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"70mm is Back by Popular Demand - 50 Years Of Todd–AO"
Todd-AO 70mm Festival 7 - 9 October 2005
Schauburg Cinerama,
Karlsruhe, Germany

The 70mm Newsletter
Images and text by: Thomas Hauerslev 10 December 2005
Official Weekend Poster

The 50th anniversary of the Todd-AO process was celebrated in October 2005 at the Schauburg cinema in Karlsruhe in Germany. This was the second event of this kind which I have attended during 2005 (the first was in Bradford, England earlier in March 2005).

For some time I had corresponded with the manager of the Schauburg, Mr. Herbert Born, and I've regularly included the periodic 70mm shows there on in70mm.com´s list of screenings. In April 2005 he proposed this celebration of Todd-AO and 70mm, which I of course encouraged the best I could.

We have 35mm - which is good. Then we have digital - which is also quite good. Finally we have 70mm, and Todd-AO is a testament to the superiority of the 70mm technology. And Herbert Born wished to show off the quality of 70mm during one "mega-spectacular" weekend.

I offered to present my illustrated lecture on "The Early Days Of Todd-AO" to add some historical perspective to the German event. I had premiered the lecture during the Widescreen Weekend in Bradford 2005. Mr. Born invited me to give the lecture and I eagerly looked forward to meet Herbert, see his cinema and once again spend a weekend with 70mm films.

Little did I know how overwhelmed I would become, seeing 70mm films at the Schauburg. The weekend turned out to be the most "perfect show in Todd-AO" I had ever seen. Almost hyper realistic to see the clarity, sharpness and colour of the 70mm images nearly jumping towards you from the wide curved screen. 

I was close to tears looking at the brand new 70mm print of "Hello, Dolly!" - as I felt, seeing movies like this was the true essence of cinemagoing - of going to the movies. This is what movies are supposed to look like. Contemporary movies and cinema pale in comparison to the Schauburg and 70mm. 

In this article I'll try to pass on some of my experience from Karlsruhe and give you an idea of the events. It will be in the form of a mission report about the cinema, audience and films.

Going to Karlsruhe

I left Copenhagen early Friday morning with SAS bound for Stuttgart Flughafen. I arrived 45 minutes late because the airport was fogged in. Quite thrilling to land when you cannot see anything, and then quite suddenly you see the runway. Herbert Born met me at the airport and he drove me all the way to Karlsruhe in his Italian Maserati convertible. My hotel, the Dorint Novotel Karlsruhe, was conveniently located only 5 minutes walk from the cinema, from his shop.

Following checking in to my room I walked towards the cinema and enroute met Wolfram and Volker Hannemann, two friends from Bradford. Wolfram is the owner of the on-line DVD shop, "Laser Hotline". I bought the recent DVD of Wim Wenders "Im Lauf der Zeit", a three hour odyssey of a cinema technician.

A few minutes later I arrived at the Schauburg. The cinema is located in Marienstrasse 16, which appears to be slightly off the city center. Nevertheless, a quiet neighbourhood street with it's own local flavour. One neighbour is a local brewery. More about that later.
More in 70mm reading:

Todd-AO Festival Home
1st Todd-AO Festival
• Wilkommen | Welcome
• Intro | Festival Images
2005 Festival Flyer (PDF)
70mm is Back by Popular Demand

Festival Archives
Festival Through the Years
Festival Schedule and Archive

More Schauburg Cinerama

Festivals in Pictures
Schauburg Cinerama
Best of Todd-AO Festival
Guests | Billboards | Posters

Internet link:

Front of the cinema

The Schauburg is dominated by a marble front and 9 red letters spelling S C H A U B U R G in red neon on top of the entrance. A large vertical sign in the front of the building also spells "Schauburg", in blue neon. A bit rusty, it signals a long history of movie exhibition (and the need for some repair). 

For this weekend, the whole front of the house was decorated with large banners and flags from many European countries, symbolizing the international character of the weekend.

A special hand-painted billboard also revealed the nature of the weekend -- the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Todd-AO a/k/a "The Largest 70mm Film Festival".

The Schauburg plays all kinds of movies, including special programs for children, foreign films in original languages and of course specializes in frequent 70mm performances.

