Showing 1 - 25 of 271 open comments
Actually, there’s plenty of clearance for projection from the back of the house even if the booth were a few feet above the back row of seats. While the view may be exaggerated, that’s still pretty small screen, and at the point where the projector beam crosses under the chandelier the size of the image would be very small, possibly less than a foot square. At the halfway point in the auditorium the picture would be only one-quarter the size it would be when it got to the screen. Further clearance would also have been gained by having each of the two projectors off the center line of the auditorium where the chandelier is hung. In addition, both machines would be shooting at a slight downward angle which would add more clearance.
There’s a comment by rjcambell in 2006 that clarifies this discussion. The second screen was a roof top theatre. When I first came to New York I went to a lot of the $1.00 sub-run houses and ths was one. A friend of mine who was head of service for RKO theatres and then an independent contractor told me that this house “bicycled” the print when the roof top theatre was open, pulling the reels from the lower booth to the upper booth with a rope. He also mentioned a time when the two operators didn’t get along and one of them deliberately waited until the last minute to lower or raise the reels to the other booth. I came here in 1974, so never got to attend a screening in the upper theatre, but thought it looked pretty neat with the big windows that caught the air off the ocean for cooling. While someone on this site does mention an outside staircase, I would think the inner staircase at one point did lead to the roof theatre.
Thanks Vito. I always enjoy reading yours as well. The topic of Dolby at Radio City is of special interest to me. As a matter of “full disclosure” I should mention that when I left Radio City it was to go to work for Dolby Laboratories in their first New York screening room where I still put in a 40 hour week. In a sense I’ve been involved with Dolby in one way or another for about 40 years now, so I remember all of the years Vito refers to vividly. (Actually, longer than that, since as student working for my University TV station, I got a chance to run the Ampex 1000 videotape machine which was given to educational stations as a way to distribute programming before satellites were available. It was the first succesful broadcast videotape recorder, and one of the engineers who designed it was a young man named Ray Dolby.)
I met Ioan Allen (who really got Dolby involved in cinema) on his first trip to New York to promote Dolby technolgy to dealer technicians from the Eastern half of the country in 1974. Later two of the projectionists who were on the crew at Radio City became Dolby employees, one as a Vice President and the other as a head techncian in the Dolby NY office. Through them I met Ray Dolby, and gave him and his son tours of Radio City.
That is the reason I’m posting this. There was only one company in the country that I would leave my “dream job” at Radio City for and it was Dolby. Ray Dolby’s death last week really saddened us all. He was a quiet, self-effacing man who accomplished something even 20th Century Fox couldn’t achieve with their 4-track magnetic CinemaScope stereo — he made movie stereo a practical technology for theatres everywhere. Vito mentioned the problem of dual inventory optical prints when Dolby started, but that was nothing compared to the problems that arose from having mag track prints sent to theatres which couldn’t play them and optical prints sent to theatres that had full stereo capability. Ray and Ioan came up with a track that could be played on any optical reproducer. It might not sound as good running as undecoded Dolby A noise reduction — but it would play. In addition, by employing the stereo matrrix it was possible to achieve a pretty good stereo surround experience from the two optical mono tracks used in the RCA 35mm system. Once you did that, you also had the capability to have a left, center, right, surround experience from any two track stereo source which could include VHS tapes, laserdiscs and broadcast TV. It was inevitable that movie sound would go multi-channel someday, but Dolby’s contribution brought the revolution about earlier than anyone else could.
I think working here during Ray’s involvement with the company can only be compared to working for Disney when Walt was alive. I can remember sitting in a staff meeting in our screening room when we heard a quiet, “May I come in?” It was Ray who had come in unannounced, and then enchanted us all with stories about the early days of the company.
I hope you’ll forgive me for rambling on, but I did want a great man — and nice guy — remembered on this site.
Re: Radio City and Dolby Stereo. Radio City was actually an experimental site for Dolby cinema sound as far back as 1974 when I started there as Head Projectionist. Repesentatives from the Dolby N.Y. office were looking for a large theatre to try out Dolby encoded 35mm soundtracks and Radio City is a “large” theatre! At that time there was only Dolby mono encoding featuring 2 units, one which decoded Dolby Type “A” optical tracks and one which provided 3rd Octave equalization to “tune” the room. The first Dolby encoded stereo film we played was “The Little Prince” which was the 1974 Christma feature. There were no stereo optical tracks at that time, but we had a 3 track magnetic print with Dolby A encoding.
