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The Greatest Show in Todd-AO
Mission Report from Karlsruhe - A Personal Story

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev, Film Programmer, Todd-AO Festival Date: 01.04.2015
"Two tickets for "Oklahoma!", please". How often can you say that in 2014? Not very often I assure you, and not many cinemas are showing this original Todd-AO film from 1955. One cinema which has just shown it was the Schauburg in Karlsruhe, in the south of Germany, not far from the French border, health spas of Baden-Baden and the Black Forest. The 10th Todd-AO 70mm Festival took place on the first weekend of October and more than 100 people came from all over Europe to see original 70mm films on Schauburg's curved screen. In my own case, it was my 10th 70mm Festival of its kind in Karlsruhe.

What is Todd-AO 70mm? 70mm film is a historical film format which was very popular from the middle of the 1950s until the early 1990s. 70mm was the "Rolls-Royce" of film format for more than 40 years until the advent of digital sound. 70mm gave the audience a very good illusion of reality thanks to the large negative area and multi-channel Hi-Fi sound. The 70MM format was used to photograph some of the largest musicals and dramas the 1960s had to offer. You may have heard about "The Sound of Music", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Ben Hur" and many more. It was movie making at an epic scale with literally a cast of thousands.

The Todd-AO Festival at the Schauburg is not only pretzel, sekt, schnitzel and Hoepfner's hefewize, it is indeed about going to the movies in style. An experience all by itself. Seeing the films at the Schauburg is like seeing the films as they were originally presented - in a big cinema, on a huge curved screen with red curtains and a Gong [an instrument played by the projectionist just before the films starts, to get your attention]. It's all about showmanship and presentation, and very few cinemas - if any - do it better than the staff of the Schauburg. Projectionists Vincent Koch and Markus Vetter have been working week after week preparing each 70mm print for this weekend, and the work they put into it pays off. All films are presented flawlessly with perfect focus and sound. Every sound issue is being addressed by sound specialist Gunter Oehme, who has preauditioned and optimized the sound for each film. Sometimes he is even sitting on the last row with his laptop to monitor each sound channel individually.
 
More in 70mm reading:

Todd-AO Festival Home
10. Todd-AO 70mm-Festival 2014

Internet link:
Schauburg.de
On line ticket reservation
Hotel reservation link

Filmtheater Schauburg
Att: Herbert Born
Marienstraße 16
76137 Karlsruhe
Germany

Tel: +49 721 - 35 000 11
mobil: +49 151 - 1668 9172
Fax: +49 721 - 38 00 47
 
The Todd-AO Festival is unique in the sense that it presents ultra-rare 70mm films which cannot be seen anywhere else. Where else can you see DEFA 70 films from the DDR, or rare short films in MCS Superpanorama 70? Where else can you see the campy 1970s "Earthquake" presented in 70mm and SENSURROUND? "Mainstream" and audience favourites are of course also presented in blazing 70mm film with 6-track sound.

Everything is presented in 70mm. No digital stuff. Digital DCPs, with all its virtues and qualities, can be seen everywhere, not to mention Blu-ray at home. No need to do that, when vintage 70mm prints are available. For me it would be the same in a museum. I am not interested in travelling to see a digital replica of a famous painting in a museum frame - I want to see the original. It's important to stay true to that goal for the festival. To maintain the reason to go to see something unique. As 70mm cinemas are becoming "rare species", the 70mm experience will become even more unique, and worth travelling for.

This is how every film should be presented in cinemas.
 
Co-Organizing the festival for 10 consecutive years is a challenge - a challenge not to repeat your self. Always remember to show films not previously shown at the festival - depending on availability, and of course some audience favorites.
 
That is the hallmark of the Schauburg 70mm festival. To present films in, well, in 70mm. Some of which are even first generation prints from the original premiere 40-50 years ago. Prints are in good physical conditions, and the sound is often better - or more pleasing - compared to new films. Most of the prints have faded into red, pink, magenta or brown nuances, but that does not seem to be a problem with the audience, although it is always a subject of debate when the blue and green color layers have "vaporized" and left the rest of the film somewhat monochromatic. Some even joke that new prints ought to be factory faded to protect the eyes of the seasoned 70mm festival viewer. I remember seeing a new Todd-AO print of "The Miracle of Todd-AO" in full color some years ago. I felt it was wrong in some strange way, as I had only seen faded-to-red versions of it previously.

The keen reader might have noticed we did play one DCP of "Oklahoma!". That is correct, but it was technically not included in the festival and required separate tickets. It was a warm up, and presented as an example of what is possible with this exciting new digital 4K DCP technique.

In Germany films from other countries are typically dubbed, not subtitled. Some musicals keep the songs in English with German subtitles. Most of the German versions even have German main titles which I think is quite exciting to see. The efforts that went into this so many years ago are staggering. The German actors very often really sound like their English/American colleagues, when they dub their voices. I often hear "Why are the films in German"? Well, it's a German festival, and many of the prints comes from German archives. "Can't you show English versions?". We'd love to, but there are no 70mm prints available of say "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". So, Herbert and I settled for a vintage 70mm print of "Brides" in a German dub, because it is available and super rare (and very funny). It is the only opportunity to see it in 70mm - it's German, or not at all. Simple math. We are showing "Brides" because a 70mm print is available.
 
The German 70mm prints even have German language title cards - maybe they even do it to this day - I have yet to find out.
 
The festival has a very loyal core audience which comes back year after year. Some have even been here all 10 years. The group of people comes from several European countries. It's the annual pilgrimage to Karlsruhe to see 70mm films and meet the same people from last year and to sit in the same seat as last year. No change please. It requires good understanding to "nurse" all these people so they will come back next year. The Schauburg Festival ticket (a pass that gives access to all films during the weekend) also includes meals. That is right, except Friday morning, the pass includes full Cinerama Lounge breakfast Saturday and Sunday, full dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as afternoon tea/coffee and a cake all three days. Short of a wake-up call in your hotel and a massage, the audience is well taken care of. It was quickly realized the first year, how stressful it was for the audience to find something to eat between films. Thus, catering has been included since. Eating together also serves the social dimension of the festival when all things 70mm are discussed at the long tables outside in Schauburg's beer garden. It has become like an expanded family after all these years. Children grow up, people get married and 70mm friends are passing away. Once a year we all meet, see films, take pictures and talk. After 3-4 days we separate again and go back to the normal unfaded world of reality.

Also included in the program is a 48 page full color printed souvenir program especially made for the Todd-AO Festival. It includes detailed information and pictures of the films shown, as well as an article or two, relevant to the weekend. This year it was a German translation of Brian O'Brien Jr.'s "Todd-AO - How it all Began", originally written for The 70mm Newsletter 20 years ago.
 
 
Planning the festival

70mm festival film programming can be summarized like this:

• show everything in 70mm, regardless of fading, language or version
• make sure you show something you have not shown before
• throw in an audience favourite from time to time
• show some rare short films
• make sure you have a musical or two
• make sure the audience have time to socialize

Going to Karlsruhe is "The Ultimate Trip" for me. I see films I would never had dreamed of actually seeing in a cinema, let alone in 70mm with fabulous 6-track magnetic sound. It's exhausting seeing 10 films in only 3 days, but it is also very rewarding. I am now able to say "I was there" to see "The Alamo", "KLK an PTX – die Rote Kapelle“ and many other rare films. In fact on my shortlist, only "The Big Fisherman", "Exodus", "McKenna's Gold" and "TRON" are left to be seen in 70mm. Short of a few MCS and DEFA 70 titles, I've seen the rest, precisely as the directors intended. "In 70mm and full stereophonic sound". If someone had asked me in 1984, if I believed I'd get a chance to see nearly ALL 65mm originated films within 30 years, I'd probably have said "No". But that is in fact what has happened. It's fun watching the old films within the framework of a Festival Weekend, and I would not like to trade the experience for a new colourful DCPs. It's fun because it is 70mm. Because it's original and old. Because nobody else does it. Because it is 106% pure cinema, with people behind the projectors.

Going to the Schauburg is highly recommended and you should support it, as you should support similar 70mm screenings everywhere else. It's a unique experience. When more and more multiplexes are becoming more and more sterile with the unpleasant smell of popcorn, no curtains, what is the whole point of going to the movies when it all looks like your own TV set at home? But don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself.
 
something commercial fri - sat - sun evening to bring in regular audience

 

Films in 70mm

 
Thursday 2. October
20:00 "Oklahoma!" in 4K DCP Todd-AO (out of Todd-AO Festival)

Restored, or remastered version (as it did not have the original Todd-AO style 6.0 soundtrack) of "Oklahoma!" presented in 4K from a DCP. I was curious to see how it looked. The image was very smooth and clean, and with some of the built in "effects" of bugs and flies in front of the lens from the original shoot in 1954. It was nice to see they had been kept in. As a former projectionist I regret the loss of all changeover marks in new DCPs. They don't have any purpose in a DCP of course, but changeover marks sort of belong to a film's heritage. A DCP has a tendency to become too clean and look like a PowerPoint presentation. The picture was not as warm as the previous 1983 70mm print which we ran twice (1998+2005) in Bradford. Colors were nice and natural, or perhaps a little too blue. It lacked a little "Technicolor" look perhaps to make the corn really green and Gordon MacRae's red shirt really red. But, it is to be applauded this title is even available, as the 65mm negative is believed to be damaged, so Fox used IN5 (Inter negatives #5) for this scan instead. Unlike the 30 frames pr/sec 70mm version, I didn't really notice the higher frame rate. Maybe that is due to the digital projection technique, which I am not familiar with. One thing I did notice was the first scene after the intermission - a whole sequence with Laurie and Jud going the fair together (she throws him off the carriage). The scene in this version took place in bright daylight, but I am almost certain the sequence takes place place just before dark. It looked is if it was filmed day for night. Even the train has lights on. Maybe someone else can confirm this? It makes sense it should be before dark, as the following scene in Clairmore's, takes place when it is dark. Over all it was great to see "Oklahoma!" again in its full glory on a curved screen in a cinema. The two existing 70mm prints have both been retired and are sadly not available any longer. The film plays a little uneven, and the second half is by far the best. The ballet scene in the first part was always controversial, but this time I actually liked it. It has a nice touch of Dali art in it, which I never noticed before.
 
 
Friday 3. October 2014
10:30 - 13:09 "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" in Panavision 70

"Goodbye Mr. Chips" has been on my 70mm wish list for many years, and now I managed to add it to the program in 70mm in respect of Mr. O'Toole's long movie career and passing last year. Besides, it is also a sing-a-song film, and every festival should have a 70mm title with songs in it. The sound was very smooth and nice, with panning across the screen, to make sound believable. In 1969 it was a high point I think. For me it is a nice nostalgic feeling to hear the dialogue move from speaker to speaker to match the actor's location on the screen.

The film was less than successful when it came out in 1969, and the running time was shortened by nearly half an hour. This was a faded print with most of the songs brutally cut in half. "Chips" was a nice surprise. It was not as bad is its reputation - far from. I quite enjoyed Peter O'Toole and Petulia Clarke, and now I can tick it off on my 70mm list. I have the vinyl LP recording, and I will surely play it later this week. There was an intermission, and when the film ended, the audience applauded, as they did throughout the weekend for every film. The film was introduced by Wolfram Hannemann in German and English language which gave us foreign guests a chance to follow.
 
 
14:30 - 17:48 "KLK an PTX – die Rote Kapelle“ in DEFA 70

A big surprise. Usually DEFA 70 films are very heavy on dialogue (read: dull, dull, DULL), and when your German language skills are limited to buying stamps and beers, DEFA 70 films have a tendency to become very difficult to understand. DEFA 70 films were made during the fascist East Germany era, and through their art, the artists had to make a statement glorifying the political system (and at the same time criticise it). "KLK an PTX", despite its nearly 3 hours running time, turned out to be a visual firework for the eye, with inspired photography and colors. The photography and editing was great to watch and reminded me of French new wave here and there. The DEFA films were printed and copied on AGFA-type stock under the name ORWO Color
*). Such prints have held up much better, and still have a lot of color. The East German 70mm prints, despite having colors, are still a bit off to the blue side. Face colors sometimes look like the actors are wearing papier-mâché masks. But never mind all the criticism: this was the only known print of this film still in existence we were told, and I feel fortunate to have seen it. Thanks to the German Bundesarchive for taking good care of this rare jewel. It was introduced by Ingolf Vonau in German, which just added to the whole mystery.

