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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


25th Anniversary of "Brainstorm"'s 1983 Release

The 70mm Newsletter
Written and Compiled by: Mike Coate, Hollywood, USA Date: 30.09.2008
Twenty-five years ago, “Brainstorm”, Douglas Trumbull’s “Ultimate Experience”, was released to movie theatres. Though the film was not a box-office success, it is remembered for its effective large-frame cinematography and sound design, and for its interesting take on futuristic technology.

Michael Brace – Christopher Walken
Karen Brace – Natalie Wood
Lilian Reynolds – Louise Fletcher
Alex Terson – Cliff Robertson
Gordy Forbes – Jordan Christopher
Landon Marks – Donald Hotton
Robert Jenkins – Alan Fudge
Hal Abramson – Joe Dorsey
James Zimbach – Bill Morey
Chris Brace – Jason Lively
Security Technician – Darrell Larson

DIRECTOR: Douglas Trumbull

SCREENPLAY: Robert Stitzel and Philip Frank Messina (Screenplay), Bruce Joel Rubin (Story)

PROMOTIONAL SLOGAN: “…The Ultimate Experience”

PRODUCTION COST: $18 million



More in 70mm reading:

"Brainstorm" in 65mm

“Brainstorm”: The North American 70mm Engagements

70mm Cinemas in North America

Chronological premiere list of major 70mm films

Month by month premiere list of wide gauge and 3-strip films

70mm Engagements

70mm Blow Up List

Dolby Stereo


Memorable Quotes

“You’ve blown communication, as we know it, right out of the water!” — Cliff Robertson as Alex

“This is the largest exclusive 70mm release in motion picture history, which reflects our belief that ‘Brainstorm’ is a unique motion picture experience.” — Richard B. Graff, President of Domestic Distribution, MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

What the Critics Said

Ticket for the Cinerama Dome

“In a year replete with special effects movies, Douglas Trumbull’s ‘Brainstorm’ towers as the most wizardly of them all.” — Arthur Knight, The Hollywood Reporter

‘Brainstorm’ is a dazzling sight and sound experience!” — Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight

‘Brainstorm’ is a visually captivating experience, but one that ultimately is disappointingly incomplete.” — Bob Curtwright, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon

“This is a neat film, refreshingly different and remarkably intelligent. By all means, try to see this one on a large screen. It’s worth driving out of your way.” — Douglas D. Armstrong, The Milwaukee Journal

‘Brainstorm’ is a nonsensical hodgepodge which is is more irritating than entertaining.” — Don Lechman, (Santa Monica) Evening Outlook

‘Brainstorm’ may not always make a lot of sense, but it certainly looks the $18 million it ended up costing. It was photographed stunningly by Richard Yuricich.” — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

“Fireworks explode across the screen.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“A landmark movie!” — Stephen Schaefer, Us Magazine

“Why does the screen keep changing size? Was the movie shot with different types of film?” — Bob Lundegaard, Minneapolis Star and Tribune

‘Brainstorm’ is in 1400mm Double Dolby Super Panavision Metrocolor shot through Trumbulized Panaflex lenses in Omnivision at f/125 in North Carolina. Shooting stars and Christmas ornaments courtesy of K-Mart.” — Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“Where ‘Brainstorm’ really excels is with its visual effects. It may be the best-looking picture of the year, particularly on a big screen in the 70mm format. The sound track of ‘Brainstorm’, Dolby enhanced, is particularly rich and convincing.” — Stephen Hunter, The (Baltimore) Sun

“It’s a cranky, ugly movie that can’t disguise the problems that plagued it following the death of its co-star, Natalie Wood, while still in production. The movie is a double misfortune. Not only does it display Trumbull’s gifts at low ebb, it also trashes a potentially great sci-fi idea.” — Peter Rainer, (Los Angeles) Herald-Examiner
2. oktober 2008

Hi. I just read the new article on the "Brainstorm" anniversary and fondly remember the theatrical experience during its short run back in 1983. I was just wondering if Doug Trumbull was asked or could have been asked to write some kind of retrospective on his association with the film from the beginning to the end...maybe part of a lengthy series of articles, depending on his memories and content. If memory serves me correctly, he is a proponent of 70mm films even using 65mm film to photograph visual fx in "Close Encounters", the first "Star Trek", "Blade Runner" by his FX company. Just my 2cents.

Thanks for the wonderful site.