We added three more units to play back 6 track 70mm magnetic tracks, primarily for the 3rd octave equalizaation capabilities.
We added a Dolby CP-100 processor for a picture that preceeded “Star Wars” since Fox wanted to try out stereo optical prints before they released “Star Wars”. The picture was a dud, but the equipment stayed.We never paid for it, but felt we were justified in keeping it since we did provide a crew for testing when Dolby needed it.
We finally ended up buying a complete Dolby installation (with Disney’s help) for the premiere of “The Lion King” which involved a complete re-do of the motion-picture sound system and the inclusion of on the wall surround speakers. “Lion King” only required three stage channels snce it was 1.85 aspect ratio, but we later added two more stage channels so we could play “classic” 70mm prints which had 5 channels behind the screen and a mono surround channel. We also needed the extra channels because our 35mm 1.85 picture is smaller than our 70mm 1.85 picture and the screen masking was not acoustically transparent. We also added more surround speakers at that time.
Since then the Hall has added a Dolby SA-10 unit which splits the surround array into left, center and right groups for use in the stage show mix.
The recent obit of Ray Dolby in the New York Times features a picture of him in the Music Hall booth looking at a soundrack on a piece of 35mm film That picture was taken during the premiere engagement of “The Lion King” one of the few times when we used platters at the Hall, with the 70mm picture locked to a 35mm print for Dolby Digital sound.
Since those snipes are so fondly remembered I thought I’d add a couple of comments about how they were produced. When I was a student at the U. of Ill. my film class visited Filmack in Chicago as it came as close to a “movie studio” as anything we had out there at the time.
The black and white snipes always featured white letters superimposed over an art background which could be a theatre auditorium, or as in the case of Radio City’s snipes just a pattern. In reality,they were black letters on a white card, with the “background” art in negative on a glass plate in a frame that closed over the card. To do an angled “wipe” another white card was put over the lettered card, and the camera operator slowly pulled it out of the bottom of the frame revealing the lettering. Since the snipe was actually the camera negative, everything was reversed and the foreground art became the background with the now white lettering on top. There were plates containing artwork as well as photos of feature’s one-sheets in a cart next to the camera and the operator could just select the one he needed as per the order. Filmack also had an extesive printing operation which contained type in hundereds of fonts to print the cards. (They also owned one of two Oxberry animation stands in Chicago at the time. The other owned by Sears.) While my teacher who had been a cinematographer in L.A. wasn’t impressed, I thought it was a remarkably cheap and easy way to create what looked like a fully animated clip.
A lot of the color ads with still images from local merchants were done at Alexander Films in Colorado. They had touring salesmen who would come into town, sell the spot, take the slides and then arrange for them to be shown in the theatre. Not as technically proficient as the digital clips used pre-show today, but not bad for their time.
We did run some trailers when I was at the Hall, and I found a trailer for “Cowboys” which played before I worked there, in the film cabinet. (I remember that one because there was a question about light levels on “Harry and Walter Go To New York” and I spliced the normal density “Cowboys” Tr. to one of their reels to show that it was a film problem, not a light problem with our projectors.)
We also ran the trailer for “That’s Entertainment” with the thought that we were going to get the picture which MGM ultimately gave to the Ziegfeld.
The snipes you refer to which promoted special shows at individual theatres were common in the industry. In Illinois the Filmack Company turned them out quickly and cheaply and I have a whole reel of them I saved from a theatre I worked in out there. The Hall used them as noted to not only promote the upcoming feature, but also plug the stage show that accompanyed it. While cheaply made (image you saw projected was actually the camera negative so there was no print cost)the personalized snipes added a touch of class and individuality to a promotional presentation.
