Remembering Cinerama (Part 45: Las Vegas)

posted by Coate on December 24, 2009 at 8:05 am

Part 45: Las Vegas

The following is Part Forty-Five in a series of retrospectives on Cinerama, the legendary motion picture process that kicked off the widescreen revolution. The series focuses on providing a market-by-market historical record of when and where Cinerama and its multi-panel clones were exhibited. The easy-to-reference articles serve to provide nostalgia to those who experienced the Cinerama presentations when they were new and to highlight the movie palaces in which the memorable screenings took place.

Part 1: New York City
Part 2: Chicago
Part 3: San Francisco
Part 4: Houston
Part 5: Washington, DC
Part 6: Los Angeles
Part 7: Atlanta
Part 8: San Diego
Part 9: Dallas
Part 10: Oklahoma City
Part 11: Syracuse
Part 12: Toronto
Part 13: Columbus
Part 14: Montreal
Part 15: Northern New Jersey
Part 16: Charlotte
Part 17: Vancouver
Part 18: Salt Lake City
Part 19: Boston
Part 20: Philadelphia
Part 21: Fresno
Part 22: Detroit
Part 23: Minneapolis
Part 24: Albuquerque
Part 25: El Paso
Part 26: Des Moines
Part 27: Miami
Part 28: Orange County
Part 29: Pittsburgh
Part 30: Baltimore
Part 31: Long Island
Part 32: Kansas City
Part 33: Milwaukee
Part 34: Nanuet/Rockland County
Part 35: Denver
Part 36: Worcester
Part 37: Toledo
Part 38: St. Louis
Part 39: Tampa
Part 40: Calgary
Part 41: Hartford
Part 42: Albany
Part 43: New Haven
Part 44: Sacramento

And now…Part 45: Cinerama Presentations in Las Vegas, Nevada!

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere Date: January 13, 1965
Engagement Duration: 6 weeks
Projection Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Promotional Hype: “CINERAMA Comes To Las Vegas” “At the World’s Most Modern Theatre We Feature Rocking Chair Loge Seats And The World’s Largest Indoor Screen…CINERAMA Puts You In The Picture! (CINERAMA Has Never Been Seen In Las Vegas!)” “CINERAMA Puts You in the Middle of the Most Action-Filled Story You’ve Ever Seen!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: February 26, 1965
Duration: 4 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “Let CINERAMA Entertain You” “CINERAMA Thrills You! You Sail Away And Live All The Excitement Your Mind Ever Imagined In…MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY. Your Host Burl Ives Singing Ballads Of The Sea!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: July 27, 1965
Duration: 11 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “CINERAMA Sends You Roaring With Laughter And Adventure Down That Wide, Wonderful Fun-Trail!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: October 11, 1965
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “A Rich, Rewarding Entertainment Experience for the Entire Family”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: December 22, 1965
Duration: 13 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “SUPER CINERAMA turns the screen into the mightiest battleground ever!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: June 29, 1966
Duration: 7 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “Where The Nile Divides, The Great CINERAMA Adventure Begins!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: May 17, 1967
Duration: 15 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “CINERAMA sweeps YOU into a drama of speed and spectacle!” “On world’s largest screen with full stereo sound!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: July 2, 1968
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “An astounding entertainment experience, a dazzling trip to the planets and beyond the stars!” “CINERAMA rockets you into outer space; brace yourself for a staggering experience never before seen!”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: April 2, 1969
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “Ice Station Zebra…remember the name, your life may depend on it!” “Brace yourself! Only CINERAMA can put you in every sensational scene”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: August 27, 1969
Duration: 6 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “The NEW CINERAMA hurls YOU into the incredible day that shook the earth to its core!” “The day the mighty volcano Krakatoa erupts…and you are there in every thrilling scene…”

Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: September 21, 1973
Duration: 2 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “THIS IS CINERAMA Is Back To Entertain A Whole New Generation”

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Re-Issue)
Theater: Cinerama
Premiere: August 28, 1974
Duration: 4 weeks
Format: Cinerama (70mm)
Hype: “For a Perfect Vacation take…The Ultimate Trip” “Exactly as originally shown in CINERAMA and Stereophonic Sound!”

