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Donald C. King book has the familiar exterior photo of the Astor when it was the Tremont, but no interior illustration or photo. Apparently there is no visual record of the theatre’s major interior alterations. Soon there will be no one living who can describe them. This theatre was a key player in Boston’s stage and screen history from its construction in 1889 onward.
Does anyone have interior photos of the auditorium? There have been many comments about this theatre’s history of major remodels, including the 70mm installation that covered the proscenium.
The Cinerama will never play to capacity as long as it positions itself in the same category as multiplexes & generic theatres. It is a unique theatre & should program itself accordingly. Why not sell mini-seasons of reserved seats to Cinerama & Todd-AO shown as only Seattle Cinerama can show them? Direct mail marketing to develop an in-house mailing/email list & other techniques used by reserved seat venues do not appear to have been used.
If correct, going from 808 seats to 570 is an incredible loss of capacity. The cost of admission will surely be increased as a result. Although seats at the rear of the main floor and balcony diminished the effect of the large deeply curved screen, there are worse seats by far in other Seattle theatres, including reserved seat houses.
It looked like the wide screen was installed in front of the proscenium along with curtain tracks for that screen. The screen appeared large because of the small auditorium size, but it was certainly wider than the actual proscenium.
Like it or not, the huge silver & lavender tiered curtain Ted Mann installed over the proscenium opening was one of the most spectacular ever created, with color intensity increasing gradually from the pale center to its left & right edges. He followed Boston’s Ben Sack playbook, remodeling old downtown theatres into first-run 70mm roadshows.
Does anyone remember the sound at the Seattle Cinerama before Dolby was installed? It was more realistic & less “pumped up”. This was the only Dolby installation I have heard that was NOT an improvement. From reports since the rescue of the theatre that misfire installation no longer exists.
Her Majesty’s has a wonderful stage to audience relationship. The upper levels have a good angle of view to the stage & are not set back at too great a distance. Saw a Ben Travers farce there & acoustics & sightlines surpassed the performance.
The Moore was designed and functioned as a “legitimate” or live theatre and had only a brief life as a cinema. It has some of the finest acoustics on the west coast. Much of the interior construction features heavy plaster. The auditorium is considerably deeper than San Francisco’s Geary Theatre, which also has two
balconies. Many actors had hoped the Seattle Rep might restore it rather than build a new home at Seattle Center.
The 70mm single projector presentations of films originally in 3 projector Cinerama at the Cinerama Festival at the Cinerama Dome in LA had little of the impact of the originals, with the exception of South Seas Adventure which was restored by an outfit in Austin, Texas. The sound on all the 70mm presentations was nothing like the original 7 channel Cinerama sound.
While the Waterloo Theatre was not an attractive auditorium, it had one of the best Cinemascope installations in the Midwest due to its lack of a balcony, which gave it an almost dead on projection angle from its booth at the rear of the house, and a curve in its screen twice as deep as other Cinemascope theatres in Iowa or Minnesota.
I saw The Most Happy Fellow at the Lyceum late 50s. It had a single balcony, the upper reaches far from the stage. It had an elevator to get to the rear section. Reserved seat tickets for this Broadway musical were $1.10 at the back of the balcony. It was a very bare auditorium, rather dark & in need of refurbishing.
San Francisco does have one remaining movie palace, or close to it: the Castro, which is not downtown but, like Chicago’s Patio, a neighborhood theatre. The Castro shows continual movie repertory & is home to the San Francisco International Silent Film Festival, which features newly restored prints & live music. The only thing missing is an adequate lobby & restrooms. The auditorium is large rather than huge & in good condition, with restoration of much original décor.
This was the best Cinerama installation in America. The screen was gigantic, the projection & sound superb. I recently attended the Cinerama Festival in Los Angeles at the Cinerama Dome and it did not come close to the thrill of seeing & hearing Cinerama at the Cooper. Ironic the Minneapolis Tribune celebrated the opening of the Cooper as the successor to the Radio City movie palace downtown & they have both met the wrecking ball.