Radio City never had 8,000 seats. The 5,940 total listed above is probably the most accurate. I was told by a vice-president when I started there that the 6,000 seat figure was to make the theatre competitive with the Roxy down the street. As the executive explained, “Well if you count the seats in the lobby and the restrooms we have 6,000 seats!” Even the 5,940 total varies with the attraction being presented. When the “pasarelle (SP?)” or ramp was in place around the perimiter of the orchestra pit to enable the Rockettes and performers to perform further out in the house, at least two rows in the front of the orchestra were removed to accomodate it. Of course, the big television broadcasts of the MTV Awards, Grammys, etc. required the loss of seats for camera and mix positions and even the use of video projectors for televised fights required the removal of a couple of rows of seats in one section at the back of the 1st Mezzanine. When the house was remodeled in 1979 the sound mix position was moved from the projection level to the front of the 2nd Mezzanine requiring the loss of seating. Thus the number of seats available for a given show is always a variable.
I should add that the sign I was referring to with the “theater” spelling was the one in the parking lot, not the one on the theatre canopy itself. That one must have been added by Classic, since it wasn’t there the last time I was there sometime after the addition to the right was added.
The sign was there when the theatre opened. I was the first projectionist and it was my first full-time job as a projectionist. I was there from 1967 until January of 1974 when I left to become Head Projectionist at Radio City Music Hall (a slightly larger venue!) The theatre was built by L&M Theatres and was their first new shopping center threatre. They also ran the classic Rialto in Joliet at the time. Later Bob Bachman, who was President of
L&M bought the Meadowview and the downtown Town Theatre, and was responsible for the eventual tripling of the Meadowview. The original sign had “Meadowview Theater” (a spelling Bob Bachman and I both questioned) on top, and the whole attraction board below was for one screen. For several years after I left I made an annual visit back to have lunch with Bob who gave me a fantastic insight into film booking. I’m glad to see that Classic Cinemas have taken such good care of the Meadowview and the Paramount. (It’s hard to believe that 45 years have elapsed since I first walked into that booth while the theatre was still under construction!)
That picture was taken when I was Head Projectionist at the Hall and that is indeed 70mm film on the rewind. I suspect we put it out for the benefit of the tour groups that came through the booth on a regular basis. The picture of the projectors shows #1 machine at the far left side of the frame. It was 35mm only, but the next three were Simplex 35/70mm projectors flanked by another 35mm only Simplex X-L in the #5 spot. The spotlights are Kliegal, and the machine at the right edge of the frame isn’t a spotlight but a Brenkert slide projector used for effects in the stage show.
Actually, the auditorium was more interesting than described above. My predecessor at Radio City, Bill Nafash, did the installation in both the theatre and the two Paramount screening rooms in the offices at the top of the building. All of the projectors were 70mm, and before they were installed Radio City took three of them to get “Airport” opened on time. Three of the machines were in the theatre, and Bill said it was really really unique, at least in concept. The auditorium was designed to look like the bellows of a camera narrowing as it got closer to the screen. The “curtain” at the front was designed to look like a camera lens when the curtain was closed. Bill said originally strobe lights were installed in the coves in the “bellows” designed to look like camera flash bulbs going off. Alas the effect was too successful triggering discomforting effects in the audience. The flashes were soon eliminated. The travelling attraction sign above the entrance was also one of the first in New York to not feature fixed sign letters. That too was an idea who’s time may not have come since they were limited to incandescent bulbs with all their limitations. In all the theatre was probably a result of form over function, and while the design concepts may have worked better on paper than in reality, at least the idea was more interesting than indicated above.
“Lawrence of Arabia” played the Michael Todd theatre next door. Both houses were equipped for 70mm projection. The Todd had a flat rather than a curved screen. I had just gotten a degree from the U. of I. in Champaign, and stayed over the summer to work at the University radio and TV stations. I remember getting up early on a Sunday morning to catch the train into Chicago specifically to see the “Lawrence” matinee at the Todd. The presentation was great with one curious exception. Four-track 35mm magnetic prints put the surround information on a narrower mag stripe on the film than was used for the stage channels. To minimize track hiss when there was no surround information the channel was muted. When the track was used a 12Khz “trigger tone” unmuted the channel. Four track systems filtered the tone out so the audience wouldn’t hear it. The “Lawrence” 70mm screening at the Todd apparently took its surround information from the four track version, and since 70mm systems didn’t need the tone it wasn’t filtered out. At that age I could still hear 12 Khz, and the arrival of any surround information was forecast by the annoying whine of the tone which could be plainly heard in the Todd surround speakers.
