Attending the A-projector, right hand panel, while running the show.
story of Vinterpalatset cinema ("VP" for short) can be traced back to
the year 1914, when the "Auditorium" cinema opened. It was built on a
foundation of an old gas storage tank, which resulted in the circular
hall with a diameter of some 32 meters. The height to the ceiling was
16 meters at the highest point and it had 1751 seats. The Auditorium was
used for concerts one evening a week, the remaining evenings for filmshows.
In 1926 a remodeling increased the seating capacity to 1952 seats. During the thirties the filmshows gradually were dropped, and from 1942 onwards the Auditorium became a ballroom and exhibition hall. At this time the name was changed to Vinterpalatset.
VP was owned by Mr. Carl Nelson, who at that time ran Royal Film AB, a cinema circuit with cinemas all over Sweden. In 1956 Mr. Nelson started investigations into the possibility of converting VP back to a cinema for the new Todd-AO system.
The Philips company of Holland made up a set of drawings, and offered a complete projection system proposed. The projectors would be installed in a completely new projection room on the balcony, resulting in nearly level projection. The throw, 23,8 meters in combination with Cine-Aperagon lenses of f=3" would result in a picture size of 15 x 6,87 meters. The depth of the screen was calculated to 2,4 meters. For unknown reasons this conversion was never carried out.
In April 1958 the film "Windjammer", shot in the new Cinemiracle system, had its European premiere in Oslo, Norway. At this event, among others invited, Mr Nelson and representatives of Svensk Fikmindustri AB (SF) met up. SF was, and still is, the leading cinema circuit in Sweden. This show must have been very impressive to them, as they immediately agreed to start a joint venture to bring this exciting form of entertainment to Sweden.
Mr. Nelson, who by this time had sold his cinema circuit, immediately started negotiations with Robin International, the company marketing Cinemiracle outside the USA. Through his company Monark Film, he aquired the exclusive rights to show "Windjammer" in Sweden. At first it was meant that Draken, a very beautiful Stockholm cinema in the SF circuit would be utilized. Eventually this plan was abandoned and the VP was selected the best location.
Construction work started in the beginning of July 1958 and included a new projection room on the balcony, new slanted floor in the circle, a gigantic screen frame in front of the old proscenium, and a complete refurbishing of the interior. The seating capacity became 913 seats. The screen frame was made of steel tube making up a curve being some 80 degrees of a circle. The screen size was 20,4 x 8,3 metres giving a picture size of 20,1 x 7,9 metres. Remotely controlled maskings were applied to the sides and top. In front of the screen, hung from of the top of the screenframe, was a nice curtain in four colors. The seating was of the latest design, providing superior comfort. The first rows were so close to the screen that they were nearly inside the screen (curve).
In the projection room the equipment consisted of three Century "G-1" Cinemiracle projectors on heavy duty bases. Both magazines were mounted on a floor stand underneath the projector head, eliminating for the projectionist the need to lift the heavy filmspools over their heads. The lower magazine had motor driven take ups. Ashcraft "Super Cinex" watercooled arclamps provided sufficient light when projected at 140 Amps. Because of the heat, even the gate assemblies in the projectors were watercooled. The lamps were modified to allow for longer running time neccesary with Cinemiracle.
The D.C. was supplied from three Gaumont Kalee 140 Amp rectifiers. For the prologue and commercials a standard Bauer 35mm projector was used. Originally water circulators were used for cooling water but they proved inadequate. The water was nearly boiling, so the circulators were eliminated and water was taken directly from the main supply.
The sound system was RCA with a rated output of 60 W per channel, coupled to a sound reader built by Stancil-Hoffman. For emergencies, the center projector had a magnetic soundhead reading a soundtrack mixed down to mono. It also read a 1,6 kHz control track for switching the surround channels. To achieve synchronism of all projectors and the soundreader, selsyn interlocking motors by General Electric were used. As the whole equipment package was designed to be mobile, all connections between the apparatus were carried out by means of plugs and rubbercovered cables, greatly reducing the time required to assemble the lot.
In the beginning there were five projectionists on duty. One at the center projector, the chief, checking the other projectors before the start (lacing up, carbons etc), starting and stopping the show, maintaining focus, carbon trim and sound operation, one projectionist at each side projector, maintaining focus, ranking (framing), carbon trim and mirrorposition. One projectionist at the soundreader, and one for rewinding and relieving other members of the crew when neccesary.
Later the crew was reduced to four men. The whole installation was supervised by Mr. Samuel Bale, who also installed Cinemiracle in London, Munich and Denmark. Mr. Bale was very pleased with the VP installation, claiming it to be one of the best Cinemiracle cinemas in the world.
