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Cinerama Pilgrimage
A movie Travellers Guide to the west coast in October 2004

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Text and images by: Jan Niebuhr Date: 1. January 2005
Matt Lutthans in Seattle

At the end of October 2004 I travelled to the U.S.A. for a little week to attend a wedding in Santa Monica. During that week I had a great opportunity to meet some very nice people with love for the movies, and attend my first ever experience of real CINERAMA.

I started off in Seattle. Since this destination is a direct stop from Copenhagen with SAS, it was a great chance to visit this beautiful city. Even though my stopover only lasted close to 48 hours, I was blessed in having a great guide in Mr. Matt Lutthans.

Matt has a great love for CINERAMA. In 1997 he co-founded the Cinerama Society of Seattle, a non-profit group whose aim it was to save the CINERAMA THEATRE in the city. He has therefore a vast knowledge and a very interesting collection of memorabilia from the golden days of Cinerama. Matt has also been a projectionist at Cinerama shows in Seattle and Los Angeles, and also provided historical display materials at the 3-strip festival in Seattle. He was even married at the Cinerama theatre – the first weeding ever held there. He has lived all his life in Seattle and therefore when it also came to pinpoint cinema locations in and around the city, you couldn’t go wrong with this guy.
 
Further in 70mm reading:

Meet the Chief

The US Tour Gallery

Internet link:

 
Seattle's Cinerama Theatre

The original CINERAMA THEATRE in Seattle is a beautiful place. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the auditorium, but I was given a big tour of the place by the manager including the three projection rooms. The Cinema is in full operation and shows regular movies like any other cinema. Once a year though they have a Cinerama Festival.

One experience that left me completely flabbergasted was when we paid a visit to Mr. Robert Leader in the outskirts of Seattle. He has built his own personal cinema in his backyard with a seat capacity of 73!!! To describe it is simply impossible. I understand that Mr. Leader has a website so please check it out. You`ll be utterly amazed.

 
 
On a little side note I knew that that the late great Bruce Lee had his resting place in Seattle, next to his son Brandon Lee. We visited the cemetery and that was a very moving experience.

Well, 48 hours is definitely not the amount of time to do Seattle full justice. I hope that I in the near future will be able to return. Big thanks to Matt Lutthans.

 
 

Onward to the City of Angles - L.A.

 
Me, next to the famous music box stairs in Los Angeles used by Laurel & Hardy in 1932 in the Oscar winning short subject film "The Music Box".

Located in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles on Vendome (923-937 Vendome) at Del Monte.

Picture by: Søren Hyldgaard

It is always a thrill for me as a movie location buff to visit Los Angeles. This time, together with the groom-to-be Mr. Soren Hyldgaard we located the famous Music Box Steps in the Silver Lake districts of Los Angeles. A location used in the Award winning Laurel & Hardy short from 1932 “The Music Box”.

 
Location
Left side of the steps

It seems that it is only the left side of the steps that has change significantly over the years. It is now apartments and houses. At the time in 1932 it was an open lawn. But the house to the right of the steps is almost unchanged. Notice the little black lantern; it’s been there ever since. Later in the day towards evening it was time to get ready for the other big event (besides the wedding two days later).
 
The Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles.

Thanks to the ever watchful eyes of Mr. Hauerslev, it was Thomas who alerted me about a week before I left Denmark that I certainly was in luck while being in L. A those few days. A big event was taking place at Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. The showing of “This Is Cinerama” from 1952 in original 3 panel projection. This was my first visit inside the Dome. The last time that I was in L.A was four years ago. Then the Cinerama Dome was unfortunately closed and getting ready for the upcoming refurbishment.

 
 
John Sittig (right) and me at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. Picture by: Don McGlynn

I was greeted by Mr. John Sittig who is the technical Manager of the the Dome, and was also the reconstruction supervisor Of “This is Cinerama”. It was about 90 minutes before Showtime, so therefore I had the opportunity to walk around inside the auditorium. I have seen a lot of cinemas in my time, but nothing could quite prepare me for the awe of this place. What a sight to behold . It has a seat capacity of about 800 seats, and the full screen is approximately 90 feet for Cinerama. It is difficult for any pictures taken inside the dome to do it quite justice. The whole room is dressed in dark green curtains with only the ceiling in a warm yellow color to contrast the whole scenery.
 
 
Left to right: Randy Gitsch, Dave Strohmaier and myself. Picture by: Don McGlynn

Suddenly I heard a voice calling out: “Hi there Copenhagen” It was Mr. David Strohmaier who has done the Editorial Supervision on “This Is Cinerama”. He knew of my arrival from Thomas Hauerslev of course. We had a short talk and then he had to go to get ready for the show. I could now feel that the surroundings were becoming a bit tense as we moved closer to Showtime. Despite that, I made my way up to the heart of it all. The Projection booth.
 
 
Gunther Jung having a good time.

The work here was heating up and everybody involved in the show was starting to lace up. I had a very nice talk with Mr. Gunther Jung while he was preparing projector nr. 1. As I understood, each projector 1 – 2 – and 3 had their own names, but I forget what it was. I then retreated to the foyer where the crowd slowly but surely had started to arrive, and what an audience. It was all truly Cinerama buffs. Nearly everyone was wearing a CINERAMA T-shirt, from different States and cities. It really made the mood of it all quite special.

 
 
Cinerama camera #3 on display in the theatre lobby.

It was time to enter the auditorium and luckily I got a very good seat right in the middle. Mr. Sittig made a brief introduction and was to let us know that after the show they had collected some rare Cinerama oddities as they were called. They consisted of “breakdown reel” from “Seven Wonders of the World” Premiere newsreel footage. – County Fair and Ferris Wheel from “Cinerama Holiday” – Indus River Raft Sequence from “Search for Paradise” and the very first American showing of scenes from “Opasnlye Povoroty” presented in 3 Strip Russian KINOPANORAMA.

Then the show started.

First the PROLOGUE with Lowell Thomas as narrator in black and white, standard academy and scratchy sound. Then the magic words: “THIS IS CINERAMA” and the curtain started to go to the sides, and was going, going, going, and going, to reveal the biggest screen ever. What a sight.

The best segments from the whole show were in my opinion the following.

• The roller-coaster ride.
• Niagara Falls
• Cypress Gardens – and
• America the Beautiful.

I am very happy that I finally have had the chance to experience original Cinerama up close. A very big thank you to Mr. John Sittig for his time and for the tour of the Dome. It has become a beautiful place and extraordinary to see Cinerama movies the way they are supposed to be seen. When ever in Los Angeles, as soon as you have the time drop by the CINERAMA DOME.

You won’t regret it.

See Jan's US Tour Gallery
 
 
 
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Updated 22-12-16