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Michael Coate has done his homework. He corrected me on a few points and after long hours of digging through old newspapers I have found that what he writes is correct. It is certain he knows a great deal about this subject.
I am pretty sure “Raintree Country” was a 35mm reduction print when it played at the Astor as the Todd-AO install was done right before “Porgy and Bess” and that was in ‘59. It interested me to find out that The Astor also ran “Dr. Strangelove” in 35mm 1.66 “The Music Man” in 70mm “El Cid” in 70mm
The buzz about “Star Wars” was alive and well in London well before it was released. In Boston Sack management got rid of the union projectionists that were used to running the Charles and hired others. New prints don’t usually break. The 35mm print I saw at the Charles looked and sounded so bad I called Fox and complained. The operators didn’t even know how to make a proper splice. Fox brought in a 70mm print and I heard that they went through a number of 70mm prints during the run. Why the myth persists that The Charles had a large screen I will never know but in fact the screen at the Charles was not very big and was never the largest in Boston!
I did not know that the owners of the Astor brought legal action against Sack Theaters and many distributors in late 1971. The owners of the Astor claimed they were being shut out of the market.
Yes “Oklahoma!” did open In ‘56 and Porgy was the first Todd-AO film at the Astor. There was an article about the Todd-AO conversions to both the Saxon and The Gary theaters in late 1957 in Boxoffice but the local newspapers confirm these opening dates.
It appears the Gary and the Saxon both got Todd-AO installs around the same time in late 1957. Did Boston wait two years to see “Oklahoma” or “Around the World in 80 Days” or were they move overs from another theater?
The Gary became a Todd-AO house in ‘57 they did not open with a Todd-AO film. There is a box office article about the conversion. If you found ads or information that “Porgy and Bess” ran at the Astor prior to “Spartacus” post it. I have the remains of a ticket stub for “Spartacus” the Astor in Boston was one of the first theaters to run the roadshow version.
Okay the person in the photo holding the Todd-AO lens is David K. who spent many an hour hanging out at the Astor. He is currently chief at the Somerville Theater where he has managed to get two pristine Todd-AO machines refurbished to factory specs and will soon be able to run most formats excepting a rare few.
Unless the Cinerama lenses were the ones for Ultra-Panavision there was nothing special about them. The Todd-AO lenses for the Astor were unique because they they transmitted a lot of light yet the depth of field was very good because their focal length was relatively short. The Astor projectors seldom drifted out of focus for 35mm or 70mm and the arcs held very steady. It was easy to hit 32 foot lamberts with those lenses and the 13.6mm arcs pushed up to 180 amps even with the large screen. The Astor screen was painted silver for House of Wax a 3D 70mm showing. House of Wax 70mm 3D had mag stripes only on the outer edges of the film and required special mag pickups to run those prints.
So far with all of my research the first 70mm film to run at the Astor was Spartacus. The Gary got Todd-AO in ‘57 and it appears that Oklahoma and Around the World in 80 Days ran at what is now the Wang Center and what was then the Metropolitan. The stage at the Wang Center is very wide and there the projection booth is in an ideal location great for Todd-AO. It makes sense that the Wang Center was used for the first Todd-AO showings and then smaller theaters were used to allow for extended runds. Can Can ran in Todd-AO at the Gary starting in early 1960 and ran for a long time. I’m not sure when the Saxon got Todd-AO projectors or what movies played there. When the Cinema 57 was built the Todd-AO projectors were moved there by the new management. Cinema 57 was a horrible theater the acoustics were so bad they had to bring in Dolby to make the dialogue understandable. The screen at the 57 was so small and the auditorium so long and narrow in order to hear stereo beyond the 10th row they moved the left and right channels to sit over the exit doors. The Charles had Cinemacanicas. The new Beacon hill had Century’s 35/70 and they ran a 70mm print of This is Cinerama and it did very poorly. These were the last days for Ben Sack as he was about to get sacked. The new Sack management had a policy of small flat screens like the 57 as apposed to large curved screens like the new Beacon Hill.
I did some digging and found a ticket stub from a 1960 roadshow presentation of Spartacus. This may be the first 70mm film run at the Astor. I also found 16mm footage of the theater when it was a juice bar.