THIS IS CINERAMA original 3-strip version
WINDJAMMER (CineMiracle test screening at Nevada Drive-In, November 1958)
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (35mm engagement at El Portal, May 1963)
HOW THE WEST WAS WON (35mm engagement at El Portal, March 1964)
IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (35mm engagement at Huntridge, October 1964)
CUSTER OF THE WEST (35mm engagement at Fox, July 1968)

Upon its opening, the Las Vegas Cinerama Theatre boasted the world’s largest (indoor) screen, measuring a reported 90' x 43'.

The Las Vegas Cinerama was the third dome-style Cinerama theater built and the first to use aluminum (instead of concrete). The first two dome-style venues were the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles (opened November 1963) and Century 21 in San Jose (opened November 1964).

HOW THE WEST WAS WON and IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD played re-issue engagements during 1971, presumably in 35mm general-release versions.

Compiled by Jim Perry & Michael Coate

References: The Las Vegas Sun, The Las Vegas Review-Journal

Comments (8)

Cobalt on December 26, 2009 at 11:51 am

90' x 43'…wow! That must’ve been impressive, especially for something like 2001 or GRAND PRIX.

Am I correct to assume that when they ran non-Cinerama presentations a smaller portion of the screen was used?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 27, 2009 at 5:30 am

Cinerama is such a natural fit for Las Vegas that I’m surprised this list is so short.

terrywade on December 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Was this Las Vegas Cinerama Dome turned into a church after Cinerama left? I think I remember reading about this. I guess the place has been torn down now, or is it still up as a church? Bring on a big pipe organ at the Dome and pray for Cinerama to make a come back in Las Vegas for the tourists that don’t want to gamble. Was It Cinerama Holiday that had a segment on LV? Some new theatres in Asia now have screens over 100'. Does anyone have photos of the Nevada DI test screen for Cinemiracle in Las Vegas?

Whoman Jim
Whoman Jim on December 30, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Hi – this is Jim Perry writing this reply.
Will try to answer some questions here, but be forewarned – what I’m about to write is either speculation or fact, so please bear with me on this, ok?
First up, I’m a Vegas native & have fond memories of the Cinerama theatre itself.
Unfortunately, when it comes to this particular list, I didn’t see any of these engagements – mostly because I was WAY too young (for the record, I was born on June 13, 1962, so nada on “Circus World” thru “Krakatoa”).
And as for the re-issues of
“This Is Cinerama” & “2001” – let’s just say missed opportunities with these.

To Colbalt:
It depends on 2 things – how the films were shot, format-wise, and how they were presented at the theatre.
As pointed out, all the films listed above were shown in 70mm……
BUT to clarify things more clearly, here’s the list again – only this time with both their format & aspect ratio info.

Circus World:
Super Technirama 70 – 2.20:1

Mediterranean Holiday:
Superpanorama 70 – 2.20:1

The Hallelujah Trail:
Ultra Panavision – 2.76:1

The Greatist Story Ever Told:
Ultra Panavision – 2.76:1

Battle Of The Bulge:
Ultra Panavision – 2.76:1

Ultra Panavision – 2.76:1

Grand Prix:
Super Panavision – 2.20:1

2001: A Space Odyssey
Super Panavision – 2.20:1

Ice Station Zebra:
Super Panavision – 2.20:1

Krakatoa, East Of Java:
Super Panavision & Todd-AO – 2.20:1

This Is CINERAMA (Re-Release):
Not sure at this writing, but probably 2.20:1.

My guess is that the ones shown at 2.20:1 used the whole screen & the ones shown at 2.76:1 used most of it (a small portion of the top of the screen wasn’t used).

For the record, the theatre also had some 70mm engagements that were not promoted as “Cinerama” presentations
(and, thus, weren’t listed above) including “My Fair Lady”, “Dr. Zhivago” and
“Gone With The Wind” (all 2.20:1).

As for 35mm presentations, a no-brainer that the whole screen wasn’t used, but I believe the theatre presented films in their correct aspect ratios:
Flat (Spherical) -
1.37:1 (“Fantasia” for example), 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, and Scope – 2.35:1 & maybe 2.55:1. (“The King & I” for a possible rare example on the latter – the theatre had a re-issue engagement in 1966, before showing “Khartoum”).

