3 Falke Bio
Todd-AO Luxury. Copenhagen, Denmark, 23.10.1958 - 14.12.1982
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Thomas Hauerslev. Pictures Photographed February 7, 1982 by author except when noted.||Issue 52 - March 1998|
|The sign in daylight. The "Bio" letters have survived is is now in the editor's collection.|
We are in the 1950s. A decade of hope, teenagers and big screens in the cinema. One innovative movie format caused particular attention. A new film, "Oklahoma!", opened in New York in 1955 using the revolutionary new wide screen process, Todd-AO. The film became an instant hit and soon European exhibitors took notice of the success. The first European Todd-AO installation opened in Rome (Adriano) on February 14, 1957 and a month later, Germany followed with the first purpose-built Todd-AO cinema in Europe (The "Savoy" in Hamburg). The first Todd-AO cinema in Scandinavia was the 3 Falke Bio in Denmark. This is the story of the 3 Falke Bio.
More in 70mm reading:
• Go to gallery 3 Falke Bio, Denmark
in70mm.com Presents: You are in the Show with Todd-AO
DP70s in Denmark
Whole story expanded and more images in Danish
Including All films shown at 3 Falke Bio
Construction of 3 Falke Bio. August Andersen's collection
The 3 Falke Bio opened to the public on Friday October 24, 1958. The night before had been an invitational premiere for special guests and government officials. The designer, Mr. Ole Hagen (1913 - 1984), was a famed Danish architect, responsible for numerous schools, public buildings and houses. His company Ole Hagens Tegnestue was the largest architectural firm in Denmark for many years. In 1959 he also designed the Cinerama theatre in Copenhagen, known as Kinopalæet.
The 3 Falke Bio had 1000 seats but was far from being the largest cinema in terms of seating capacity in Denmark at that time.
The entrance of 3 Falke Bio. The boxoffice is seen here to the right of the entrance.
Several Copenhagen cinemas had more seats: The Nora (1184), The Palads Teatret (1549), The Palladium (1347), The Saga (1692) and World Cinema (1575). In terms of screen size and film width, however, 3 Falke Bio beat them all. Todd-AO, Big Screen and 6-track stereophonic sound were all slogans that made 3 Falke Bio famous.
A sign with neon lights and 24 sheet poster always decorated the front. The boxoffice is seen here to the right of the entrance.
The licensee to operate the cinema was Liberalt Oplysningsforbund and in August, 1958 they hired Mr. August A. Andersen (1910 - 1990) to be the manager of their new prestige cinema. Mr. Andersen had begun his career in the cinema business in the late 1920s as usher and later as projectionist at the Metropol and Palladium cinemas in Copenhagen. Immediately prior to becoming manager of the 3 Falke Bio he came from positions at Paramount and Warner Brothers. Mr. Andersen stayed at 3 Falke Bio until retirement June 31, 1977, nearly 20 years later.
|The outer foyer.|
At 2 PM October 16, 1958 the architect and the manager opened the doors to the new cinema for the press. They explained the new film format Todd-AO, the screen size and the sound system and how it all worked together. At this point it was announced that "South Pacific" in Todd-AO would be the first film at 3 Falke Bio. "It is going to be a tremendous success and [Opening night] will be sold out before the craftsmen are gone". Mr. Anderson enthusiastically told the admiring writers. He had seen "South Pacific" in London and predicted 6 week run at 3 Falke Bio. Opening night was sold out in less than an hour and "South Pacific" stayed at 3 Falke Bio 184 weeks (two runs: 72½ and 112 weeks) for a total of more than 3½ years. It was taken off February 14, 1963, 2056 performances later.
The inner foyer.
3 Falke Bio was built like an amphitheatre with 28 rows of seats. All rows were curved to provide the best possible sightlines to the screen. The first 1/3 of the seats were the first 11 rows on an upward sloping floor from the screen bottom. Row 12 was raised 2 meters (6 ft) from the floor. The succeeding 16 rows climbed steeply up to the back of the cinema. The seats, with teak arm rests, had turquoise upholstery and were made by Odense Stole- og Møbelfabrik. The floor was darkstained pine with carpets on the stairs. The ceiling was dark blue with built-in downlights. Walls were Asbestolux tiles with acoustic equalization, and a 15 Watt lamp was hidden between each tile. The stage was illuminated by means of 81 ceiling-mounted spotlights. The foyer was very small: there were public phones and a concession kiosk; the boxoffice was outside. Staff rooms were on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Projection room was on the 4th floor… and there was no elevator.
