3-strip Cinerama booth with the three projector windows now finally removed & replaced with two larger ones to accommodate dual 70mm projection. The Todd-AO logo is not present in a 35mm scope print. edited out.