Ed-Al: Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that Norman Elson had come from Trans-Lux. Now — where to the Brandts fit into Trans-Lux? I worked as a relief projectionist at the New York Experience multi-media show and was around when the South Street Seaport multi-media show opened, both operated as Trans-lux theatres under Richard Brandt. This is such an incestuous business!
Al, Thank you. I worked both Embassy 1 and 2,3,4 (1,2,3) but didn’t realize that Embassy 1 (now a New York Visitor’s Center) had closed before the triplex. Thanks for the explanation. As I recall, the Forum or the Victoria became Embassy 5 along the way as well.
The name “Mark” did exist on the marquee after it was triplexed. (It could have been the name of a relative of one of the owners who triplexed the theatres.) I spent time there while it was being triplexed to become a porn theatre as detailed above, and the name was on the marquee in between the time it was triplexed and Peter Elson took it over. Since they had intended to run porn,they even had a professional 16mm theatre projector in the booth, which may have run at least one re-run feature after the city told them they couldn’t run porn. Peter had a habit of changing the name of all of his theatres to “Embassy”. I think the only exception was the Guild behind the Music Hall.
By the way, I always have trouble finding this theatre on C.T. because it’s listed as “Embassy 1,2,3” when it should be “Embassy 2,3,4” as shown in the photo above.
Vito, you’re correct. The Boxoffice article was probably posted before the actual opening date of “Kiss Me Kate”. There was a lot of publicity issued by MGM and the Hall bragging about the lack of an intermission. According to both Warren Jenkins and Ben Olevsky who were there at the time, the decision to run “Kate” in 2-D wasn’t made until the night before it opened, when it was screened and the determination was made that too many seats would be lost at the sides and the Mezzanines. Remember with a high-gain aluminized screen, necessary to preserve 3-D polarization, the light coming down at 19 degrees would be reflected off the screen at 19 degrees or so downward,which would cover the front of the orchestra and the center of the lower Mezzanines, but not work very well at the sides. (For what it’s worth, the current digital 3-D that uses high gain screens tends to have the same problem, although most multiplexes don’t have the extreme projection angle the Hall does.)
The Hall does do 3-D for the opening film effect in the Christmas Show, but that’s from a full width screen with two 70mm projectors equipped with 7 K. lamps, and it’s only for a relatively short clip not a whole feature.
In a sense, the Hall’s decision to show “Kate” in 2-D put a nail in the coffin of 3-D presentation in the ‘50’s, since exhibitors figured if the Hall felt it wasn’t necessary why go to the bother of running it. (“Kate” did appear in 3-D in subsequent NYC runs, and has been seen in recent years at the Film Forum 3-D extravagances.)
I’m sorry, but the urge to weigh in on the VistaVision discussion is irresistible for an “old timer” who’s been hanging around projection booths from B.C. to A.D. —“Before CinemaScope” to “After Digital”. Not only was I very much aware of the VistaVision process when it started in 1954 with “White Christmas”, I was later to spend 25 years in the theater that first ran it in New York, Radio City Music Hall, and was a VistaVision dailies projectionist for three features: “Men In Black”, “Michael” and “Jungle 2 Jungle” all of which used VistaVision plates in their production.
The confusion above is thinking that two frames of 35mm equal 70 or 65 mm image size. Since VistaVision is a horizontal process, the frame width of 8 perfs is less than two normal 35mm frame widths. If you hold 8 perfs of 35mm up against a 70mm frame, they will cover about 2/3 of the width. While a few theatres did run VistaVision on horizontal machines, most of the prints were reduction prints to 35mm as noted above. In 1954 the non-anamorphic ratio of 35mm could vary anywhere from 1.5 to one to 2.1 depending on the amount of cropping of the frame by the aperture plate in the projector, thus the multiple framing reference marks at the start of each reel of a VistaVision release print made in conventional vertical orientation.