They main foyer is dominated by movie posters, marble floors, three ticket counters, a long bar and the smell of popcorn. The inner foyer is much more 1960s style. Dark, stylish with a bar to the right and access to the Schauburg cinema to the left. A large grand staircase, often used as setting for music videos and wedding pictures, leads upstairs to the old balcony. Except for a single framed "Psycho" poster, there are no posters in the inner foyer which is painted in gold. The upstairs foyer is also painted in gold. The Schauburg dates back more than 100 years. It originally was a variety theatre, but in 1906 it became a permanent cinema. Most of the Schauburg was destroyed during World War II but it was eventually reopened with a new foyer and entrance. Today the Schauburg has 3 screens: "The Schauburg" (screen #1) "Cinema" (screen 2, 148 seats, located on the balcony of the original cinema) and “Bambi” (screen 3 , 61 seats).

In the early 1960s, 70mm Cinerama was installed and the projection room was moved to the ground floor. The benefit from this move is of course to have a nearly level projection angle and minimize keystone distortion on the curved screen.

The huge curved single sheet Cinerama screen is installed to this day.

Considering the age and history of the Schauburg, the cinema looks very modern. Black linoleum floor and comfortable red seats. Everything is draped in "Cinerama Red" curtains and the lighting comes from classic chandeliers. The deeply curved screen covers the entire end of the cinema and goes from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. The screen is actually removable to reveal the theatre stage behind it.

The screen measures 16 meters wide (along the curve), 6,3 meters high, and the curve is 3,2 meters deep. I must say the screen appears to be larger, but my perception of the size is clearly an illusion.

The cinema now seats 420 people in 18 rows. Three rows closest to the screen have been removed to make room for live appearances.
PDF: Go to "70mm is Back by Popular Demand"

Projection room

Projection at the Schauburg. The centerpiece of the projection equipment is a pair of the Philips DP75 70mm projectors, a Kinoton ST270 platter system and a Dolby Laboratories CP200 sound processor. The sound system is also capable of both Dolby Digital and Digital Theatre Systems DTS format. 

For the 70mm weekend, a new lamp house with a 5000 watt xenon bulb had been installed on machine 2.

Since most of the 70mm films were to be shown in DTS, the DTS Company in London had sent over a spare processor.

Throughout the weekend, Vincent Koch and Markus Vetter, the projectionists were on duty all the time. And they did an outstanding job always showing the films in perfect focus across the screen. 

The projection room itself was not particularly large but everything seemed to be in perfect order. With lots of 70mm print transportation cases stored almost everywhere, there was limited space for moving around and having visitors. But the projectionists welcomed all guests who wanted to have a look around.

Friday 7 October 2005

The Hannemann brothers, Wolfram and Volker

Inside the foyer I met Herbert and he gave me the weekend pass giving access to all the films and events. He also showed me the weekend souvenir program book and flyer. Two colourful publications promoting Todd-AO and 70mm history. An original poster had also been produced in celebration of (and to promote) the Todd-AO 70mm weekend.

Herbert had had Grant Lobban´s article "In The Splendour of 70mm" translated into German and I had contributed to the souvenir book with my own 2002 Walter Siegmund interview. The book will become a valuable Todd-AO souvenir in any enthusiast's bookshelf.  

I was ready and waiting for the start of the first showing, "Patton". Herbert introduced the weekend by welcoming the guests and thanking the sponsors, especially 20th Century Fox. I stayed for a while (couldn't miss that incredible performance by George C. Scott in the first reel), but since I had seen it in its entirety in 2002 at Bradford, I decided to also check out a bit of the city.

I went for a walk to find a few items for my children before settling down for "The Agony and the Ecstasy" at 17:30 and "Hello, Dolly!" at 20:30.

Karlsruhe has a nice city center/shopping area free of cars and only "inhabited" by a system of trams. I spent some hours enjoying the weather (sunshine and close to 20° C), shops and pedestrian area. Went back to my hotel to unload and walked to the Schauburg around 16 o'clock. Enough time to chat with some 70mm friends and take some pictures of the cinema. And not forgetting, tasting the local brew ;-)

Many people attending the annual Widescreen Weekends in Bradford found their way to Karlsruhe. And with good reason, a lot of the Germans enjoyed having this kind of 70mm fest in their own back yard. The audience was of course dominated by the mainly - German audience, but people from England, France, Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Sweden had also decided to show the flag for their nations -- making it an international event.

Around 80 people turned up for "The Agony and the Ecstasy" - not at all bad according to Herbert Born. The colors were fabulous and unbelievably sharp. The red and blue colors were amazing. I could hear the projectors running ever so quietly in the background. Somehow the sound of the projector "smells" like cinema. Of course noise like that shouldn't be there, but on the other hand, it proves it's a physical thing running through the machine. One of Herbert's points of the weekend was to show off just how good 70mm films look despite the 50 year old technology. Digital projection is hyped everywhere as being very good -- and it is (at least what I've seen) -- but 70mm still has the advantage and will probably continue to be superior to digital for several decades to come.

