Seeing 70mm Films in Mexico
The 70mm Newsletter
by: James Bohenek
24 December 2005
In the summer of 1985 I made my fifth and last trip to Mexico City. I
enjoyed watching "American" movies with Spanish subtitles in all the big
cinemas in downtown "D.F./Distrito Federal". Perhaps El Latino was my
favorite of the big movie houses. It wasn't a "palace" with fancy décor
as I remember it but it had a huge curved screen and the projection
booth was in the middle of the auditorium, level with the screen.
I don't really like curved screens since the image is never in focus
from side to side. The Panavision image of El Gran Rugido/Roar didn't
begin to fill the screen. I think it didn't fill top to bottom or side
to side but it had 4-Track Magnetic Sound that had been advertised and
it sounded fine. Yes, Tippi Hedren's movie. To this day I've wanted the
soundtrack because of the great music. Tippi has the movie for sale at
her Shambala site but I think it's $50 and I don't pay $50 for any
But that's not my story. My story is about when I saw "E.T." at El Latino.
The image was fantastic. I was convinced that I was seeing a 70mm
presentation. But there was something strange - the stereo sound was
being switched on and off. Music was stereo but when the music ended so
did the stereo sound.
Apparently the cinema had recently shown "Terremoto"/ "Earthquake" and the
Sensurround speakers were still in place in the auditorium. This is
significant and will explain the switching on and off of the stereo
After the movie, I got up the nerve to knock on the projection booth
door. (My Spanish wasn't as good then as it was a few years later but I
got by.) I tried to ask if "E.T." was being shown in 70mm. The
projectionist invited me inside to show me that the film was 35mm. The
projectors were Norelco DP-70 or DP 35/70. Although I had never seen
them I was familiar with the brand and model number. The projectionist
showed me some of the levers that convert the projector. I saw the Sensurround amplifiers and a poster for
"Terremoto"/ "Earthquake". The
gentleman showed me a 70mm setup reel. I saw the Dolby sound controls on
the wall and nearby there was a cue sheet for Sensurround. "Turn ON when
the door opens...etc." I think the old man had the idea that DOLBY
STEREO was like SENSURROUND and had to be turned on and off!! I was
unable to convince him otherwise.
I don't know what movies might have been presented in 70mm at El Latino
but I remember reading about a 70mm presentation of "Annie" either in
Mexico City or in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Many of the cinemas in Mexico City and in Monterrey had 70 in their
names through the 80's and into the 90's. Dorado 70 I think I remember
in Monterrey. And in Nuevo Laredo there was a D-150 Cinema that was
closed for many years before the D-150 sign was removed or the building
In 1985 I saw "2010 The Year We Make Contact" in Mexico City. I was amazed
at what I saw there. The computer screens were in SPANISH instead of
having English screens and subtitles!!!! Everytime I saw the movie on
Mexican television a few years later the screens were English. Wouldn't
this make a great way to use the ANGLE feature of DVDs? By the way, my
DVD of "2010" is strictly English like the television presentations. Makes
you wonder what happened to the SPANISH versions.
Oh! I just remembered something else - I've seen 70mm presentations of
"2001" at two locations in San Antonio. Santikos Galaxy theater had
Science Fiction/Fantasy Film Festivals a few times in the late 80's and
they screened "2001" at least two seasons. We saw a print with some scenes
pink and we saw the famous set goof in one of the ape scenes. And the
70mm presentations ended with the traditional MGM format "2001 A Space
Odyssey From MGM Presented in 70mm" similar to "Fame" and other 70mm MGM
presentations. Well, when the Rivercenter IMAX showed a few 70mm films
in the late 80's or early 90's they presented "2001" but there were
problems. Their short auditorium didn't have the THROW it needed for the
newly installed dual projectors. (I think I was told that the projector
or projectors came from
The Egyptian in LA.) Anyway, they had to use an
adaptor on the lens to have a decent sized image and the adaptor
degraded the image considerably so it was like watching 35mm! But most
significant was the difference in the end of the "2001" print. It said
"2001 A Space Odyssey From MGM in Cinerama" same as my LaserDisc. No one
has acknowledged to me that this difference is real but I've seen it.
I think all the 70mm equipment installed in SA in the 80's is now
retired. I'm sure one location showed only ONE 70mm movie, "Starman",
which had the distinction of having left and right channels reversed.
Well, the manager claimed the print came with the sound backwards but
every Dolby movie I saw there had the same "bad print" problem! Amazing.
And the Rivercenter IMAX still shows 35mm movies but no more 70mm other
than IMAX format. And the 35mm is blown up 80x60 feet and it's dark and
blurry and ugly to look at so only tourists who don't know any better go
to these horrible presentations.
in 70mm reading:
70mm in Mexico
- top -
- news index