To Ron Newman:
I take it ya haven’t seen Mike’s list for New Haven yet?? lol!!!
All kidding aside, by the time the theatre did open up, the original Cinerama 3-strip process had been abandoned & switched to 70mm by 2/3 years
(hence no Vegas 3-strip engagements).

And to Terry Wade:
Yes, it became a church.
After the Cinerama’s final engagement
(Clint Eastwood’s 3rd ‘Dirty Harry’ flick, “The Enforcer” – Dec. 22, ‘76 thru Jan. 26, '77), the theatre was renamed The Las Vegas CEN†ERAMA (yep – with the ’t’ resembling a cross!).
Still ran movies, mostly of the religious kind – first in 35mm (still had those original 70/35mm projectors up in the booth – “Ten Commandments”,
a double-bill of “David and Bathsheba” & “The Cross and the Switchblade”, to name a couple), then switched to 16mm
(“pan & scan” versions of “Born Free” and ‘a return engagement’ of “Greatist Story etc.” to name 2 more).

Not sure how long the church organization ran the place, but by ‘83 they were already gone & the building was empty.
Also, by this time, I was working at the Huntridge (twin) theatre, and the guy who ran that (along with the Mountain View 3) was thinking of getting his hands on the Cinerama & re-opening it – unfortunately,
whoever owned the property wasn’t interested (supposedly using an excuse to charge WAY TOO MUCH moola for rent), so there went that idea.
Sadly, the theatre finally met the wrecking ball not too long afterwards ('84??).

In regards to the “Windjammer” listing above, a clarification here.
The following ad for the Nevada Drive-In appeared in both LV Review-Journal and Sun newspapers on November 4, 1958, which said:

“Tonight! We are Testing equipment for the new movie "Miracle!"

As of this writing, it’s unknown exactly what took place that night, as far as “testing” went (no follow-up info, ads, etc.), but whatever the case, the film never got shown at the drive-in
(or any other Vegas theatres, at the time, for that matter).
Because Cinemiracle was basically a Cinerama “clone”, my guess is that the Nevada was, more than likely, deemed “unsuitable” to play the film there, at least for a couple of reasons:
{A.} Lack of a curved screen
(the drive-in’s original one was flat as a board – no good for a “Windjammer” presentation, in other words), and
{B.} A dinky projection booth that couldn’t accomodate all the equipment used for said presentation
(they would’ve had to build a new one).


Angel1 on February 19, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hello, i am Glenda-i’m looking for a newspaper artical from a 1963 premier opening of “How the West was Won” it was @ the Loew’s Cinerama on 3-27-1963. My father and /band entertained @ this premer I was dressed in a dress of that time period and sang a song of Debbie Renolds-that she did in the movie and met one of the stars. my picture was in the paper. Mt dads stage name was Paul Mann,also Fred Smith and myself Glenda was present.Is there any thing that you can do to help me?? We were a group that did a lot of volunteer work for the service men /women my e- mail Love and Light Glenda

Whoman Jim
Whoman Jim on February 24, 2010 at 10:08 am

Glenda – are you referring to the Loew’s Cinerama in N.Y.C.?
If so, you might wanna post yer question in the N.Y.C. thread,
since this one is about Las Vegas engagements.
Also, if yer still based in N.Y.C. (or any other major city for that matter), yer best bet would be to go to your local library (main branch) as they may have the N.Y. Times newspaper recorded on microfilm.

JimPerry on August 5, 2018 at 3:24 pm

A comment on my earlier reply above: The films that were shot in Ultra Panavision (70mm – Aspect Ratio, 2.76:1), like “Khartoum” for example, “filled” the whole screen while the others, like “2001” (Super Panavision 70 – Aspect Ratio, 2.20:1) did not. What was odd about the Vegas Cinerama was that, unlike the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, it didn’t have proper masking (both sides of the screen for non 2.76:1 films, as well as “Flat” ones, and top masking for 35mm scope films.) It’s more than likely that some patrons used to bitch to management / personnel about certain movies (you know – “Why isn’t this movie filling the whole screen, huh? I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!” – that sort of thing.)

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment