Wide Screen Weekend 1996
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Article and pictures by:
44, April 1996
I was invited to join the Bradford Wide
Screen Festival as guest by senior film programmer Mr Bill Lawrence.
Eagerly awaiting to go in March 1996 I tried to prepare myself to see
3-strip Cinerama for the first time in my life as well as Todd-AO
projected on a louvered Cinerama screen. I have read about wide screen
processes for the past 15 years but never expected to finally see
Cinerama as originally projected on a 146 degree screen. I was very
exited when I left Copenhagen a sunny Friday morning bound for Bradford.
I arrived in Bradford 7 hours later, ready to see what the week-end
would bring. Would I meet some members of the 70mm Association? How can
The 70mm Newsletter and Bill Lawrence work more closely together with
the aim of promoting 70mm film? Would it be possible take pictures of
Pictureville cinema? What will the Cinerama screen look like from
different angles etc, etc. Many questions were pondering my imagination.
Without knowing any of the answers I found my tickets in the box-office
for the performances of the week-end. And what a week-end! I had tickets
for "This is Cinerama", "Those Magnificent
Men...", Hello, Dolly!", and "How The West Was
Won". I also managed to squeeze in
and "Survival Island" on the giant IMAX screen. The
only one in Britain.
in 70mm reading:
After checking into the hotel I soon found myself in one of the
comfortable seats of Pictureville. The first film was
Magnificent Men..." in Todd-AO shown on the giant louvered
screen. The print was faded a bit but it did not seem to matter at all.
The important things was that it was shown to an enthusiastic audience.
After the film I went to a local Italian restaurant to dine with Jean
Pierre Gutzeit from Berlin and his friend Hans. We had a lovely chat
about 70mm film. Mr Gutzeit is of the opinion that 70mm prints of the
60es are much sharper than todayís standard. They were more
3-dimensional 30 years ago. Without having a print and a projector
between plates an cutlery we settled for the lasagne which was very
good. After dinner, the Germans had to find a hotel. I fell asleep quite
quickly after the experiences of the first day.
After a refreshing nights sleep I looked forward to the English
breakfast. Hot tomatoes, sausages, eggs, bacon and tea as well as some
corn flakes to remind me of home. After a short walk in Bradford
down-town, I suddenly found myself inside the IMAX projection room with
Mr Dick Vaughn, the projectionist. This IMAX projector is the oldest in
Europe and the 15,9 x 19,4 metres screen (depth of curvature 3,28 metres)
is the largest screen in England. I could not resist the temptation to
see "Blue Planet". With the space cinematography it is
one of the most stunning IMAX productions I have ever seen.
At 12 noon I had an appointment at Pictureville with the projectionist
staff; Mr Tony Cutts and Mr Duncan McGregor. Thanks to the corporation
of Bill Lawrence of NMPFT I was allowed to take a few rolls of film of
the unique 3-strip equipment in Pictureville. I spent the better part of
two hours running around with my tripod and Nikon
camera trying to cover every considerable angle of the Pictureville
cinema. If the projectionist crew did know me, they would surely think
that I had lost my senses. Well possibly, but I managed to shoot 30
stills of the Cinerama screen as well as speakers, projection room
equipment, foyer and the crew and I in front of the screen.
Before the next film I met with Mr Francois CARRIN of France. We bought
some supplies in the restaurant and was finally ready to see
is Cinerama". Francois came all the way from France. He had
left the same morning in his own Mercedes through the tunnel en route to
Bradford. Also present at this performance were 70mm Association members
Mr Peter Andren & Mr Richard Liljendahl of Sweden of whom both I
know well, David Page and Terry Later whom I had not met before and
finally Mr Ben Wales of whom the members are very familiar thanks to his
informative articles in the 70mm Newsletter.
Bill Lawrence introduced the film and then
"the mother of all
wide screen" systems began. To an almost full house it was
amazing to see Wallers Wonder. After so many years of study, I could
finally see this piece of history before my eyes. The join lines which I
had read and heard so much about, was a very welcome sight. They sort of
guarantied "the real thing". They belong to this
system. Somewhere I read, for true Cinerama enthusiasts, it is all part
of the show to notice the hard work the DOP have done to hide the lines.
I must agree. The only flaw was the print, a new Eastman color print
struck a few years ago especially for Bradford, however, the color
grading left much to be desired. In some scenes the colours were awful
and in others they were perfect. Hopefully, the NMPFT will get a better
print in the future.
Before the next film, one person among the audience had brought one 70mm
reel of "Porgy and Bess" along. Not seen publicly for
the better part of 35 years, no thanks to the Gershwin Estate who have
filed legal action to prevent exhibition of the film in the future
(Source: "Wide Screen Movies"), the audience had a rare
opportunity to hear and see the musical number
Necessarily So" sung by Mr Sammy Davis, Jr. The sound was good.