*) ORWO is a real company that is separate from AGFA, but utilized the AGFA chemistry and patents in their manufacture of color film....
 
 
19:00 - 22:07 "The Alamo" in Todd-AO

I have only seen long "The Alamo" on laserdisc sometime back in the mid 1990s. Honestly I think I fell asleep seeing that full roadshow version. This was my new chance to really see (the cut version of) "Alamo" as Mr. Wayne had envisioned it - in Todd-AO on the big screen. This simply must be the way to see it, in 70mm with lots of image and sound. I was not let down. "The Alamo" - despite having faded to purple - was a indeed a big production to digest, however, I must admit John Wayne is too much of a distraction to me. He seems to appear on camera (in character on the side) as the director, always with a smile for his actors, as if he thinks "That was a good performance from Richard, I'll use that". He also seems to change his hat all the time, for reasons unknown to me, or maybe there is some underlying symbolism to that - or maybe I just didn't get it.

I am very happy to have seen this ultra rare 70mm print of "The Alamo" - the release, and subsequent re-cutting of the movie made it much more interesting to see. I can understand why it was shortened, but also curious to see the original version, to see if the film makes more sense. The basic question is, why would 157 people think they had a chance against 7000 Mexican soldiers? What made them think that? Was that Mr. Wayne's motivation? What it (maybe) lacked in logic, it did have in battle scenes. It was amazing to see so many extras dressed in uniforms, and realize they all did this for real - no computers. Real people and they surely don't make 'em like this any more. Another tick-off on my 70mm list.
 
 
Saturday 4. October 2014
10:00 - 12:32 "Die Blechtrommel"

Saturday morning after breakfast, and we were ready for "The Tin Drum" which I didn't see when it came out in 1979. Wolfram told us only two 70mm prints were made - by Fotofilm, in Madrid, no less, one of which we were about to see. It was filmed composed for 1,66:1 aspect ratio, and blown up to full frame 70mm. That was a bit unusual - aesthetically, since some of the image would be cropped, and not seen by the audience. I think this is the first widescreen-to-full frame 70mm blow-up I have ever seen. Purists would reject it on the spot and complain (you need to keep them busy with something meaningful to do), but I think it was interesting to observe how little it did affect the story. Once or twice some heads were chopped a bit, but it wasn't objectionable. I am very much in favour of letterboxing films on TV, and this print ought to have been pillarboxed - but it wasn't. The print was also surprisingly sharp in most places, so I guess it was blown-up from the original camera negative. Orla, who was sitting next to me, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Very expressionistic, and it was easy to imagine both David Lynch and Lars von Trier being inspired by this strange universe. In 2010, the director launched an extended cut with an additional 20 minutes. The oral sex scenes, as promised by Wolfram in his intro, were somewhat disappointing. Orla and I - being Danes, had looked forward to some excitement seen from the 10th row. The sex scenes were quite innocent, and non-explicit. "The Tin Drum" did have some adult nudity and erotic scenes, which was pleasing considering the downbeat ending of all three films the previous day. Anyway, certainly a highlight of the weekend, and a title which raises the artistic bar of the weekend. The audience applauded after the film - as we all do after EVERY film.
 
