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Showcase Presentations in Tucson
A Chronology of Large Format and Roadshow Exhibition, 1957-Present

The 70mm Newsletter
Compiled by: Michael Coate Date: 25.02.2018
Another permanent 70mm installation is on the books! The Loft Cinemas in Tucson, AZ just ran two successful shows of 2001 with a pair Philips DP75s. The 7OMM print was magnetic and DTS70 readers and cat. 701s have also been added, January 2016. Picture: Joel Miller of Northwest Projection & Sound in Portland, Oregon

Continuing the “Showcase Presentations in…” series, we now proudly present: Tucson, Arizona.

The Loft Cinema and some recent high-profile 70-millimeter releases have given large-format motion picture exhibition a new lease on life in The Old Pueblo. With the installation of 70mm projection systems and new 70mm films from the likes of P.T. Anderson, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino, along with bookings of classic library titles, Tucsonans have been able to enjoy high-quality 70mm presentations for the first time in nearly three decades.

As with most contemporary cinemas, The Loft Cinema primarily screens movies via digital projection, but the venue remains committed to celluloid as a way of connecting the history of cinema with the future of cinema.

“In addition to our 35mm projection capabilities, we wanted to have the flexibility of also accessing 70mm film prints and sharing them with our audience,” says Jeff Yanc, Program Director for The Loft Cinema. “As the only theatre in Southern Arizona that still runs celluloid film prints, we think it's important to show film whenever possible, and 70mm is the gold standard for celluloid.”

Yanc believes the format is a draw for moviegoers who really appreciate the experience of seeing movies projected on celluloid, and in particular, the 70mm format, which is still a relative rare opportunity.

“I know that we've had people travel to Tucson from across Arizona, including Phoenix and further north, and even from New Mexico, to attend our 70mm presentations,” Yanc says. “The 70mm format makes the experience of going to a theatre to see a movie on the big screen even more special.”

“Seventy-millimeter is quite probably the best way I've seen a movie presented,” says Phoenix-based film critic Ben Cahlamer, who has traveled to Tucson to attend numerous screenings at The Loft Cinema. “Most audiences might not have the patience for reel changes or the ‘clicks’ and ‘pops’, but the picture quality [of 70mm] is unrivaled in the modern age. With the gimmicks like 3D or Large Format, and prolific directors such as Quentin Tarantino with his roadshow version of ‘The Hateful Eight’ and Christopher Nolan's ‘Dunkirk’, the large format as well as film in general is still relevant for its presentation quality, signifying something truly special.”

Tucson got in on the 70mm trend rather late. While most major American cities began screening 70mm between 1955 and 1960, Tucson did not get their first taste of large-format film exhibition until 1968. (By contrast, Arizona’s other large city, Phoenix, got its first 70mm installations and screenings during 1957.)

During the 1950s and 60s many of the 70mm presentations in the major population centers were also roadshow presentations. That is, films exhibited with advanced pricing and a reserved-seat policy (like stage productions) and with an overture, intermission, and souvenir programs. Tucson played many of these, but without a 70mm venue at the time such attractions were screened in standard 35mm.

El Dorado was the city’s first cinema to be equipped for 70mm and over the years played more 70mm releases than all of the other 70mm-equipped venues in town.

“My favorite Tucson theatre was El Dorado’s large theatre,” says Mark Longoria, an actor who grew up in Sierra Vista and would often travel to Tucson to attend movie screenings. “It felt classy and had a great vibe and they always had great presentations.”

Adding another vote for El Dorado is John Hazelton, who works in the film industry in California but grew up in Tucson. “The El Dorado was my favorite by far,” says Hazelton. “Although it was a twin by the time I attended, both auditoriums were large and well-run. It was, in my opinion, the prime theatre in the city. If I could see a movie anywhere in town, I preferred this place! And if a movie was being shown in 70mm, I'd make the effort to see it that way.”

The draw of 70mm for a lot of moviegoers was the unparalleled sound quality. “As long as I can remember I was obsessed with stereo sound,” Longoria says. “I saw ‘Return of the Jedi’ at El Con 6 and was blown away.”

During the 1980s, Tucson Citizen newspaper film critic Dan Sorenson singled out El Dorado for its sound quality: “El Dorado’s sound system makes those in most other Tucson theatres sound like those tinny-sounding boxes you hang on your window at the drive-in.”