True magnetic 6- track fidelity. The sound spectrum was lovely. As a
professional projectionist I am well aware of digital sound, but true
6-track magnetic stereo SOUNDS, well, like film.
Only familiar with the music from
Dolly!", I looked forward to see the film. It turned out to a
delightful and pleasant experience. "Hello, Dolly!" is
greatly underrated. It was the last really big Hollywood musical. It
arrived, however, in a time when people were tired of traditional
musicals of this sort. The dance sequences are lovely, the songs are
great and the acting is entertaining. Described as
Dolly!" did cost a lot of money and 20th Century Fox almost
went bankrupt, again. During the intermission there were a slight
buzzing among the audience. I had a chance to meet Mr Jean Pierre
Vershure from Belgium. Mr Versure is a 35mm sound system enthusiast and
also member of the 70mm Association.
The last film on the programme that Saturday was
"How The West
Was Won" in 3-strip Cinerama. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited
performance of the wide screen section of the Bradford Film Festival.
The performance Saturday night was attended by quite a few people.
Pictureville cinema was almost sold out. Only a few seats were left.
Prior to this particular performance most of the audience had had a look
inside the projection room to see and smell the reels of
The West Was Won". The print itself was one of the original IB
Technicolor prints from the original release 34 years earlier. This was
Cinerama print number 22 from Germany. Titles and 35mm soundtrack were
in German. However, from a Belgian fellow, an English spoken soundtrack
was provided. Tony and Duncan, the projectionist staff of Pictureville,
had both spent more than 40 hours making the English soundtrack match
the German Cinerama print. Many evenings after the regular show and a
few nights too, were spent running this 3-strip print. The print was
found in a German cinema in Essen a few years ago and is now stored at
Pictureville. The colours are in good condition (IB Technicolor), but
the print itself is not expected to hold for many performances. The
English soundtrack suffers from the vinegar syndrome and is
deteriorating. Hopefully many people will get the chance to see the film
as originally intended at Pictureville before it is over.
Mr Bill Lawrence, senior film programmer at NMPFT, introduced the
performance and told the story of how the staff had worked hard to make
this work. There was a big applaud for Tony and Duncan from the
audience, and Bill Lawrence continued that without the
Cinerama Rumour Factory this show would never had taken place. The
audience, now VERY eager to see the film, was greeted welcome once more,
and the show began. The first thing I noticed was the tape hiss. This is
really a thing of the past, but to me, tape hiss spells MAGNETIC SOUND.
And then, 7 tracks of stereophonic music bursted out of the speakers.
Am Bound For The Promised Land" and many more by Mr Alfred
Newman in the overture can make a grown man cry. This was real
Modern 6-track mixes are 6-track mono compared to this. This was
a complete different sensation. A very nice sense of being
Big Film. Big Screen. Big Emotions. Most of the audience had seen the
film before many years ago and a lot of emotions, feelings and love for
the cinema, and especially for Cinerama, swept through the audiences
that night. Most of the audience who had seen the film before never
believed they were ever going to see "How The West Was Won"
again in 3-strip Cinerama. When the film was over, we all applauded once
more. Interestingly, a large part of the end was actually footage from
Is Cinerama" only, it was shown backwards.
Then some of us "Skidaddled", to use a James Stewart
phrase, to the nearest place where we could get something to eat. There
we were, Mr Andren and Mr Liljendahl from Sweden, Mr Vershure and wife
from Belgium, Mr CARRIN from France and myself from Denmark sitting in
Kashmir Restaurant eating Asian cuisine, in Britain talking about
the American Sensurround system and old German 35mm sound heads
in the middle of the night. Can it be more international? Some would
probably say that we are crazy. Possibly, but we are happy.
The next morning, which happened to be my 33rd birthday, was also in the
sign of Cinerama. Many of the guests from the day before, turned up
again to see "How The West Was Won" once more. Before
the show, there was a screening of the short film
Button Go" in 70mm. The print was badly faded and very hard to
keep in focus. The Sunday performance were nearly sold out too. I
managed to see the main titles again to feel the
rush. It was
time for me to get back to Denmark. The last film for me was
Island" in IMAX which I saw together with Francois from France.
After the film I took the train to Kings Cross in London. I was very
Seeing old prints, faded clips, looking for join lines, the smell of
magnetic sound, hearing tape hiss, seeing "Intermission"
signs, is all part of the show in Bradford. I was fortunate to see a few
films, but the programme were even larger. The following 70mm titles
were also shown "Apocalypse Now", "War And
Peace", "Around The World In 80 Days" and the 1956
"The Miracle Of Todd-AO". The week-end in
Pictureville came to an end. I owe much thanks to the staff there,
especially Mr Bill Lawrence, Mr Tony Cutts, Mr Duncan McGregor and Mr. Dick Vaughan for making it unforgettable, highly interesting and for
making me feel so welcome.
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