My first encounter with 70mm film
The 70mm Newsletter
Issue 40 - September 1995
By: Joost Wieman, The
When I was a young boy we lived in Utrecht, Holland. In the city of Utrecht
we had a cinema which could show 70mm films. At that time I was fascinated
by film and everything about it. I had a Super 8 projector and had been
playing with the magic lantern ever since I understood what it was!
I must have been about nine years old when my older brother, who worked in
his student years in this cinema, took me with him to see
"The Sound of
Music". There I was, already impressed with the normal impression of the
cinema, watching this newsreel and the trailers. I remember very well the
sensation I felt when the screen stretched out to its limit, and the sound
of the wind (in the first minutes of the film) surrounded us. Then came the
music. So loud, so beautiful, so MUCH! I never saw anything like it and now
I know I never will. I remember I was completely overwhelmed by the sights
I asked my brother what was happening here, so during the intermission he
took me upstairs, to see the operator. The operator was a woman, and I
remember she wore thick glasses and a long white coat. She looked like a
laboratory technician, and she started telling me about the difference
between normal film and 70mm film. I knew about 35mm, because I had it in my
magic lantern! She gave me a piece of film she had cut from
"Ben Hur", and I
took it home and hung it on my wall. After that, I went back again and again
and every time I went upstairs to watch her changing the film, changing the
projector from 35mm to 70mm, and helping her rewinding the reels.
When the intermission overture started (which always came from the stereo
six track on the film) I ran back into the cinema filled with stereophonic
sound, sat down with the audience and thought! “Wow, I know what is going on
upstairs in the projection room!” I was lucky: In that period the copies of
the sixties 70mm films were still in Holland, and I got the chance to see
"My Fair Lady",
"Lawrence of Arabia",
"Battle of the Bulge",
Dolly!", "The Great Race" [35mm Panavision, ed.] and many more. And every
time the screen stretched out and the image and sound filled the theatre, I
got hot and cold at the same time. In my youth it was the ultimate fantasy
experience for me! It got to an excess of twice, trice a week, when my
father decided I had to slow down on the cinema outings and dragged me out
of the projection room one night.
For a short period of time I sneaked out of the house and told my father I
went to a friends house, but there I was, freaking out with 70mm films! I
took everybody with me to show how beautiful it was. And everybody agreed.
Well, it is one of the reasons I became a director. But the closest thing I
got to the real thing here in Holland was 35mm, and I still cannot think of
myself as a real pro before I can make something in the glorious 70mm. let
us convince the world of the beauty of it, and fight so that all the old
treasures of the fifties and sixties can be restored and preserved. When
millions are spent to restore old paintings, why let these films fade away?
And when anybody says that audiences do not know the difference, they lie.
Lange Laidsedwarstraat 98 B
1017 NM Amsterdam
in 70mm reading:
My first encounter with 70mm film #2
By: Brian Walters, Australia
In 1968 director Stanley Kubrick made one of the milestone achievements of
cinema in "2001: A Space Odyssey".
For visual splendor and detail it remains unsurpassed but the director knew
there was no point putting the detail in the picture if you could not see it
on the screen and so he filmed it in Super Panavision 70.
Working as an assistant projectionist in 1978 I had the great pleasure of
working on this film when a new batch of 70mm prints were released in a
major worldwide re-issue. At the conclusion of the season when returning to
35mm projection, the difference in quality was enormous and 35mm never
looked as good again. One can only hope that future cinema audiences will
have the opportunity to see large negative 70mm picture quality on new
New South Wales
My first encounter with 70mm film #3
By: Simon Lewis, United Kingdom
My initial interest in 70mm started with TV screenings of the wide screen
"Spartacus" etc. I had always been interested in
history, and here was history brought to life. So as I sought out stills and
information of these movies, I began to read about the Road Show concept.
I remember finding a book about the battle of Waterloo when I was ten, on
the back it had some stills from the movie and blurb saying "...the
magnificent Dino De Laurentiis 70mm production". My brother and I debated
what "70mm" meant for some time, finally deciding that it must be the length
of the movie.
When I found out what 70mm was, I was hooked on the movies. I realized that
what I was seeing at the local cinema was a faint reflection of the movies.