The Astor Todd-AO conversion was probably done in the 1960’s and while the screen was large (one of the largest in downtown Boston) it did not have a deep curve. Instead the screen had a shallow curve as the installation was done several years after the debut of Todd-AO. To do the Todd-AO conversion the whole front of the auditorium was gutted, the stage removed so the screen could be larger than the stage would have allowed. The Todd-AO projection booth was built out of cinder blocks in the middle rear of the first balcony. The original projection booth was in the middle rear of the second balcony. The Cinerama theater on Washington and Essex street had a large curved screen and the Wang Center had a large screen but there is no question that the Astor screen was larger than the Saxon, The Gary or The Charles Theater (some people think the screen at The Charles was big but it was no where near as large as the Astor Screen).
The light source at the Astor was from 13.6mm carbon arcs running at 150+ amps. The projector heads and lamp jaws were water cooled using city water at about 25p.s.i. For 70mm presentations the masking would be opened to full height and full width taller than the 1:85 picture and wider than the 2:35 picture. The installation used Todd-AO projection lenses for 70mm and one of those lenses can be seen in one of the pictures shown here. On one of my many exploratory walks I found ticket stubs from the the 1950’s and early 1960’s and in 1957 and 1959 the Astor was still running 35mm with 4 track magnetic sound. There was a road show presentation of Spartacus (1960) and it did run in 70mm. I know that Ryan’s Daughter ran in 70mm as did a re-release of 2001. There is no question that the 70mm presentations were in short breathtaking and the sound was just outstanding. There were five Altec Voice of the Theater A4 speakers behind the screen and each channel was distinct and the separation was excellent. People can say what they want there was something about the acoustics and the placement of the speakers that made this one of the best sound systems I have ever heard.
I might have some 16mm movie film taken of the auditorium while the theater was being used as an after hours juice bar. The screen was still intact and the Todd-AO projectors were still in perfect condition when the building was closed for the last time. After it was shuttered for the last time the building was set on fire several times the projectors were vandalized and ended up being scrapped. The Todd-AO lenses are in a private collection. The auditorium was very plain and dimly lit so it was hard to get a good picture. The building was very old dating back to the 19th century. There were gas lights in one of the stair wells lead acid storage batteries in the ceiling and a steam engine in the basement none of these had been used for many years but were in use at one time when it was the Tremont Theater.
I went to The Wolf of Wall Street. Great seats, (I booked early) sound was perfect, excellent presentation. I don’t mind the curved screen and the picture quality was excellent.
The movie that’s for you to decide.
My mistake the Rivoli payed an advance of $1,250,000 to get Cleopatra
It would be interesting to see an as close to possible roadshow version of Mad World. Stills in place of footage that is missing may annoy some people so I suppose both versions would be best. I assume the sound as well as the picture is missing. They did make some three projector prints of Mad World those should be close to road show length if any survived. As long the whole Ultra-Panavision frame is shown that is a given but the longest version available would be fine by me.
The 65mm negative for Cleopatra should be in pretty good shape. The Rivoli in New York paid a million dollars in advance to book Cleopatra. A large up front advance was required to play the film. The Rivoli did make its money back and the film had a long roadshow run at that theater. Many people traveled to New York City just to see Cleopatra. Theaters in smaller cities payed a smaller advance and many of those theaters did not make their advance back. The general audience did not appreciate the film. Cleopatra was a run away production there were huge cost over runs and producing a movie in Todd-AO was expensive prints were expensive; Fox was strapped for cash because of Cleopatra. It took years to get most of their money back. Of course Cleopatra was followed by Sound of Music and that was an instant hit and a cash cow in roadshow and in general release. What almost put Fox into bankruptcy was Star, Doctor Doolittle and Hello Dolly these three Todd-AO films did not do well at the box office. Easy Rider was shot in 16mm by anyone who could hold a camera and out grossed Hello Dolly. Viet Nam had made the country cynical. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was designed to roadshow but the public taste had changed it did not do well. While some theaters did well with a popular movie that movie may have been in four channel magnetic, or even mono optical others would get into financial trouble with a 70mm show like Chitty. The inflation of the 70’s and the increase in the cost of energy put many of these big roadshow theaters out of business. There was a roadshow theater in Boston called the Astor it was a Todd-AO theater and it lost money for years in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There now stands a multiplex run by AMC on the same site taking up the same area as the one theater once did.