The first pair of DP70s installed in Denmark and in Scandinavia.
The projection room was well equipped. Two Philips all-purpose DP70 projectors with Mole Richardson lamphouses, one Ernemann 35mm projector, one Bang & Olufsen V-6 6-track amplifier, a rewind table, and of course a coffetable for the projectionists. Projection lenses for Todd-AO were American Optical Cine-Aperagons of exceptionally good quality. The screen was the largest ever in a Danish cinema: 17,6 meters wide (58 ft) and 8 meters tall (26 ft). The curve depth was 2,7 meters (9 ft). The screen was the entire forward wall which gave a fantastic illusion of looking out of a window. Black masking could be moved up and down in order to show 35mm formats. The 3 Falke Bio screen was surpassed in size only by the Cinemiracle and Cinerama screens later installed in Denmark. After they closed, 3 Falke Bio's screen remained the largest in Denmark. Behind the screen were 5 sets of loudspeakers. Each channel consisted of 3 woofers on top of each other mounted on a large baffle made of wood. There was a tweeter on top of the baffle. 36 effects speakers were located in the auditorium, hidden behind the Asbestolux walls. The sound quality was remarkable according to trade press.
The first view of the Todd-AO screen.
The most faithful guest was Mr. Ejner Knudsen who saw "South Pacific" more than anyone else. He was 62 in 1958, father of four kids and a widower. He always bought the same seat. Row number 1, seat number 1 (Nearest to the screen). He was very fond of Ms. Mitzi Gaynor and saw her lovely talents more than 170 times. On several occasions he was given special attention when he had seen the film a certain number of times. Saturday, July 16, 1960 on the occasion of his going to see the film the 50th time, Mr. Andersen gave him a complete set of movie stills, a bottle of cognac and a tour in the projection room. Mr. Andersen later recalled the expenses for this award far exceeded the ticket income from Mr. Knudsen. But the newspapers loved the story of the man who saw "South Pacific" every Saturday from the same seat and it was good press coverage for the cinema.
Steps from foyer to the cinema.
"South Pacific" was shown every day at 7:30 PM and also at 4 PM during weekends. The promotional short "The Miracle of Todd-AO" accompanied "South Pacific" from the first day. It never had a Danish title, but was affectionately called The Roller Coaster Ride and was even advertised by that name. The show at 3 Falke Bio was advertised all over Denmark and even in Malmö, Sweden. The Todd-AO process made an unprecedented impact on the Danes. Busloads of people came to 3 Falke Bio night after night to see The Greatest Show in Todd-AO! 3 Falke Bio was the only cinema to play the film in Denmark and it was the biggest success in Denmark, ever! Tourists also frequently came to 3 Falke Bio as films were always played in original versions with subtitles in Danish. 262.368 guests saw "South Pacific" during the first year.
The cinema seen from the screen.
In the following 12 years 3 Falke Bio played many of the best 70mm films Hollywood had to offer. Many films broke records and the cinema was well known outside Denmark for its beautiful architecture and perfect viewing conditions for 70mm. A few celebrities visited the cinema during premieres. Mr. Omar Sharif ("Lawrence of Arabia"), Mr. Peter Glenville ("Becket") and Mr. Rod Steiger ("Waterloo") all visited 3 Falke Bio. A premiere at 3 Falke Bio was always a Copenhagen event. The royal family, diplomats and politicians often visited the cinema on these black tie/dark suit occasions.
|Side view of the auditoria. |
Walls were Asbestolux tiles with acoustic equalization, and a 15 Watt lamp was hidden between each tile.