Who can forget the dire standards of cinema exhibition in the early
eighties, particularly in the UK. The re-release of
"Star Wars" in 1982, was
the first 70mm presentation I saw. This was at the huge Odeon Marble Arch in
London. The largest conventional screen in Europe. Originally installed for
D-150 [Dimension 150, ed.] in the 1960s. I was bowled over by the
experience. I remember being surprised by the directional dialogue,
something I had never heard before, although I have not been able to confirm
that "Star Wars" 70mm prints were mixed in this way. I do remember the
picture being bright and big but very grainy. I knew this was a blow-up and
despaired of ever seeing an original 65mm production.
Finally the National Film Theatre in London showed a 70mm print of
of the Roman Empire". I had to see it, even though on TV I had always found
the film slow and ponderous, except for the great set pieces.
When the Overture boomed out from behind the drapes I was hooked. When the
curtains finally opened I was staggered by the clarity and the luminance of
the images. As the film unreeled I was completely swept away with the drama.
The image was flawless, no grain, close ups revealed incredible definition.
The stereo, particularly in the chariot race and the javelin duel at the
end, was ear splitting.
A film that had seemed almost boring on TV, suddenly seemed perfect, in
pace, story and action. After three hours I was left reeling from the
experience. The 70mm images had allowed me to step into history and almost
forget I was watching a movie.
On a pedantic note, the print was technically a blow-up, as it was a flat
2,2:1 standard 70mm frame instead of an original anamorphic Ultra Panavision
70 2,65:1 contact print.
11, Westbourne Court
Cardif CF3 8M
My first encounter with 70mm film #4
By: Hans-Joachim Heuel, Germany
I was always an enthusiastic film fan. In the early 60s I had read on
posters notes like Super Panavision 70 or Super Technirama 70 and I did not
know what it meant. Then I began to write to studios, distribution companies
and publishers around the world. Within the next years I received much
information about wide screen systems, including 3D. Meanwhile I became in
Germany an expert on wide screen processes and I have written articles for
various magazines and books.
My first impression about 70mm was in 1964, as
the old fashioned Skala, based in Bielefeld, was renovated. They installed
two DP70 projectors and a curved screen of 6,5 x 14,3 metres. The first 70mm
film I saw at the Skala was the Russian production
"Bolshoi Ballet". Some
months later followed by another Russian production
"Anna Karenina". During
the following years until 1973 movies like "The Hallelujah Trail",
"The Greatest Story Ever Told",
"The Bible...in the Beginning",
"The Savage Pampas",
"2001:A Space Odyssey" and others were shown. Also 70mm
blow-ups like "Doctor Zhivago",
"The Sand Pebbles" and
"Gone With The Wind"
were shown. I have also seen re-releases of "Spartacus",
"El Cid" and
"Ben Hur" here in my hometown.
Unfortunately 70mm was for the audience not a
great event. The theatre had to pay 70% of the income to the distributors,
so 70mm was not a success. Then, in the 70s the Skala was rebuilt as a
cinema with 4 screens. The largest auditorium of the new Skala now has a
flat screen and the old 70mm equipment. This was used some years ago, as the
restored "Lawrence of Arabia" and
"Spartacus" were shown - also without any
In the 80s I have also visited, with other film fans, 70mm cinemas
across the country: The Europa in Berlin, with the greatest ever installed
screen in the world: 15 x 33 metres! Also visited were other great cinemas
like the Grindel in Hamburg, the Cinerama Europa in Essen, the Mathäser in
Munich, the Royal in Frankfurt and of course new cinema multiplexes in
Hannover and Cologne.
Still today I am a great 70mm enthusiast and hope that
this format will have an renaissance in the future with the DTS digital
sound format, because the great advantages of DTS in counterpart to Dolby SR.D is the separate CD-ROM - the expensive 70mm prints could be delivered
around the world without the foreign dubbing. If I spoke about 70mm, I mean,
of course, "original " 70mm films, shot onto 65mm film stock, and not the
blow-ups from 35mm negatives, although some of them have had an acceptable
I am a little disappointed that the
1994 Promotion Tour of The International
70mm Association got no concrete results: nobody in the film industry could
point out that 70mm will have a future. Therefore, I think, the work of the
members of the International 70mm Association is very important. Thank you
Johan Wolthuis and thank you too Thomas Hauerslev for your selfless work.
Badener Strasse 71
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