After the initial release two scenes in A Clockwork Orange were replaced in order for the X rating to be reduced to an R rating. Kubrick would not let anyone view the original version once the change was made.
The cut footage was tossed in the trash like so many other things. Prints have faded. There is an an age old phrase and that was faded by Deluxe. The future use of the original negative and footage wasn’t envisioned in the twentieth century. I remember screenings in Hollywood where I met with people in control of this media and they questioned the reason for keeping these old films and negatives. Many a print has been run through a band-saw or used as slug in sound editing. Millions of feet went to be recycled. Some footage has survived and much has not. Cuts were made by the filmmakers and cuts were made by the studio.
Once a film was in general release there was little reason for the studio to cut it. The long films were a problem. Some theaters ran two shows a day some ran three but these long films couldn’t be run more than three times a day. An early show shortly after noon then a mid day show and an evening show. Managers anxious to cut theater payroll and reduce hours (union projectionists didn’t work cheap) may have trimmed some general release prints as much as possible by cutting the intermission (that takes fifteen minutes at least) but once a film was in general release I don’t know of any case where the film once in general release was officially cut by the filmmaker or the studio. Of course these films were butchered for television and could have been cut for re-release. Many a film was butchered for television. Yes, the powers that were in charge figured that once a film was televised that was the end of its useful life.
Star Wars ran almost twenty four hours a day in Los Angeles and other major cities when it was released and many a projectionist sent their kids to Harvard on the overtime pay. Managers were glad to pay the overtime. While Cleopatra bankrupted many a theater. It was a grand and glorious time.
Bigjoe in the days of film it took a little effort to tweak a film. Sound and picture had to be cut separately and new prints had to be made. Or sections of the print had to be replaced. If the films were shortened for neighborhood theaters it was done by the theater owners. Do you have any examples of films that were tweaked in their roadshow run? I know Mad World was and there was a longer version of 2001. The standard release print of Sound of Music was the same as the roadshow version and it was not unusual for managers to order the projectionist to skip the intermission.
to Bigjoe there was a roadshow release usually with multi channel magnetic sound then there was a 35mm print with mono optical sound sent to neighborhood theaters they didn’t do that much tweeking.
To answer your question Bigjoe most films that were cut were cut to allow more shows per day. A few because the filmmakers felt it was too long. A Star is Born was butchered to allow more shows. The road show version of Mad World was just too long for a comedy so it was cut. The general release prints were cut even more. It was not unusual for the general release print to be quite different from the roadshow print.
the 6 channel mix sounded better 5 behind the screen and one surround channel with no sub. That is how is was released
Bigjoe most of the grand movie palaces that were built in the early part of the twentieth century are gone. The value of the real estate and the cost of heating and air conditioning coupled with the lack of interest in single theaters did them in. The grandest and most famous movie palace was the Roxy in NYC. The Roxy was demolished in 1960. The high cost of energy and the popularity of the multiplex closed most of the movie palaces in the 70’s and early 80’s. The are a few of these theaters and few are still first run. Most of the movie palaces that are left run special shows or are just dark. Do a google search for oldest running movie theaters and you will find a few.
I don’t think they have the laser light source installed yet.
For a while there were sixteen 16 inch Cerwin-Vega speakers in two banks powered by two 2,000 watt amps for the sub woof channel. Someone from Universal brought in a couple of reels of Jurassic Park and it sounded great.
Most people seem to agree that the seating and viewing is much better now. There is very little chance someone’s head will block your view.
A friend went to see the five o'clock show on Sunday. He is a film student and went with a group. From what he said the volume was set much too low. Doesn’t anyone set the volume where it is suppose to be anymore. I know that AMC runs the fader in most of their theaters at 5 and that is one quarter of the level it should be set at.
Things in the Chinese Theater do rattle with heavy base. It takes a lot of audio power to fill that theater and there are a lot of things to rattle.