 
13:00 - 14:37 "Eolomea" in DEFA 70

Here's an example of a DEFA 70 film with talking heads. Despite a pleasant 89 min. running time it felt like the film would never end. One set-up after another, and no pay-off. Nothing happened. The story was about lost space ships and the research to understand what had happened. Again a very rare and unique 70mm print from the Bundesarchive in Berlin. We learned from Ingolf Vonau's introduction this was the only existing print. A film so rare, that we are the only people who have seen it since the release 40 years ago. We should all get a reward. We didn't get one, but Orla and I had several beers during the film, in an attempt to expand our minds and understand what was going on. My problem was I do not know enough German to understand what they are saying, so "Eolomea" seemed to be a DDR version of "Plan 9 From Outer Space". The sets were terrible, and the space suits looked like ski suits. The model work was as unconvincing as they could be, and completely different from Stanley Kubrick's "2001", where the illusion of space and moon is far more convincing. The 70mm print was in good condition, few scratches and joins from very little use I suppose. A unique experience and it did have some semi-nudity on a beach, which at least provided a small dose of visual excitement.
 
 
16:00 - 18:42 "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70

During a 70mm festival like this, I usually see at least one film from the first row, very close to the screen. I have to be IN THE MOVIES. It is good exercise from your neck and back so move your head from side to side, to follow the action on the screen. This years 1st. row experience was one of my absolute favourite films, Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" which I have seen at least 10-15 times in 70mm since the age of 15. This print was a faded original release print with German soundtrack. Both Orla and I were curious to hear the German voice of HAL - which Douglas Rain does with chilling precision in the English version. It was quite odd to hear it in German, but since I know much of the dialoge by heart, I had my own English voice-over in my head. It is a chapter in movie history to see a film with a different soundtrack.

I think this print was spliced together from several sources as the color seemed to change from time to time. It was faded to a degree, but it didn't seem too objectionable as you got along with the story. The sound was good and with a pleasing stereo image moving across the screen. Especially in the Space Station V scene where Dr. Smyslov and Dr. Floyd discuss the "virus" on Clavius. Sharpness was also very good from this print. "Sharp as hell", as we say, or SAH. This print was 45 years old and had expected wear and tear by every reel change. It was nice think about how many time this print has been shown since the premiere, and all the projectionists who have worked with it. Those scratches and black spots of dust are a testament to that. It is an old print, an original print with a history to tell. If only........One nice detail about this print was it said "70MM" instead of "in CINERAMA" in the end titles. I don't think I have seen that before.
 
 
Orla and I were not alone on the first row. We were 7 altogether enjoying this masterpiece. It is hugely pleasing to see a well known film from the first row. Sometimes I see details which I never saw before. This time I noticed the IBM logo on the TV screens when they have dinner in Discovery, and wires with jack plugs in the pod bay. You are in the picture from the first row, and this is also how "2OO1" became a success originally, when teenagers were smoking dope on the floor in front of the screen. An immersive experience in Super Panavision 70.

20:30 - 22:33 "Earthquake" i Panavision 70 and SENSURROUND

The high point of the weekend in terms of audio was a presentation of Universal Film's "Earthquake" from 1974, presented with the added attraction of SENSURROUND. For this show Schauburg cinema had rented a truckload of extra sub woofers and installed them behind the screen - literally across the entire width of the stage. The print was faded to the "standard" festival color of pink, or red if you like. As the film played, the fading wasn't that bad, but also reminded us of the legacy we have to give to our children. The film is 40 years old and still as fresh, trashy and camp as ever. It is as if John Waters directed it when you look at it today. If it wasn't for the sound system SENSURROUND, it would be a forgotten film. But that is exactly why 70mm festival goers enjoy a film like "Earthquake".
 
 
Warning signs were on display in the Schauburg foyer informing the guests about the high level of low frequency sound. Sound engineer Gunter Oehme was sitting on the last row with his laptop and a Brüel & Kjær sound level measuring instrument. It took a long time for the excitement to build up, but once the big quake starts, the Schauburg was shaking to the thundering sound level of the enormous array of subwoofers behind the screen. The ventilation grilles were rattling behind me. Dust was falling from the ceiling, and I am sure some of the chandeliers were almost shaken loose right beside me. People were protecting their ears with their hands, people were smiling, and laughing, as they had never heard, or actually FELT anything like this before. My trousers around my shoes were moving like little flags waving in the wind. The loudness was impressive, and I was thinking back to when I first heard SENSURROUND in 1980. There was an intermission right after the big quake so we could laugh and rest our ears. The audience applauded wildly and once again when the film was over an hour later. What an event!
 
