DP70: A Story of the Todd-AO Projector
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The 70mm Newsletter
Overmars and Mr. Postema inspecting a new DP70 at Philips ELA, Eindhoven,
The birth of the DP70 projector dates back to
October 1952 and the development of the Todd-AO process. Michael Todd, not
satisfied with technical limitations of Cinerama, formed a company with the
purpose to develop a new wide screen process which was named Todd-AO. For
Todd-AO a new projector was required. In September 1953 Magna Theatre
Corporation approached Philips Cinema’s Chief Designer Mr. Jan Jacob Kotte
in Eindhoven, Holland, who built the new multi purpose projector, suitable
for all 70mm and 35mm formats, in only nine months. It was a revolutionary
projector and so versatile it could show any film format except horizontal
double frame VistaVision. Jan Kotte worked day and night with his colleagues
and even went as far as installing a home-office with a large drawing board,
which was unheard of in 1953.
All projector mechanisms were made in Holland in a series of one hundred at
a time. Other projector parts like spool boxes were also made in the United
States by American Optical Company. In the fall of 1954, the first
prototypes were sent to the US, and they were installed in Todd-AO’s test
cinemas in Southbridge, Buffalo and in California. The first batch of
machines, numbered 601 to 700, were sent to equip the first 40-50 cinemas
for the North American premiere of “Oklahoma!” in October 1955. Some of the
first machines were even marked "Property of the Michael Todd Company, Inc".
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DP70: Die Geschichte des Todd-AO Projektors
DP70 / Universal 70-35 / Norelco AAII
- The Todd-AO Projector
Artists, Detroit, USA, Martz 1956.
Usually there were two machines in a
projection room. A left and a right projector, but in some cases three and
four machines were needed, like at the Rivoli, which had two projection
rooms – upstairs and downstairs, each equipped with three machines. The DP70
was used for all Todd-AO presentations in the years to come, and by Oscar
Night, in March 1963, there were 525 DP70 installations in 39 countries. Not
only cinemas had the DP70. Studios like 20th Century-Fox, MGM, Warner Bros
and Paramount Pictures in Hollywood had the DP70 in their main screening
rooms. Film museums in Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris, Bradford, and
Hollywood also have the DP70 installed for 70mm presentations.
The DP70 was truly a remarkable 70mm projector, and on Monday April 8, 1963
Fred Pfeiff, technical manager of Norelco, received a Class 2 Oscar plaque
on behalf of the Philips company. Philips originally named the new machine
the EL4000/01 in their catalogue, but it quickly became the DP70. The "DP"
is short for "Double Projector" and the "70" meant it was designed
specifically as a 70mm projector. In the United States it simply became the
"Todd-AO Projector, Catalogue # 3070". Later the name was changed to
"Universal 70/35" and finally from 1963, it became the "Norelco AAII". "AA"
was short for “Academy Award” and “II” meant “Version 2” because of the many
new changes and improvements. Jan Kotte nicknamed the projector the "Dollar
Princess" because he knew Philips made a considerable amount of money
developing it for Magna Theatre Corporation.
All through the 1960s and until recently, the
DP70 was faithfully projecting movies in many prestige cinemas all over the
world. It is not known precisely how many machines were made, but Kinoton
estimates at least 1500. When 70mm cinemas started to close, many machines
were scrapped and sold as old iron, and there were even stories about some
Australian machines ending their life as boat anchors in Sydney Harbour.
Many machines were transferred to other cinemas and some even went to
Today, when most cinemas have converted to digital presentations, there is
less need for the DP70 – or any other film projector – and most of the
machines are now redundant, with notable exceptions such as the Schauburg,
and other 70mm venues. The DP70 was the Rolls-Royce of 70mm projectors, an
outstanding machine, easy to work with, gentle to film and a beautiful piece
of 1950s art, and probably the most successful part of the Todd-AO process.
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