September 30, 2012, marked the 60th anniversary of the premiere of Cinerama. I have written about this several times. Cinerama was the first widescreen film process that included multi channel stereo sound.
During the week of the anniversary the Arclight Theater Hollywood screened most of the Cinerama films. They are one of only three theaters in the world capable of full Cinerama three panel projection. You can find a list of the Cinerama films – as well as those shot in ultra widescreen then projected onto the Cinerama screen – on Wikipedia.
We attended the screening of Seven Wonders of the World, one of the original Cinerama films. To celebrate the process, a new short film – shot in the full three-camera method – premiered at the event. The short was a tour of popular tourist spots in LA and Hollywood, ending up in the very seats we were in at the Cinerama Theater. Debbie Reynolds makes a surprise appearance.
SWOTW continues the travelogue saga. Paul Mantz is still the daredevil pilot flying under bridges and over volcanoes. Lowell Thomas starts by showing pictures of the original ancient Seven Wonders of the World. All have now fallen down except the pyramids in Egypt. That’s where the real trip starts. Other wonders visited include waterfalls in South America, the USA, and Africa. The Holy Land and important Biblical sites get an extensive look. Rio de Janeiro, Africa, and Istanbul are among places visited. In Japan we look at pretty gardens and pretty girls. A dance scene spectacle is nifty – especially the garish pink outfit worn by the star of the show. Her outfit looks like she was inside a giant cotton candy that has just exploded. A long segment covers the then-current Pope and the Vatican.
The film itself is still undergoing restoration and is only about 30 percent complete. Many of the scenes are blown up from 35MM prints and look pretty bad. Other restored scenes show the full glory of the Cinerama process. In November 2013 this theater will have another Cinerama Festival to celebrate its own 50th Anniversary. By then this film should be completely restored.
NEWS ALERT. The original Cinerama film, This is Cinerama, will have its world television premiere on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on Thursday, October 18th. TCM will also run How the West Was Won that same day.
Next week, you’ll hear from me about a way to experience Cinerama at home and a full review of This is Cinerama. Of course, to get the full effect you will need to purchase and install a 35ft tall 146ft wide screen in your home.
Rated 4.0 out of 4.0 for the content and 2.5 out of 4.0 as a work in progress still being restored.