The bottom line is that 70mm presentations are appealing to savvy moviegoers. Time will tell if the recent trend continues, but for now we present this look back at the 70mm (and roadshow) exhibition history in Tucson.
More in 70mm reading:

• Go to 70mm Cinemas
• Go to
70mm Engagements
• Go to in70mm.com's list of films blown up to 7OMM

Internet link:

Part 1: The Cinemas

BUENA VISTA — The Buena Vista opened in 1967 as an 800+ seat single-screen cinema located on Wilmot between Broadway and Speedway. A second 500+ seat auditorium was built in 1972. This was the first Tucson cinema to install Dolby Stereo. (According to Dolby’s records a CP100 was installed in 1978.) A 70mm projection system appears to have been installed in the larger auditorium by 1984. The first 70mm presentation here appears to have been “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in 1984. The last known 70mm presentation was a moveover run of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in 1989. The ownership timeline was Fox West Coast/National General (1967-70), National General (1970-73), Mann (1973-92) and Syufy/Century (1992). The cinema has been demolished.

CAMPBELL PLAZA — This was a three-screen cinema built in 1981 by TM Theatres and located in Campbell Plaza. The first 70mm presentation here was “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in 1984 and the final one appears to have been “Havana” in 1990. The ownership timeline was TM (1981-84) and AMC (1984-92). The building is now a retail outlet.

CATALINA — There is no record of this cinema ever being equipped with 70mm projection, but it is represented in this article because it played numerous roadshows. For many years the Catalina was the most sought after venue in Tucson for the major studios’ most prestigious films. Opening in 1947 and located at North Campbell and Grant, the ownership timeline was Paramount Nace (1947-49), Arizona Paramount (1949-67), Arizona ABC (1967-74), Plitt Intermountain (1974-85) and Cineplex Odeon (1985-87). Following the closure the cinema was demolished, and in 1988 Cineplex Odeon rebuilt it as a six-screen complex with same name.

CENTURY GATEWAY — Century Theaters (aka Syufy Enterprises and Syufy Luxury Theaters) opened this 12-screen complex in 1992 on Kolb near Speedway. At least two screens were equipped to present 70mm films (utilizing a Dolby CP200 and were THX certified). The only known 70mm presentation here was “Far and Away” in 1992. Cinemark acquired the complex in 2006.

CENTURY PARK — Century Theaters opened this 12-screen complex in 1989 on the site of the former Tucson 5 Drive-In on West Grant near Interstate 10. At least two screens were equipped to present 70mm films (using a Dolby CP200 and were THX certified). This was touted as Arizona’s largest movie theatre upon its opening and featured Century Dome-style architecture reminiscent of other cinemas in the Syufy/Century chain. The first 70mm presentation here was the director’s cut re-release of “Lawrence of Arabia” which was among the venue’s grand-opening batch of bookings. The last known 70mm run was “Far and Away” in 1992. In 1994 the complex was expanded to 16 screens. Cinemark acquired the cinema in 2006 and it is now closed.

EL CON — This six-screen complex was opened by TM Theatres in 1979 and located in El Con Center. One screen was equipped to present 70mm. A Dolby CP100 was installed upon the opening. The first 70mm presentation at this venue appears to have been “Quest for Fire” in 1982. The last known 70mm run was “Dick Tracy” in 1990. “Return of the Jedi” and “Cocoon” were among the most popular and longest running 70mm engagements here. The cinema closed in 1997 and was demolished the following year and replaced with the Century El Con 20. The ownership timeline was TM (1979-84) and AMC (1984-97).

EL DORADO (aka Cine el Dorado) — Tucson’s first 70mm-equipped cinema. Built in 1967 and featuring 700+ seats, it was located on Broadway between Craycroft and Wilmot. The debut booking was, appropriately, the world premiere of “El Dorado” starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum and which had been filmed in the region. The first 70mm presentation here was a re-release of “Gone with the Wind” in 1968. The projection system was Century. A Dolby cinema processor was installed in 1979. The first Dolby-encoded 70mm presentation was a six-month run of “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. The last known 70mm run was “Innerspace” in 1987. A second screen (smaller and not 70mm equipped) was built in 1975. The cinema in its two-screen form closed in 1987. The ownership timeline was Arizona ABC (1967-74), Plitt Intermountain (1974-85) and Cineplex Odeon (1985-87). (Cineplex Odeon acquired the Plitt chain in 1985 but the Plitt named remained in use in advertising in the Tucson market through 1988.) Following the closing, El Dorado was demolished and rebuilt by Cineplex Odeon as a six-screen complex with the same name in a nearby location and which included one screen that was 70mm-equipped (and THX certified). The only known 70mm run at the newer El Dorado multiplex was the 1989 director’s cut re-release of “Lawrence of Arabia”. The newer El Dorado complex was closed by Loews Cineplex in 2002.

FOOTHILLS — Plitt Intermountain opened this four-plex, located in the Foothills Mall, in 1982. The largest auditorium (624 seats) was equipped for 70mm presentations. The first 70mm presentation here was a re-release run of “Superman II” and the last known 70mm booking was “Innerspace” in 1987. Three additional screens were added in 1988, and eight more were added in 1997. The ownership timeline was Plitt Intermountain (1982-85), Cineplex Odeon (1985-00), Loews Cineplex (2000-05) and AMC Loews (2005-present).