The technical equipment at 3 Falke Bio was always state of the art. Even before the opening in 1958 there were plans to rebuild 3 Falke Bio for Cinemiracle. The plans never materialized, however, because the screen would have been too small. A few years later a proposal to install Cinerama was considered. Again, 3 Falke Bio declined. They had a good business with Todd-AO and saw no reason to change to Cinerama. The DP70 projectors were re-equipped with new Zeiss´ 6500 Watt Xenon light lamphouses in 1967. Dimension 150 was installed the same year at the expense of 20th Century Fox to be used only for "The Bible…In The Beginning". The complete D-150 120 degree screen was installed and later taken down again. Newspaper ads wrote it was the first D-150 installation in Europe. Sensurround was installed for "Earthquake" in 1975. A Philips/Kinoton non-rewind ST 270 platter system was also installed in 1975 and taken out again 1977/78. Dolby Stereo (A CP50 processor) and new speakers were installed for "The Deer Hunter" in March 1979. A new specially-coated screen was installed before the premiere of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1963.
|The first 12 years went by quickly, and the cinema rode on a huge wave of popularity. Thanks to excellent management, good films and a faithful audience 3 Falke Bio was a success. The second 12 years (1970 -1982), however, audiences declined. Very few films lasted more than three months. Films were taken off after only 2 or 3 weeks, a far cry from the roaring 60s when films easily played more than 6 months. Only 6 films stayed on 3 Falke Bio´s vast canvas for more than 3 months from 1970 until closure in 1982. "The Godfather" (9 months), "The Great Gatsby" (5 months), "Hello, Dolly!", "Kelly's Heroes" and "Earthquake" (all 4 months), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (3 months). After 1977 the cinema lost money. What went wrong? There were several reasons. Film making changed, distribution/-exhibition changed, and audiences changed. There was a general recession affecting all cinemas in Copenhagen. A lot of older cinemas closed during the 70s and were replaced by a new form of cinemas; the multiplex. Many films of the 70s were "smaller", more intimate and lower-budget types of movies that didn't require a Todd-AO screen. || |
|3 Falke Bio's original audience was getting older and perhaps lost interest in going out to see films in the cinema. They preferred to stay home and watch TV. The new generation of cinemagoers spent their money at the new shoebox-sized cinemas located around central Copenhagen. As revenues declined 3 Falke Bio simply did not get the blockbusters anymore. And as they didn't get the big movies, audiences stayed away even more. After Mr. Andersen retired in 1977, 4 different managements tried to infuse new life into 3 Falke Bio. At this point, the fight was already lost, but nobody knew that yet. The new managements, with one exception, had no idea what to do with the cinema. Eventually they gave up.|
The flat screen during installation spring 1983.
On July 1, 1980 Mr. Per Hauberg (age 28) fulfilled his dream of becoming manager of 3 Falke Bio. His passion for 70mm was well known by film distributors and they willingly supported his desire to run the classic prints one last time. Mr. Hauberg fought valiantly for 10 months to save "his" cinema with a colorful mixture of 70mm- and 35mm re-runs. Thanks to his efforts 20 different 70mm films were shown on the big screen, half of them having never been shown on 3 Falke's giant screen before. That was the last opportunity to see and hear 70mm re-releases with 6-track stereo in Copenhagen. A newspaper strike broke out in late April 1981. Without advertising it was impossible to run the cinema. Mr. Hauberg was forced to shut down his operation of the cinema in May 1981. He lost more than DKK 200.000 (USD 31.000) on his dream. And incredibly, all 70mm prints were junked shortly afterwards.
The Last film at the 3 Falke Bio - "Spartacus" in 35mm
3 Falke Bio officially closed after the last perfomance on Tuesday December 14, 1982. The final film shown on the largest screen in Denmark was a 35mm version of "Spartacus". The cinema never re-opened commercially. January 17, 1983 the screen was taken down and replaced by a considerably smaller screen on the rear wall. The new screen was simply a piece of the big screen cut out to fit the smaller flat frame. The cinema continued for a while with film club showings and then it was over for good. The name was changed to 3 Falke Scenen [3 Falke Stage] and the old neon sign was taken down. The letters "B I O" have survived and are installed at the editorial office of The 70mm Newsletter. The projectors were sold in 1986. Warner Brothers seriously considered re-opening the cinema in 1986 as a multiplex but the plans never were implemented. The auditorium still exists today and is used quite often for theatre and smaller concerts, TV recordings and large lectures and meetings. The projection room and the first 11 rows of seats are gone. In December 1996, a 35mm projector, a screen, speakers and Dolby Digital equipment was installed for a single performance of "The Long Kiss Goodnight".
This is what made 3 Falke Bio famous. The Todd-AO screen.
