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1968: A Road Show Odyssey
- The Original Reserved Seat Engagements Of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

The 70mm Newsletter
Written and compiled by: Michael Coate Date: May 29, 2004 
Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” had its world premiere on 2 April 1968 at the Uptown Theatre in Washington, D.C.  Thus began an interesting 70mm odyssey. The critically acclaimed film had what is believed to have been a record number of 70-millimeter wide gauge prints made for a film during the roadshow era. Included here is a nostalgic and historical look back at the original engagements.

The original reserved seat release of “2001” played for many, many weeks in cinemas all around the world, with engagements exceeding one year being quite common.  In some cities, the film’s engagement even reached two years.  In Los Angeles, for instance, the film played for 103 weeks as an area exclusive. In addition to the successful roadshow release and subsequent general release, the film has been re-released numerous times, with the official United States re-releases occurring in 1974, 1977, 1980, and, are you surprised, 2001.
Further in 70mm reading:

"2001" release dates

Comments to The Original Reserved Seat Engagements Of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

"2001:A Space Odyssey" Yet another soundtrack

Full credits for "2001:A Space Odyssey"

"2001" A Concert Article
kubrick-2001-ad.jpg (93939 byte)"2001" newspaper advertisement. Ads of this type appeared in major city newspapers in advance of release and throughout the engagement. This one is advertising the Atlanta, Georgia engagement. Note the reserved seat ticket order form.


However, the film has, essentially, never been out of release.  Between general release, revival runs, return engagements, retrospectives, festival screenings, midnight screenings, and even drive-in engagements (yes, “2001: A Space Odyssey” has screened in 70mm format at a drive-in), Kubrick’s award-winning science-fiction epic has been seen on the large cinema screen — where it no doubt plays best — virtually every year since its original release.  Over the years, “2001” has quite possibly been shown in the high-quality 70mm format more times than any other film.  One of the most recent 70mm screenings was held in Bradford, England in summer 2003 during the Widescreen Cinema Conference held at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television.
Internet link:

Warner´s "2001" web site (Completely out of date)

"Good day, gentlemen. This is a prerecorded briefing, made prior to your departure and which, for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known on board during the mission only by your H-A-L 9000 computer. Now that you are in Jupiter's space, and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you. 18 months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the four million-year old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery."
2001c.jpg (111318 byte)“2001: A Space Odyssey” roadshow program booklet


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer placed a tremendous amount of confidence in Stanley Kubrick and his vision, and during 1968 in support of the release there were more than one hundred 70mm reserved seat engagements throughout the world (the majority of which are accounted for in engagement list).  It seems that practically any city with a Cinerama theatre played the film, and by the late 1960s, at its peak, there were more than 150 cities with at least one such venue.  (With rare exception, post-1963 Cinerama was Cinerama in name-only.  Post-’63 Cinerama is recognized to be single-strip 70mm, not the original 35mm/six-perf three-strip format.)  Many other 70mm-equipped, non-Cinerama cinemas played the film in 1968, promoting the film in “regular” 70mm rather than Cinerama.  “2001” was put into 35mm general release beginning in autumn 1968.

Interesting factoids

2001_jp_1978.jpg (170755 byte)Japanese advert. collection


“2001” is ranked number 22 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all-time.  In 2002, Philips Electronics and Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation selected it as one of the fifteen “Best Widescreen Films”.

The film’s collective U.S. & Canada box office gross, following a handful of engagements during the 2001/2002 re-release, is reported to be $56.9 million, while the film’s U.S. & Canada box office “rental” (the portion of the gross returned to the distributor based on the booking terms — typically an average of about 50 to 60 percent ) was $25.5 million through 1996.  The film’s worldwide gross exceeds $100 million.  Those figures, of course, represent the film’s entire theatrical exhibition history — 70mm, 35mm, and 16mm.

On 4 April 1968, a couple of days following the world premiere of “2001,” civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Following some civil unrest and thousands of arrests, several cities were assigned a curfew, resulting in some theatres, including the District of Columbia’s Uptown Theatre where “2001” was playing, being dark for a few days.

In spring 1969, “2001” was awarded its only Oscar.  (The film received four nominations in total.)  The Oscar, for Visual Effects, was awarded to producer/director/co-screenwriter Kubrick, who had also been credited as the film’s Special Photographic Effects Designer and Director.  As a result of having the award given solely to Kubrick, some have felt that the contributions of the landmark film’s special photographic effects supervisors — Wally Veevers, Douglas Trumbull, Con Pederson, Tom Howard — and crew were overlooked by the Academy.
2001_gb_2001.jpg (101387 byte)March 30, 2001 re-release advert from London. collection


Over the years, prints of “2001” have been prepared in a variety of audio formats, including magnetic stereo prints in both 35mm and 70mm at a time when few movies were mixed and released in a multichannel format.  The film’s original 70mm prints were in the so-called Todd-AO channel layout (left/left-center/center/right-center/right/surround), which was standard at the time.  Contemporary 70mm prints of “2001” have utilized Dolby SR noise reduction and have been made available in the original Todd-AO channel layout, as well as in the modern-day “5.1”-channel configuration (left/center/right/left-surround/right-surround/LFE).  There have been reports that at least one 70mm print prepared for the 2001/2002 re-release was in the DTS-70 digital sound format, though sources at Warner Bros. (the current distributor of the film) have denied that such prints were available.  (Recent 35mm prints have included Dolby SR/Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS.  The DVD versions have Dolby Digital 5.1-channel sound.)