 
Sunday 5. October 2014
10:00 - 11:48 "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Todd-AO 35

An interesting blow-up made from Todd-AO 35's Japanese anamorphic lenses. The blow-up was very good. It was sharp and had far better sharpness compared "Chips" and "Earthquake" a few days before, both of which were photographed with Panavision's anamorphic lenses. The 6-track magnetic sound was very pleasing with sound all across the big screen.

I am not a fan of musicals like this where everything is sung. I prefer the style of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe. Wolfram Hannemann told us in his intro how the film starts with a group of actors arriving to the set in a bus all dressed in contemporary clothing, and carrying the props for the film. I did like that beginning.
 
 
16:30 - 18:10 "The Story of Flaming Years" in Sovscope 70

"The Story of Flaming Years" in Sovscope 70 had a few scenes with some nudity which pleased Orla and myself. Throughout the weekend we wanted to see some nudity in the films, especially as the films - occasionally - had a slight tendency to go boring. Orla and myself organized a screening of "Flaming Years" way back in January 1992, some years before regular annual 70mm weekends became fashionable. I remember the print which we borrowed from the Danish Film Musum was so dirty, that I had to change clothes after spending nearly 4 hours putting it together on the platter. It was an experience not to be forgotten. Whoever had the film before us, had spliced it together with ordinary tape which is very sticky (on both sides, as it leaks glue). Anyway, it took me forever to replace much of it, and repair the print. Revisiting the film in Schauburg was a pleasant experience. Nice colours, exceptionally photographed and good acting. We didn't understand Russian dialogue, but we could enjoy the big sharp pictures.
 
 
19:30 - 00:00 "Die Hard" + "Die Harder" Double Bill in Panavision 70

The Todd-AO Festival ended for me after "Die Hard" Sunday evening around 22. Still one to go, and many stayed for "Die Hard 2". I was tired, however, and needed to get to bed fairly early, as Maria, my daughter, and I had an early train departure Monday morning. Originally I suggested to Herbert when we planned to show both DH films, to remove the end titles of the first one, and go straight to number 2, but the two films would not fit the platter. Both films were presented "in Sensurround", which meant, the BOOMS where enhanced by all the extra subwoofers installed for "Earthquake".

"Die Hard" was of course in German language and interestingly, all reference to German terrorists, had been changed to International terrorists. All traces to German and European music culture was replaced, thus making the use of German music in the film slightly irrelevant. Even our favourite terrorist (Alan Rickman's) "Hans Gruber"'s name was changed. Talk about political correctness - and this was 25 years ago.

I always liked "Die Hard" for it's gung-ho humor and spectacular action. I even ran it as a projectionist in 35mm at Imperial Bio when it opened in Copenhagen many years ago. This is the first time I've seen it on film since 1988 and most likely the last time I will see it ON film in a cinema ever, since the ongoing digital tsunami makes such screenings ever more rare. Finally, all the special effects were made on 65mm film by Boss Film in Los Angeles! Those were the days.

The end of 2014's 10th Todd-AO Festival, but it will return in 2015.
 
01.04.2015

Loved your article about the great festival at Karlsruhe. Hope to attend someday and meet good folks like yourself and Orla. I especially liked your comments about the 2 Die Hard films being sanitized. Pretty hysterical!

In regards to your comments about 2001 having an in70mm credit where the Cinerama card is normally shown, I have some history with that.

I have seen 3 variations in 70mm prints for that title card over the years. Obviously, when I saw 2OO1 in its initial run at the Golden Gate Cinerama Theatre in San Francisco it had the Cinerama label. After running a year at that theatre, 2OO1 played upstairs in the Golden Gate Penthouse Theatre on a flat screen with the in70mm title card replacing Cinerama. Many years later, I saw the film run at one of the screens at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, California. This 70mm print had the Cinerama title, but it had been obliterated with an opaquing material, like a Sharpie Pen, so that it was largely obscured, but there was enough bleed through that you could just detect the Cinerama name. It was done poorly because the darkening substance danced around from frame to frame drawing more attention to the obscured logo than hiding it.

Thanks again for posting the Portland article.

All the best,
Morgan
 
   
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