GALLERIA — Mann opened this six-plex in 1988. It was located in the Galleria just north of the Tucson Mall. At least one screen was equipped for 70mm presentations (and THX certified). The first 70mm presentation here was a sub-run of “Innerspace” during the venue’s grand-opening week and the final 70mm presentation was “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in 1989. Mann closed the cinema in 1991. The complex was re-opened by GKC in 1993 and re-named American Cinemas. In recent years it was known as Oracle View Cinemas and operated by Grand Cinemas. Currently it is closed.

THE LOFT — See Showcase.

SHOWCASE — Transcontinental (Lippert) opened this 600-seat cinema in 1969 and it was located on Speedway near the University of Arizona. A 175-seat second screen, initially named the Penthouse and later Showcase 2, opened in 1970. A Dolby CP100 was installed by 1980. The ownership timeline was Transcontinental (1969-77), TM (1977-84) and AMC (1984-88). The venue re-opened years later and was re-named The Loft Cinema (not to be confused with the other Loft located on Fremont). The new owners (re)installed 70mm in 2015 and have since screened numerous 70mm films

Part 2: The Engagements

The roadshows (i.e. reserved-seat engagements) have an asterisk after the applicable title.

Regarding image: To simplify the presentation of the information, no distinction has been made between those movies originated in 70mm (65mm) and those originated in 35mm and blown up to 70mm. Such details can be found in numerous articles and reference material elsewhere on this website.

Regarding audio: The majority of the titles featured in this chronology showcased some flavor of six-track stereo. (The noted 35mm presentations used in some roadshow situations were often 4-track magnetic stereo or, in some cases, standard optical mono.) The 70mm prints issued during the 1980-1992 period typically were encoded with Dolby Noise Reduction and often included “baby boom” low-frequency enhancement. Most of the recently-struck prints featured digital sound (DTS aka Datasat).

YYYY-MM-DD … TITLE … Cinema (duration in weeks) [notes or projection process if other than 70mm]

1957-03-07 … THE TEN COMMANDMENTS* … Catalina (6) [35mm]

1960-12-21 … BEN-HUR* … Catalina (11) [35mm]

1961-03-22 … EXODUS* … Catalina (7) [35mm]
1961-05-19 … SPARTACUS* … Catalina (6) [35mm]

1962-05-02 … WEST SIDE STORY* … Catalina (10) [35mm]

1963-06-05 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA* … Catalina (9) [35mm]

1965-09-29 … THE SOUND OF MUSIC* … Catalina (45) [35mm]

1966-09-21 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO* … Catalina (14) [35mm]

1967-02-15 … THE BIBLE* … Catalina (14) [35mm]
1967-05-24 … THE SAND PEBBLES* … Catalina (8) [35mm]
1967-07-13 … THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE* … El Dorado (15) [35mm]
1967-07-19 … HAWAII* … Catalina (10) [35mm]
1967-12-21 … CAMELOT* … El Dorado (13) [35mm]

1968-03-21 … GONE WITH THE WIND* … El Dorado (12)
1968-06-12 … DOCTOR DOLITTLE* … Catalina (7) [35mm]
1968-11-20 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY* … El Dorado (9) [35mm]

1969-01-22 … FINIAN’S RAINBOW* … El Dorado (7) [35mm]
1969-03-12 … STAR!* … Catalina (3) [35mm]
1969-07-18 … OLIVER!* … Showcase (11) [35mm]
1969-07-25 … FUNNY GIRL* … Fox (8) [35mm]

1970-02-04 … PAINT YOUR WAGON* … El Dorado (13) [35mm]
1970-02-11 … HELLO, DOLLY!* … Showcase (15) [35mm]

1971-04-09 … SONG OF NORWAY* … El Dorado (7)

1973-05-09 … LAST TANGO IN PARIS* … Buena Vista (12) [35mm]

1980-03-21 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY … Showcase (1)
1980-04-25 … GONE WITH THE WIND … Showcase (1)
1980-06-18 … THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK … El Dorado (24)

1981-05-01 … SLEEPING BEAUTY … El Dorado (3)
1981-05-22 … OUTLAND … El Dorado (8)

1982-03-19 … QUEST FOR FIRE … El Con (11)
1982-07-09 … TRON … El Con (12)
1982-10-22 … SUPERMAN II … Foothills (1)
1982-11-19 … TRON … El Dorado (2)
1982-12-03 … APOCALYPSE NOW … El Dorado (1)