I do not think there were roadshow engagements anywhere for the 35mm Cinemascope version of Oklahoma! The whole point of Oklahoma! roadshow presentations was to introduce Todd-AO. Since American Optical was headquartered in New England it would have been an embarrassment to present the Boston premiere in 35mm.
Who was the architect of the Los Angeles Theatre?
I saw Around the World in 80 Days at the Cinestage, which had a floor to ceiling concave curtain in front of a deeply curved screen. The interior of the auditorium had dark wood paneling. The projection booth was built in the center of the balcony with seating on top. Capacity was 1,100 seats. This was not the first Todd-AO installation in Chicago. That was a year earlier at McVickers for Oklahoma.
The Blue Mouse was the first Seattle theatre to install 70mm projection. Mutiny On The Bounty was filmed in 70mm Ultra Panavision. The 5th Avenue is a much larger theatre and did not have 70mm capability. They are on the same street, as was the Music Box, also a small venue like the Blue Mouse.
The Cinerama installation at the Century was highly successful. Orchestra and front half of the balcony were very effective for audience being put “in the picture”. The theatre’s moderate size was a factor. When I saw Cinerama in Chicago at the cavernous Palace, it was less sensational despite a larger screen.
There is an error in the description of the Cinerama screen. It was not 64 feet tall, it was 24 feet tall & 66 feet wide, with a 10 foot deep curve. I think the projection booth was moved to the rear of the first balcony for the reserved seat engagement of Lion In Winter (70mm Panavision) in 1968. The Cinerama screen was retained & the sound was excellent, in particular the deep bass resonance of John Barry’s thrilling score accompanying the opening credits. Dialogue was also crystal clear.
RogerA, thanks for your informative comments (all of them)—especially all the latest specs on the screen, sound & projectors installed at the Astor for Todd-AO.
The bookshop at Arclight in LA was selling projection lenses from the old 70mm Cinerama at the Cinerama Dome Festival a year ago for $100 each. Wish I’d bought one. None of them looked as large as the one being held in the photo of the Astor projection booth. Is that you in the photo? Where did Around the World in 80 Days play in Boston? I saw My Fair Lady at the Saxon & thought the screen too small for the length of the auditorium. The Gary screen looked good from both balconies. Sack finally removed the seats directly in front of the projection booth windows at the Gary. Shadows of latecomers on the screen were a major complaint.
The Academy was a gem. The audience-stage relationship is almost unique in U.S. commercial legit theatres, which tend to be larger, with problematic sightlines. The first balcony was only 7 rows deep & offered a perfect view of the stage. The second balcony had a portion of the front center section removed to accommodate the image thrown by the Todd-AO projector from the booth at the rear of the first balcony. This was one of the best Todd-AO installations I have seen, with a deep curved screen in perfect proportion to the auditorium.
Wow, what a restoration! It sure looks better than when I saw the Danish Ballet there in the mid-60s.
Does anyone have a photo of the Astor interior to post? I am especially interested in pre and post Todd-AO conversion. It sounds like this may have been one of the original Todd-AO presentation houses that featured a deep curved screen. It’s hard to explain how impressive the early Todd-AO was compared to the later less expensive flat screens used in the majority of theatres after South Pacific. Quality control went out the window. I saw a good flat screen 70mm presentation of Sound of Music at the Gary in Boston and a terrible presentation of Can-Can in Milwaukee that was no clearer than 35mm on a flat screen, while in Minneapolis the same film was shown in a vastly superior presentation on a Cinerama screen.
The 70mm presentation of Lawrence of Arabia was excellent. Oddly, there were reserved seats directly in front of the projection booth at the rear of the first balcony. Late arrivals cast their shadows on the otherwise impressive large flat screen that filled the stage. I had seen Lawrence previously in San Francisco where it played a second rate theatre on Market St with inferior projection and sound. The Gary presentation was far superior and it had a long run.