Release Dates

Impressive, almost 3D like, title card from "Brainstorm" - smilebox version

30.09.1983 Canada
30.09.1983 United States
08.12.1983 Australia
08.12.1983 Puerto Rico
15.12.1983 Argentina
22.12.1983 Brazil
23.12.1983 Mexico
23.12.1983 United Kingdom
13.01.1984 Italy
01.02.1984 Belgium
01.02.1984 France
10.02.1984 Sweden
10.02.1984 West Germany
23.02.1984 Netherlands
01.03.1984 Hong Kong
16.03.1984 Israel
13.04.1984 Norway
14.04.1984 Japan
20.04.1984 Finland
23.04.1984 Denmark, Imperial Bio, Copenhagen

• Go to The North American 70mm Engagements


The Academy of Science-Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films awarded “Brainstorm” a Saturn for Best Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Best Music (James Horner). “Brainstorm” also received Saturn nominations in the categories of Best Director (Douglas Trumbull), Best Science-Fiction Film, Best Special Effects, and Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Wood). The film also was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Trivia, Tidbits & Factoids

“Brainstorm” was filmed in locations throughout North Carolina, including Chapel Hill, Durham, Kitty Hawk, Raleigh, and Southern Pines.

At the time of its 1983 release, “Brainstorm” had the largest order of 70-millimeter prints struck for a North American film release, eclipsing the record set earlier in the same year by “Return of the Jedi”.

The concept of “Brainstorm” is similar to that of “Altered States” (1980).

The world premiere of “Brainstorm” was held on 06 October in Raleigh at the Mission Valley Cinemas as a token of appreciation to the state of North Carolina for granting filming locations. The west coast premiere was held on 29 September in Los Angeles at the Cinerama Dome. (The reason the world premiere took place one week after the film’s release was because its distributor, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, planned to release the movie on 07 October 1983, but citing positive exhibitor response to their plans for an exclusive 70mm launch, the company in mid-September pushed up the release by one week but were unable to alter their plan on short notice for the 06 October world premiere event.)

During the first few weeks of its North American release, the film was presented exclusively in 70mm (see list below) before any standard 35mm prints were put into circulation.

On 29 November 1981, during a holiday break from the filming of “Brainstorm”, actress Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, halting production for over a year until a plan for completion could be agreed upon.

“Brainstorm” is one of 18 English-language feature films produced in the large-gauge Super Panavision 70 process.

Clip of 70mm film with pillarboxed image.

Promoted as a Super Panavision 70 production, in actuality only a portion of the film was shot in large format. The objective “real world” sequences in “Brainstorm” were filmed in spherical 35mm and have a 1.66:1 aspect ratio; the subjective “brainstorm” sequences were originated in 65mm and are in 2.20:1. Presentations have varied over the years in how the aspect ratio changes have been handled. The 70mm and 35mm scope release prints have the 1.66:1 footage pillarboxed within the wide frame. The pan-and-scan video edition has a 1.33:1 ratio and reveals no ratio change between the real world and the brainstorm sequences. The first letterbox edition (the 1991 laserdisc) featured a transfer of the film that mirrored the original theatrical presentation. A remastered letterbox edition (the 1998 laserdisc and subsequent DVD releases) retains the proper aspect ratios but betrays the intended effect by letterboxing the brainstorm segments within the real world segments.

“Brainstorm” has not (yet) been released on Blu-ray Disc.

Some of the translated foreign-language titles included “Projecto Brainstorm” (Spanish), “Brainstorm Generazione Elettrinica” (Italian), and “Projekt Brainstorm” (German).

If you believe this article contains any errors or omissions, please consider emailing the author or editor.

Mike Coate

Image by Richard Greenhalgh

Michael Coate is a journalist and film historian. He has contributed to American Cinematographer, Boxoffice, Replication News, Sight & Sound, Widescreen Review, and the websites CinemaTreasures.org, FromScriptToDVD.com, and In70mm.com. He was Widescreen Review magazine's Research Editor from 1997 to 2004. In 2004, he co-founded FromScriptToDVD.com, and in 2008 created Fans of Showmanship, a Yahoo! group focusing on the discussion of film history.

Attending baseball games across the USA is Mike's hobby when he's not haunting libraries around the globe looking to unearth useful facts about film history. He is a graduate of the Radio-Television-Film program at California State University Long Beach and lives in Los Angeles.

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25th Anniversary of "Brainstorm"'s 1983 Release
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Updated 21-01-24