1983-03-25 … RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK … Foothills (5) [70mm from Week #2]
1983-05-07 … BLUE THUNDER … El Dorado (sneak preview)
1983-05-13 … BLUE THUNDER … El Dorado (9)
1983-05-25 … RETURN OF THE JEDI … El Con (41)
1983-05-25 … RETURN OF THE JEDI … Foothills (25)
1983-07-15 … STAYING ALIVE … El Dorado (10)
1983-09-30 … BRAINSTORM … El Con (11)
1983-10-07 … AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS … El Dorado (1)
1983-10-21 … THE RIGHT STUFF … El Dorado (13)

1984-02-17 … THE RIGHT STUFF … Foothills (4)
1984-05-23 … INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM … Buena Vista (12)
1984-05-23 … INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM … Campbell Plaza (18)
1984-06-08 … GHOSTBUSTERS … Foothills (27)
1984-08-31 … INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM … El Dorado m/o (4)
1984-12-07 … 2010 … Buena Vista (9)
1984-12-14 … STARMAN … Foothills (9) [70mm from Week #6]

1985-03-29 … RETURN OF THE JEDI … El Con (3)
1985-06-21 … COCOON … Campbell Plaza (15)
1985-06-21 … COCOON … El Con (13)
1985-07-10 … SILVERADO … El Dorado (8)
1985-12-04 … YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES … Buena Vista (2)

1986-03-07 … BACK TO THE FUTURE … El Dorado (2)
1986-04-11 … THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR … El Dorado (4)
1986-05-09 … OUT OF AFRICA … El Dorado (4)
1986-05-16 … TOP GUN … Buena Vista (19) [unconfirmed]
1986-11-26 … STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME … Buena Vista (11) [70mm from Week #3]

1987-01-16 … THE MISSION… El Dorado (7)
1987-03-06 … THE MISSION… Foothills m/o (1)
1987-10-23 … INNERSPACE… El Dorado (2)
1987-10-23 … INNERSPACE… Foothills (2)

1988-03-18 … INNERSPACE … Galleria (1)
1988-04-15 … THE LAST EMPEROR … Galleria (7)

1989-05-24 … INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE … Galleria (6)
1989-06-23 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … El Dorado (14)
1989-07-07 … INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE … Buena Vista m/o (6)
1989-10-06 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … Century Park (5)

1990-06-01 … MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON … Century Park (6)
1990-06-15 … DICK TRACY … El Con (6)
1990-12-14 … HAVANA … Campbell Plaza (9) [70mm from Week #3]

1992-05-16 … FAR AND AWAY … Century Gateway (sneak preview)
1992-05-22 … FAR AND AWAY … Century Gateway (10)
1992-05-22 … FAR AND AWAY … Century Park (8)

2016-01-02 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY … The Loft
2016-02-24 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … The Loft
2016-02-27 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … The Loft
2016-03-19 … THE WILD BUNCH … The Loft
2016-05-21 … IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD … The Loft
2016-06-11 … TRON … The Loft (2 days)
2016-07-09 … INTERSTELLAR … The Loft (2 days)
2016-08-27 … WEST SIDE STORY … The Loft (2 days)
2016-10-15 … SLEEPING BEAUTY … The Loft (2 days)
2016-10-23 … ALIENS … The Loft
2016-10-25 … ALIENS … The Loft
2016-11-10 … GHOSTBUSTERS … The Loft
2016-12-18 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY … The Loft

2017-01-15 … VERTIGO … The Loft
2017-01-17 … VERTIGO … The Loft
2017-02-09 … THE MASTER … The Loft [incomplete 70mm print; screened in DCP]
2017-03-22 … THE UNTOUCHABLES … The Loft
2017-07-21 … DUNKIRK … The Loft (4)
2017-08-27 … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … The Loft
2017-11-26 … WONDER WOMAN … The Loft
2017-12-10 … HOOK … The Loft

2018-04-?? … LAWRENCE OF ARABIA … The Loft

Note that some of the presentations included in this listing were presented in 35mm during the latter week(s) of its engagement due to print damage and the distributor’s unwillingness to supply a 70mm replacement print or because the booking was moved to a smaller, 35mm-only auditorium within a multiplex. As well, the reverse may have been true in some cases whereas a booking began with a 35mm print because the lab was unable to complete the 70mm print order in time for an opening-day delivery or the exhibitor negotiated a mid-run switch to 70mm. In these cases, any 35mm portion of the engagement has been included in the duration figure.

References: Various issues of Boxoffice, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Daily Citizen, and Variety; Dolby sound system installation records; and projector and sound system trade advertisements.

Special Thanks: Ben Cahlamer, John Hazelton, Mark Longoria, and Jeff Yanc.

If you believe this article contains any errors or omissions, please consider emailing the author or editor.
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Updated 07-01-23