3 Falke Bio is regarded by many people as the best cinema there ever was in Denmark. By projectionists in Copenhagen and devoteés of 70mm film, who are old enough to remember, it is sadly missed and vividly remembered as the cinema to watch 70mm and 6 Track Stereophonic Sound.
The 70mm films at 3 Falke Bio
|"Lawrence of Arabia" poster on side walk in 1963. Picture from Thomas Hauerslev collection.|
Many 70mm films were shown several times. This list only notes the first time each film was shown. Compiled by Per Hauberg (Years 1974-1977) and Thomas Hauerslev (Years 1958-1974 & 1977-1983). All films listed here had their Danish premiere at 3 Falke Bio except films noted *) = Re-run.
24.10.1958 "South Pacific" Scandinavian premiere
24.10.1958 "The Miracle of Todd-AO" Scandinavian premiere
29.03.1960 *) "Sleeping Beauty"
19.08.1960 "Porgy and Bess"
15.02.1963 "The March of Todd-AO"
20.08.1963 "Mutiny on the Bounty"
15.10.1963 "Lawrence of Arabia"
15.06.1964 *) "West Side Story"
26.12.1964 "My Fair Lady"
09.11.1966 *) "The Sound of Music"
03.03.1967 "The Bible…In the Beginning" in Dimension 150
20.11.1967 "The Dirty Dozen"
08.03.1968 "Doctor Dolittle"
22.04.1968 "The Comedians"
26.08.1968 "Gone With The Wind" European premiere
20.01.1969 "Where Eagles Dare" European premiere
06.06.1969 "Funny Girl"
23.01.1970 "Ice Station Zebra"
14.04.1970 "Hello, Dolly!"
10.11.1970 "Goodbye Mr. Chips!"
14.12.1970 "Kelly´s Heroes"
14.04.1972 *) "Oliver!"
26.12.1974 "Thats Entertainment"
30.01.1975 "Earthquake" in Sensurround
27.02.1976 *) "Ben Hur"
26.04.1976 *) "Battle of the Bulge"
26.12.1976 "Logans´s Run"
07.03.1977 *) "Cheyenne Autumn"
03.03.1978 "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
24.01.1980 *) "Ryan´s Daughter"
01.02.1980 *) "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, or how I Flew From London To Paris in 25 hours and 11 minutes"
23.07.1980 *) "The Great Race"
30.07.1980 *) "2001: A Space Odyssey"
18.08.1980 *) "MacKennas Gold"
18.08.1980 *) "Dersu Uzala"
03.10.1980 *) "Paint Your Wagon"
03.11.1980 *) "The Agony and the Ecstasy"
10.12.1980 *) "Doctor Zhivago"
05.01.1981 *) "The Sand Pebbles"
14.01.1981 *) "Camelot"
Top 5 70mm Box Office
|Listed here are the 5 most successful films in terms of audiences. All presented in 70mm.|
|Title Boxoffice return in DKK||Guests:||Weeks:|
| || || |
|South Pacific 7.728.053||782.710||201|
|My Fair Lady 4.860.848||441.444||87,6|
|The Sound of Music 1.384.114 ||122.712||28|
|Lawrence of Arabia 922.581||88.984 ||23|
|The Dirty Dozen 1.001.029||80.595||15|
| || || || |
|"3 Falke Bio" in November 1998. Now a conference hall.|
Interviews with Mr. August A. Andersen (early 1980s) and info from his his scrap books. Description of 3 Falke Bio by Mr. P. Hummeluhr dated December 2, 1958, Politiken October 17, 1958. Dagens Nyheder October 17, 1958. Berlingske Tidende October 17, 1958. Biografejerens Håndbøger.
|3 Falke Bio was the best cinema I have ever experienced. It was quite simply the perfect show […in Todd-AO]. The screen was wide, curved and very, very big. It was a very short, almost square-shaped, auditorium so the sense of a big screen was enhanced. I felt enveloped in the film when the picture filled my entire field of view. |
Seeing films on that huge screen meant something to me and I am certain this experience started my interest in the tale of Todd-AO, DP70s and the cinema. In 1982 I began as projectionist at the ill-fated 3 Falke Bio and the rest is, as they say, history…
| || |
|Go: back - top - back issues|