Perhaps most interesting is that following several film critics bemoaning the slow pace of the film and excessive running time, Kubrick — perhaps reluctantly — cut about 20 minutes from the film (and added some location ID titles).  Variety’s film review noted MGM’s initial print order for “2001” being just over 100, prompting some to wonder: if all of those (expensive) prints had been struck from a two and one-half-hour-plus negative prior to the revisions, did the studio order new replacement prints from the re-cut negative, or was each print that had already been struck physically re-cut by a projectionist or studio representative to conform to the new, shorter negative?
kubrick-2001-marquee.jpg (55773 byte)Loew's Capitol Theatre in New York City. Copyright 2001 Warner Bros.


A contemporary audience may think that making changes to a film is a recent phenomenon.  It was common in previous decades (just not as widely publicized), and, in the case of roadshows, it was not uncommon for films to be shortened during their transition from reserved seat run to general release.  Some roadshow releases, however, including the classics “Lawrence Of Arabia” (1962) and “Doctor Zhivago” (1965), were shortened during the initial hard ticket, reserved seat release.  What makes the changes interesting in the case of “2001” is that it appears, at least initially, that the film was not re-printed.  Rather, the changes were made directly on each already-struck print.

One may wonder how many days and in which cities audiences saw the original cut before being replaced with the shorter version.  Given the production timeline and the distribution sequence, it appears that the initial three cities in which the film was publicly screened — Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles — began showing the original-length version.  The book “The Making Of 2001” cites the shortened cut appearing for the first time on 6 April 1968.  Variety, however, reported in a 17 April article that the original three cities, plus Boston, started their runs with the long version.  If Boston indeed initiated their engagement with the long version, it is conceivable that the other few engagements that began on the same day as Boston (10 April; see engagement list) also showed the long cut to a paying audience before being replaced with the revised edition.  (A film review published in the Harvard Crimson included a reference to the Boston Cinerama Theatre’s print having been physically altered, referring to it as a “splice-ridden rough-cut”.)
2001_70mm_frame.jpg (34742 byte)"2001" 70mm film frame with six-track magnetic soundtrack - projection aspect ratio 2.21:1


Some might ponder how the press would have reacted to the film had they been shown the tightened, revised edition.  During this age of director’s cuts and deleted scenes — special features popular on the DVD format — “2001: A Space Odyssey” continues to be seen today only in its shorter 149-minute edition.  (The running time is 139 minutes plus about ten minutes of roadshow components: overture, intermission, exit music.)

"2001" Original Reserved Seat Engagement List


2001_dk_1969.jpg (107544 byte)Danish 1969 70mm release advert. collection


General research was conducted in the trade publications Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety; the magazine Widescreen Review; the Internet newsgroup; the websites,, and; and the books “Box Office Hits” (Susan Sackett, Billboard, 1996), “Show Houses: Twin Cities Style” (Kirk J. Besse, Victoria, 1997), “Motor City Marquees: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Reference To Motion Picture Theaters In The Detroit Area, 1906-1992” (Stuart Galbraith IV, McFarland, 1994), and “The Making Of 2001: A Space Odyssey” (The Modern Library, 2000).

Specific details have been principally referenced from daily newspapers archived on microfilm, and the following:

- “$2 Mil ‘Odyssey’ B.O. Gross To Date”.  Variety, 7 June 1968.
- “2001: A Space Odyssey”.  Film Review.  Variety, 3 April 1968.
- “2001: In 35m Version”.  Film Review.  Variety, 15 Jan 1969.
- “2001 Gross Passes $13 Mil”.  The Hollywood Reporter, 18 October 1968.
- Box Office Mojo
- Kretzel, Bill.  “Cinerama And Large-Frame Motion Picture Exhibition In Canada”.
- “Kubrick Trims ‘2001’ By 19 Mins., Adds Titles To Frame Sequences; Chi, Houston, Hub Reviews Good”.  Variety, 17 April 1968.
- “Making Of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The”.  The Modern Library, 2000.
- “Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures”.  Documentary film.  Warner Home Video DVD 21158, 2001.

Special Thanks

poster_2001_de.jpg (55882 byte)German 2001 re-release artwork. collection


Serge Bosschaerts
Evans A. Criswell
Philip Croft
Carlos Fresnedo
Jean-Pierre Gutzeit
Hans Haenssler
Dr. Sheldon Hall
Thomas Hauerslev
William Kallay
Bill Kretzel
David Lascelles
Roland Lataille
Richard L. Lenoir
Mark Lensenmayer
Paul Linfesty
Jose Gonzalez Mancera
Ilene Montana
Jan E Olsen
Sebastian Rosacker
Dr. Jochen Rudschies
Sam Shapiro
Christian Smith
Grant Smith
Wendy Thomas

If you wish to provide feedback or contribute to this list, please contact Michael Coate or Thomas Hauerslev.
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Updated 17-12-17