In 1954 CinemaScope had been introduced,and Paramount decided to go for a less radical image in terms of width, and with better resolution than could be obtained with the anamorphic lenses used for CinemaScope at the time. As a know-it-all 15 year old I remember commenting to the manager of our local theatre that someday someone would combine the width of CinemaScope with image clarity of VistaVision, and a year later they did with the first 70mm Todd-AO releases of “Oklahoma” in 1955 and “Around The World In 80 Days” in 1956.
The horizontal VistaVision print of “White Christmas” at the Music Hall was run with an interlock sound track printed on conventional 35mm and played on the Hall’s normal 35mm projectors,as were the mag tracks for the dailies I ran starting with “Men In Black”. Running VistaVision is a trip since it is still running at 24 frames per second and thus the film speed is 180' a minute, twice the normal speed and faster than even a 70mm print.
One more note to fire up even more heated debate: the argument might be made that Super Technirama is the equivalent of 70mm in terms of image size. Technirama is an 8 perf horizontal system with a 50% anamorphic squeeze. Thus the image unsqueezed is equal to 12 perfs of 35mm film. If you hold 12 perfs of 35mm against a 70mm image, you’ll find that they match almost perfectly (try it). The process was used as recently as Disney’s “Black Cauldron” and yielded the 70mm release print we ran at the Hall.
(And yes, hdtv267 this really does have very little to do with the Capitol — sorry about that!)
In my comment above about the screen size at RCMH I realized that Trainmaster might be talking about the background LED screen used in the Christmas Show, and not the house picture sheet. That “screen” is indeed bigger than 70' although it is really a video wall and not a screen in the usual movie sense. It can of course do a “movie” presentation, but is now the primary scenic piece for the Christmas Show replacing the prior set pieces and drops. The house picture sheet for movie premieres still flys in on the original 1932 frame with Magnascope masking.
A quick note on the comment about the RCMH screen size above: The screen, or “picture sheet” as it’s referred to at the Hall is 70' wide by 35' high with moveable top and side masking to accomodate the various aspect ratios. Thus a classic 1.37 film could be 35 x 48', while a “Scope” feature would be roughly 70' w. x 30' high. The opening film effect in the Christmas Show may be a little wider. When we ordered the screen for that effect the first year it was done we specified a 75' screen width. That came about because we had run two Disney 70mm features in a row — “Return To Oz” which was 1.85 aspect ratio and “Black Cauldron” which was 2.35. We had suggested running “Oz” with a lens that blew the picture up to the full 35' height of the screen. When it came time to run “Cauldron” the Disney representative wanted to continue with the same lenses, even though it meant cropping 5' off the ends of the picture. Since the Christmas sheet is only used for that effect, we could use the slightly larger size.
Perhaps the widest picture we had was for the triptych sequence of “Napoleon”. Originally it was done on our 70' screen, but the next time we played it we used three 30' fast-fold screens butted together with a white masking strip to conceal the join at the frames. The screen sat slightly upstage of our regular picture sheet.
The proscenium at the Hall is 100' wide, and the top of the arch is 60' high. the radius of the curve starts 10' off the deck. The only way a 130' screen could be accomodated would be to place it in front of the proscenium, as it would be for a Cinerama installation, with the screen curved into the auditorium (which would look pretty neat by the way!)
Re: RobertR’s comment about being surprised that Universal would four-wall a house. They apparently continued that practice from time to time. In 1970 they four-walled Radio City for the engagement of “Airport”, which led to 70mm equipment being installed to satisfy a request by Ross Hunter. (While they may not have actually four-walled the house after that, they came to the venue’s rescue on a couple of occasions. In order to give the theatre product, in 1977 they played a re-run of “The Sting”, “Smokey and the Bandit” and “MacArthur” back to back there. In addition, the last Christmas feature to play the Hall “Caravans” was picked up by Universal for distribution just so the Hall would have a Christmans film.)
Re: IMAX at the Hall. At one point the possibility of IMAX was considered when Bob Jani was in charge of the Hall. I flew to Canada to confer with the IMAX people, and it would have been possible to have a really spectacular IMAX installation. The screen would have gone basically from floor to the top of the outer edges of “A” cove, hanging just over the lighting console. Ultimately the problem was how to get rid of the screen in time to do a stage presentation, which Bob wanted to be able to continue. It would have been a really impressive venue!
