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4-track Magnetic stereo at The American Cinematheque, Hollywood

The 70mm Newsletter
Pictures and story by: Richard Greenhalgh Date: December 2002
On December 8, 2002, the American Cinematheque screened a very interesting and unique piece of motion picture history, as a part of their excellent 4-Track Mag Stereo Film Festival, as they described in their announcement:

"4-Track Magnetic Stereo and Cinemascope Demonstration Film" 1953, 20th Century Fox, approx. 90 min. This incredibly rare, 5-reel film was produced in 1953 by 20th Century Fox to sell theatre owners on the then-brand new technologies of 4-track mag stereo and Cinemascope projection. Hosted by legendary Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, the film features clips from several of the first Cinemascope and stereo productions being made at the studio in the early 1950's. Please note that this, the only surviving print, is extremely faded; because of its rarity, we're including it here as a free event.
More in 70mm reading:

Gallery: Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre Exteriors, 2004/05

Paul Rayton In Conversation

Technicolor Festival #4. 8. - 10. Juli 2022

Remembering Richard Greenhalgh May 29, 1948 – September 5, 2011

The American Cinematheque's Second 70mm Festival

PDF: Boston Light and Sound, 1998 Egyptian brochure
Projectionist Paul Rayton giving the audience an intro to the CinemaScope demo film.

This untitled presentation was screened at 2.55:1 in 4-track mag stereo, which was a rare treat. It was introduced by Paul Rayton, of the American Cinematheque, who explained that it was the only surviving print. He said that it was cut from various pieces of film and that the sound track had then been recorded on the film. Therefore, there is no negative. It is marked Print #10 and so he assumed that there had been at least 9 other prints. The first 12 minutes of the presentation was a Technicolor IB print re-cut from "The Miracle of Stereophonic Sound in Association with CinemaScope" (see below). This featured the use of "CinemaScope Stereo" in scenes of a train travelling across the screen, jets flying from left to right and a band marching down Colorado Boulevard during the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, partially in front of the Academy Theater, which was then showing a CinemaScope feature on their marquee.

The balance of the presentation appeared to be made up from various Eastman prints and was quite faded. It appeared to have been designed to be run after an in-person introduction to the theater owners who were the intended audience.

Projectionist Paul Rayton (right) talking with guest

Darryl F. Zanuck introduced the balance of the presentation which included clips from upcoming CinemaScope releases. He extolled the virtues of Fox's new wide screen process by showing the same scene framed at 1.37:1, then in the "new" wide screen format at 1.85:1 and finally in CinemaScope at 2.55:1. Extensive clips were shown from "Broken Lance," "A Woman's World," "Untamed," "No Business Like Show Business," "Garden of Evil," "Pink Tights" (with Sherrie North) and, according to Mr. Zanuck, the first film entirely shot with the "new" lenses, "The Egyptian." Mr. Zanuck showed a number of books each of which represented new CinemaScope releases in, or soon to be in, production from Fox and other studios. The presentation ended abruptly which lead to the conclusion that it was ended with an in-person wrap-up for the theater owners.
The DP70s of the Egyptian Theatre

For those of us who also stayed for the screening of "Pepe", we were treated to a showing of "The Miracle of Stereophonic Sound in Association with CinemaScope." Rick Mitchell, noted film historian, was kind enough to provide the following information about this short:

This short, hosted by Mr. Sanders, had actually been released before the CinemaScope Demo film (above), about April, 1954 after Fox lost its lawsuit against New York's Walter Reade Theater chain over channeling the stereo sound through one speaker. At that time they announced they were going to release their films in 4 track magnetic stereo, one track magnetic mono, and mono optical. This short was obviously made to convince audiences to get their local exhibitors to install full stereo. The print was made by Technicolor, but on color positive stock since Technicolor could not make 4 track magnetic IB prints at that time; among other reasons they did not have a pin belt for the CS perfs until the fall of 1954. The earlier film, which was an IB print, was made after that.

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Updated 07-01-23