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Cinerama South Seas Adventure in Venice

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Randy Gitsch, The Cinerama Restoration Crew. [Photos by Tom March, Michael and Peggy Wilder]Date: 29.09.2012
On Sept. 2, Dave Strohmaier, Tom March and myself left Los Angeles headed for the 69th edition of the progenitor of all film festivals, the Venice International Film Festival in, where else, Venice, Italy. Upon arriving at Marco Polo International Airport, we were swept away onboard a richly-veneered, rakish wooden speedboat, one of dozens which serve as the predominant water taxi for this island city of canals, bridges and the Adriatic Sea. [1] We were actually taken, not to Venice, but to the city’s own, adjacent resort island, Lido., the home base of the festival, and an easy boat hop across the lagoon to and from Venice proper.

We knew this festival was special when, we saw the long line of paparazzi lined up parallel to the pier at the 104-year old, Hotel Excelsior, where we were let off the boat. Despite my telling Tom to quickly put on his sunglasses and wave like the Queen of England, which he declined to do, the paparazzi were lined up in abundance waiting for none other than our boat. They were not there for us. I overheard them yelling “Claudia, Claudia!”, to one of the elderly women who got off the boat with us. To only us, she was the unrecognizable Claudia Cardinale there for the premiere of her new “Gebo and the Shadow”.
More in 70mm reading:

Cinerama Goes to Venice - Sensational Festival Screening

Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch - in conversation with Mark Lyndon

Historic Big Screen Films Get Major Digital Makeover

Randy Gitsch: A Bio

in70mm.com's Cinerama page

Internet link:

Cinerama Dome / Arclight Cinemas

Huffington Post

LA Observed

LA Times
After being driven to the quiet Viktoria Palace Hotel at the island’s northern tip, we met the Wilders, Michael and his lovely wife, Peggy. [2] Michael is an engineer with Image Trends, the Austin, TX-based facility that scanned and recombined the three panels of our latest digitally, re-worked picture, “Cinerama South Seas Adventure”. Because Michael and Image Trends were crucial to the remastering of this film, and remain up to their necks, now in the midst of scanning and recombining our next Cinerama title, “Seven Wonders of the World”, Michael was there as our invited participant in a Master Class to be given by Dave and myself, entitled “Cinerama Restoration in the Digital Age”.
Inevitably, a stroll around Venice brings you to the Piazza San Marco. Here we rehydrate. The orange mixture is a Spritz, the official drink of Venice. It’s a wine cocktail mixed with soda water and a dash of Aperol.

But before that presentation, we had a whole day before us to explore Venice. We rose early and on Lido’s centrally located pier, located the biglietteria so that we could each purchase multiple day boat/bus passes, the only way to do what we were about to do. The boat we were now about to get on was a passenger-only ferry, an all-metal workhorse known as a vaporetto, which likely held about 150-200 riders.

Our route commenced to circle around the southern Dorsoduro district, or sestieri, of Venice, and in doing so passed a half dozen monster-sized cruise ships, all of which seemed odd juxtaposed against the backdrop of the ancient city. Passing them, we proceeded to the Piazzale Roma station where we disembarked the boat and began a day’s worth of trekking, browsing, photographing, shopping, eating and drinking our way through the city, from the north to the south
Recognize the gift shop where Rossano Brazzi sells Katharine Hepburn the red goblet in “Summertime”? The shop, which now sells children’s toys, had a similar goblet in their window.

Dave and I (having previously both been in Venice following our 2007 “Cinerama Adventure” screening in adjacent Udine’s InnovAction Fair) pointed out shooting locales from David Lean’s epic film, “Summertime”. Shot in Venice in 1955, the picture stars Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi, and we’d both recommend it as required pre-arrival viewing for anyone thinking of visiting the city.
We found the little bridge in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, the spot where Katharine Hepburn’s character meets Mauro, the homeless Venetian boy. Woody Allen found it too, for 1996’s “Everyone Says I Love You”.
Because Tom had brought frame grabs from “This is Cinerama”, at several strategic sites around the city, we posed in these homage shots. Here, {below}, I fill in for original Cinerama soundman, Fred Bosch
That evening, Tom March surprised us all by generously springing for a gondola ride. Hey, when in Rome, ah Venice…right? I didn’t even know that a gondola could carry five passengers and it’s gondolier, but they can. Tom spotted one of the green “Servizio Gondole” signs outside the Hotel Bauer, and after boarding here at the narrow Rio San Moise canal, we then proceeded slowly up Rio dei Barcaroli and Rio di San Luca canals, coming upon the Grand Canal, where we turned and headed toward the Rialto bridge. Now that’s something you’ll never forget.
All gondolas are black, and if piloted by only one gondolier (above), can carry only one oar. Michael (below) rode in front and had the head on view. Note the mirror bolted onto the wall. These canals are narrow. Corners are tight. Boats pass within inches of one another.

On Wednesday, we were delighted to see Festival Director, Alberto Barbera showing up for our Master Class. Long-time Venice International Film Festival staffer, Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan kicked things off, making introductions. I moderated, recognizing a half dozen Italian widescreen processes (i.e. Panoramica, Super Totalscope, and others), giving a background on Cinerama, the process and it’s body of films. I also tipped my hat to mention Italy’s dozen, original Cinerama theaters. The audience was buzzing when clips of the Venice footage from “This is Cinerama”, shot in the city, in 1951, were on screen. Dave and Michael each took turns getting into the meat and potatoes of our uniquely challenging remastering. “Before and after” comparisons always captivate our audiences when we do these behind-the-scenes shows, and our Venice audience was no exception. It certainly helps when a film editor, like Dave, puts the show together and another hands on technicians, like Michael, give you an over the shoulder view of their own workflow.

All three of our screenings were booked into theaters within the immense Palazzo del Casino. Built in 1938, it is the second of the two theater venues built here for the festival’s host, the Biennale.

The festival scheduled three shows of our digital Cinerama feature, and we were in the theater for the first screening. Shown from a DCP, our sound was crisp and clear and our picture was beautiful on the Sala Perla’s immense screen, inside the Palazzo del Casino. I introduced the film, with the help of an Italian interpreter so was able to remind the audience that the film they were about to see would not be rectangular, but instead would be Smileboxed, and consequently convey a curved screen simulation adding to their viewing enjoyment. Of course, Cinerama was never, ever viewed rectangularly, so the curved screen simulation is also bonifide authentic.
Charles asked to take our picture and we obliged him. Little did he know, Peggy was busy photographing him photographing us.

Applause was sustained after our restoration credits, and comments we heard in the lobby thereafter were equally heart-warming. Charles Rubinstein of London’s Rio Cinema, for example, loved the film, the restoration…and our Smilebox presentation By the way, Clemens Scherer, your fellow widescreen enthusiast friend, Gunter enjoyed the film and says “hello”.
Lufthansa’s on-going cabin crew strike resulted in the cancellation of our scheduled return flights to L.A.. This is usually a vacation stunner. We weren’t too unhappy to hear the news however. After all, we were enjoying Venice, staying on Lido, and making new Cinerama fans. The added bonus was that the festival kindly picked up the tab on our extended stay. Life is good.

Venice was a perfect warm up to the next “Cinerama South Seas Adventure” screening, in the upcoming Cinerama Film Festival, Sept. 28-Oct. 4, at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome Theater. We will all miss this city of canals and movies. And we’ll all miss the Italian ice cream, which we concluded was infinitely more icy and less creamy than others we’ve taste-tested elsewhere in Europe.
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Updated 21-01-24