Re: The question about sound and projection systems. The sound systems for most of the Hall’s life were RCA, not only for the movie system, but also for the P.A. system. Remember, RCA was a major tenant across the street, and “R” in RKO (which had its offices above the Hall in the front part of the building) stood for Radio for the Kieth Orpheum alliance with RCA in the movie company which also operated the Hall and the New Roxy down the street. There were two complete mono systems which could be switched by one control knob. At one point one system was set 2db higher than the other and they were switched at shift change in the booth. Originally, the night time audiences were larger, so the system with the extra gain was switched in for the evening shows. Later the daytime audiences were larger and the switching reversed. The switch also insured that both systems were fully operational. A third amplifier was also available in the P.A. amp room which could be switched in if the other systems failed (redundancy was a big deal at the Hall).
When 4 track magnetic sound was introduced with CinemaScope, two more four track RCA systems were installed next to the mono systems. Then in 1970 a six-track ElectroSound system was installed for 70mm. It was designed by Al Lewis who had worked with the Ampex 70mm theatre systems, and was solid-state rather than a vacuum tube
We upgraded the power amplifiers to solid state Crown amps, and then for “The Lion King” put in a completely new system, with a Dolby CP-200, and QSC amps.
While the sound systems were largely RCA, the projectors were Simplex with RCA sound heads. Starting with the Simplex regular head, the Hall went to Super Simplex, Simplex X-L’s and finally Simplex 35/70’s which are still in use in three of the five projector positions today. The 35/70’s used Simplex Magnetic and Optical sound heads. As the newer machines were added in the main booth the previous machines gravitated to Rear Projection and the two Preview Rooms. When I started there I had booths with every model of Simplex mech head from the Regular to the 35/70’s in use. At the present time, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is displaying an early Music Hall projector that would have come from the ‘30’s.
There’s something odd going on. I know the Hall didn’t have the 70mm machines until “Airport” at least in the main booth, and Howard wasn’t able to work on the ones they had. On the other hand, Bill had a lot of outside jobs going, and Warren was involved with him. They might have set up a Howard modified projector in another area of the theatre. I don’t think “GWTW” was ever shown to the public at the Hall until the 1974 70mm series. I also remember attending the opening of the MGM office building Screening Room with Ben Olevsky. That was for a SMPTE meeting and a product reel was shown in 70mm showing a flyover of the new building and scenes from the “Fabulous Four” series (the one we didn’t show at the Hall was “Ryan’s Daughter”.) At that time the Hall was about to screen “GWTW” in one of the Screening Rooms for Nelson Rockefeller’s daughter’s birthday party. When MGM heard about it they offered to make the as yet unreleased 70mm version avaiable for screening in their new Screening Room. The Rockefeller response was appreciative, but the Hall was their “home” theatre. It was screened in Preview A for the party. We also did the projection when used at the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico, and Bill or Ben would go up there to set up the screenings. I wonder if that’s the project Bill was working on while at the Hall? If you find the letter I’d be most interested.
Warren died a few years ago. The last time I saw him was at a pressentation for the SMPTE New York chapter at the Hall. He and Bill had a million outside projects going, and things were tried at the Hall on an experimental basis, but I don’t remember ever hearing about a full-fledged screening of “GWTW” for the public before 1974.
(I apologize for getting off the Trump Theatre thread, this really belongs on the RCMH page.)
Techman, you are right about Howard Strait (sp?) but “Airport” was the first 70mm film at Radio City. I think somewhere in my posts on the Radio City page I chronicalled the story, but as a recap. Ben Olevesky who was Head Projectionist at Radio City had fought against the installation of 70mm for years. I first met Ben in 1964, and spent the next few years visiting him at the Hall and having dinner (and drinks!) with both Ben and Bill Nafash. I think Ben had a smooth running booth and didn’t want anyone to make waves, so he convinced Music Hall management that the only pictures to be released in 70 were “roadshows” too long to accomodate the Music Hall movie/stage show format. MGM wanted to run “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 70 at the Hall, but Ben told management that there probably wouldn’t be any more 70mm features available.