Because of the circular shape, it was an excellent hall to adapt for Cinemiracle. VP also created some spinoffs, like the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles.
On September 4, 1958, the grand opening was held with a lot of honoraries attending. "Windjammer" became a great success, running for an amazing 20 months to full capacity.
By the beginning of 1959, a pair of Philips DP70 projectors were ordered for VP, making it possible to show Todd-AO as well as ordinary 35mm films. However, the DP70s were never installed since "Windjammer" did so well over such a very long time. Instead it was decided to switch to Cinerama.
In the spring of 1960, an engineer arrived in Stockholm for the modification of the Cinemiracle projectors to Cinerama. The major work was to install the jiggolos in the gates. The conversion was carried out during the day, one head at a time, eliminating the cancelling of any shows.
The first Cinerama show was held on June 13, 1960 when "Seven Wonders of the World" had its premiere. From this point on, all seven Cinerama films were shown, as well as two re-runs of "Windjammer" and one Russian Kinopanorama film ("Great is My Country")
By 1964 it was obvious that no more films would be made in the 3-panel system and it was decided to go for 70mm. Cinerama in England insisted on using Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 projectors, since they could be converted for 70mm as well as Cinerama and standard 35mm film. Both Victoria 8s received were secondhand projectors, probably from England. The RCA sound equipment was retained although an amplifier rack from Cinemeccanica was supplied along with the projectors. Also the Ashcraft lamphouses were retained.
The first 70mm show was held on November 11, 1964 when the film "It´s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 had its Swedish premiere. Specially calculated lenses by Cinerama, Inc. were used to fill the big screen but it was impossible to achieve a sharp picture. This led to massive complaints from the audience. A Philips DP70 projector was installed temporarily for testing but the result was only slightly better. After a while, two secondhand Cinemeccanica lamps were installed on the Victoria 8s. This, combined with Philips BF lenses solved the problem. The optical alignment between the Cinerama arcs and the V8 were not compatible for 70mm projection.
The picture size for standard 70mm film, Todd-AO, was set to 7,8 x 17,23 meters. The Cinemiracle equipment was dismantled and put into storage, except for the soundreader, its built-in magnetic preamps still in use. Later on, they were removed and placed in a box on the front wall of the projection room. The Cinerama soundreader went into storage.
The years went by. VP ran many nice 70mm films but in the early 70s it was decided to put the 3-panel system back for a selected re-run. All the equipment was once more installed and aligned, only to reveal that prints of "Windjammer" and "This is Cinerama" were badly faded. "How the West Was Won" still had excellent color. "Windjammer" and "This is Cinerama" could not be shown to the public. What a disappointment. Projection equipment went back to the storage room.
Now commenced a time of 70mm re-runs but in the mid 70´s VP fell victim to standard 35mm anamorphic even if it was not as good because it was too grainy. Everything must come to an end, even so for Vinterpalatset. In 1977 it was announced that Sweden´s largest union had aquired the site to build an office block. The last performance was to be held on December 31, 1977. Despite several attempts, it was not possible to save this magnificent cinema that had become a legend in its own time. During the last 6 weeks, a cavalcade of VP´s best films were held, giving the people of Stockholm a last chance to once again see their favorite film on the big screen. Included were, among others, a 70mm print of "How the West Was Won". The last public perfomance started 7 pm December 31, 1977; the film was "Earthquake" in Sensurround.
The following day a party for all employees and the management was held. Of course there must be some screening on such an event and so "The Miracle of Todd-AO" was screened. As a souvenir, small pieces were cut from the screen and handed over to everyone. During the next weeks the cinema was cleared of all equipment, seating, decorations etc, and within a few more days the building was demolished. The story of Vinterpalatset had come to its end.
Vinterpalatset was a truly magnificent cinema, having a very fine interior, big screen, excellent projection and very attractive film programming. Former staff are very proud to have worked in this renowned cinema and its closing down is mourned by them as well as by many of its spectators who went to see a film there. Even now more than twenty years after closing, it is not unusual to meet people who clearly recall their visits to VP and the experience they witnessed when "Windjammer" or any other great film swept across the vast screen.
One of the few color photograps of Vinterpalatset from its days of glory. The destruction of VP was a disaster - not only for residents in the capital area, but for the entire Swedish cineast nation. Though Draken in Gothenburg and Royal in Malmö still remain, the death of the head of the family made it virtually impossible to maintain an even flow of new 70mm prints. Without VP, her minor siblings had a tough time ahead - and mainly only re-runs to show...
Thanks to Mr Peter Andrén for providing text and images about VP. The text is previously published in "...in 70mm -The 70mm Newsletter" c/o Mr Thomas Hauerslev.
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Stefan Adler - Page made 2000-06-20 (2000-07-28)