The game changer came when Ross Hunter insisted that “Airport” be shown in 70mm. Universal had four-walled the Hall for the picture, so it was their theatre to do with what they wanted. That led to a scramble to even find 70mm machines for the opening. Howard Strait had been head of the camera department for MGM, and the studio had modified the first Simplex XL’s to 65mm for “Raintree County”. They had offered to modify the XL’s for Radio City at the studio camera department, but by the time “Airport” came along Howard was no longer at MGM, and reportedly had been frozen out of his own company. This set up a really awkward situation. The “new” Paramount Theatre in the basement of the G&W building on Columbus Circle had eight of the machines on order. Three for the theatre, and four for the two screening rooms in the Paramount offices. Bill Nafash was to do the installation, so he arranged to divert three of the machines to the Hall for “Airport”. He then went to Japan for a project.
I was told that the machines that the Hall got were modified under the supervision of Howard Strait’s accountant who wasn’t a technical person. The whole project was pretty much a disaster. Eventually, “Airport” did run most of the shows in 70, although the second run of the first day was in 35. The Hall also ran “The Cowboys” and “Scrooge” in 70. (I found shredded pieces of “The Cowboys” in the drawer in the rewind bench, and was in the booth during “Scrooge” because I had come to take the first part of the New York projectionist’s exam while it was running.)
When I started there in 1974, the first 70mm picture I ran was “Gone With The Wind” in 70. It was part of what MGM called “the Fabulous Four” and we also ran “2001” and “Dr. Zhivago” in 70. When I announced to the crew that we were going to be running 70, one of them put his hands around my throat and said, “We DON’T want to run 70! Warren Jenkins who was technical director at the Hall and associated with National Theatre Supply, arranged for us to take the mech heads out to the NTS factory in Paramus and have them rebuilt. In addition we had Andy Margolin of Kelmar come in and modify the projectors with a 70/35mm version of his reel arms.
The revamp of the Simplex 35/70’s at Paramus was obviously successful — those machines are still running the opening film for the Christmas Show in two projector 3-D to this day!
(As another quick note: the original modifications for “Raintree County” and “Ben Hur” for dailies at MGM were for 65mm sprockets — the MGM proprietary process was known as “Camera 65”. The projectors as the Hall, and the ones I have here in my screening room, made much later still have 65mm rather than 70mm sprockets!)
Actually, it’s the other way around: B&W stock which is silver nitrate based is thicker because of the silver applied to the film. The silver blocks the light much more than “black” on dye-based color stock does, which is why Spielberg wanted to use it, but that can create problems: the silver also absorbs more heat from the lamp than color stock does creating more buckle if the light isn’t spread evenly across the aperture, and the thickness difference may require refocussing, particularly if short-focal length high-speed lenses are used, since their depth of focus is lower thus making focus more critical. Cine-focus would help since it tends to minimize buckle at the gate.
On the other hand, printing B&W on color stock also has problems. The processing chemicals used in labs can vary over the course of a day, even though carefully temperature maintained. For a terrific explanation of this check out the DVD of “Pleasantville” which explains how they had to individually look at the “B&W” scenes on each reel processed and then put the reels in piles marked “slightly red”, “slightly blue” etc. If all the reels in a given print are matched to each other the change from “true” white isn’t as noticeable, but that requires careful inspection of each reel as it comes out of the processor. The eye is more tolerant of variations in color between color reels, but any variation really stands out in a B&W picture.
A few years ago we had to project a print of Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee & Cigarettes” for the producers to approve. Jarmusch had made one print on true silver nitrate B&W stock for festival screenings, but we were projecting a test print pulled on color stock. At the first changeover the color temperature varied markedly from green to red. Our projectors are carefully matched in color temparature, so we pulled the aperture plates so the perforations in the stock were exposed on the screen. We re-ran the reel and again the color temparature of the picture changed at the changeover, but the light through the perfs remained the same white. At that point the producers stopped the screening and went down to the United Artists' office below us and pulled a vice-president up to see for himself. Needless to say, that print was scrapped.
In the days of “The Wizard of Oz” there were projectionists in the booth. The change from sepia tone to Technicolor and back came at reel changes, so there was someone there to refocus if necessary.
Presumably, cement splices made with a hot splicer are stronger than the stock itself, even when splicing color to B&W stock, but perhaps as with many things the technique had been lost by the time “Schindler” was released.