Before each performance the Schauburg still uses a "Gong". Three notes of sound to denote the beginning of the performance - I cannot remember the last time I have heard a "gong" in Denmark. A nice reminder of the magic of cinema, though.

Once you have seen Rex Harrison´s incomparable Professor Higgins in "My Fair Lady" it is nigh-impossible to accept him as any other person in other films -- like "Agony". "What is "Higgins" doing in ancient Rome"? Several among the audience agreed on this. Something is just not working.

The next show was "Hello, Dolly!", a film I had particularly looked forward to seeing, since I missed it in Bradford earlier this year. Herbert introduced the film in German and gave the microphone to me to read a statement from Walter Siegmund specifically written two days earlier for the weekend on behalf of Henry Cole, Brian O'Brien Jr. and himself. Sort of a Todd-AO epilogue.
Then the film began and I was again stunned by the clarity of the images. It was so unreal to see "Hello, Dolly!" in perfect colour. The past 20 years I've been accustomed to seeing this film in faded prints and never expected to see it as it was meant to be seen. It was larger than life, the purest form of musical, so sharp, no grain, great colours, wonderful 6-track stereo -- simply the grandest experience. The real show in Todd-AO. My goose bumps had goose bumps seeing every thread in Walter Matthau´s tweed costumes. 

As Herbert expressed it "Nice and sharp images  -  almost like a window to the world". And how right he was.

The audience also seemed to enjoy the film and gave it a large and warm applause at the end.

After "Dolly" the Schauburg hosted a reception with  free beer, courtesy of HOEPFNER Bräu, and at the same time celebrated the opening of a Todd-AO / 70mm film poster exhibition.

6 large boards with a collection of movie posters and lobby cards from the famous 70mm films of the 1960s -- an era long gone by -- admired by the audiences while enjoying the HOEPFNER beer. Unfortunately it was removed Saturday morning when I went for a second look.

I went home to my hotel, very tired, and jumped into bed.

Saturday 8 October 2005

Projectionist Koch checking the film

Thanks to airplane air-conditioning, I woke up with a severe cold and a headache from too little sleep. Ate breakfast at the hotel and rushed off to the Schauburg to see the beginning of "Ryan´s Daughter". Always a fan of David Lean I would have liked to see it, but decided to leave it and also leave "Doctor Dolittle" and instead do some more sightseeing in Karlsruhe. 

I also managed to catch up on my sleep for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

I returned to the Schauburg for the performance of "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" late in the afternoon. I've always enjoyed the title song and also had the pleasure of interviewing the director, Mr. Ken Annakin in Bradford in 2000. The new 70mm print had great sound, colors and incredible sharpness to it. I missed it in Bradford in 2005.

The audience was in very good mood and laughed a lot. Especially, as the majority were Germans, it was fun to hear them laugh at Gert Fröbe and his "There iz notzing a German offizer cannot do" and how they did everything by the book "Number 1 - zit down". Just hilarious.

The film received huge applause at the end.

At this point I felt this was the best 70mm performance I had ever seen. The combination of the Schauburg's wide curved screen, a funny film, the new print, ultra sharp projection and good sound. This is how 70mm is supposed to look!. Well done Schauburg!!!

The last show Saturday was a gala performance of "My Fair Lady" in German. Herbert introduced the film by wishing everyone "einen schönen Abend". 

The fact it was in German would probably scare a lot of people away, but I find it interesting to see a well known film dubbed into a foreign language. I didn't understand a word of it but it amazed me how close the German voice of Rex Harrison was to the original. I was told the actress who dubbed Audrey Hepburn has a "thick" Berlin accent which is VERY far from Eliza's London accent. It was also fun to hear the audience laugh without understanding why. 

The print was faded and was presented in 70mm with 6-track magnetic stereo. For some reason Super Panavision 70 didn't look as sharp as Todd-AO did. Perhaps sharpness is compromised when the prints fade? At least it certainly looked as if the Todd-AO lenses were much sharper.

Sunday 9 October 2005

Before my lecture - huge slides!

I woke early as usual, but unlike the previous day, I was in much better shape without a headache. I looked forward to giving my lecture about Todd-AO and was curious about how many would show up for it. I had re-edited the Bradford version down to just under 30 minutes.

Anyway, I had breakfast at the hotel and quickly went to the Schauburg to set up the lecture,  microphone, light, slides and laser pointer with Herbert.

I read it slower compared with my previous performance in Bradford 2005. Very early on Herbert wanted to translate it into German and hand out earphones but it proved to be too costly. Fortunately, he realized Todd-AO 70mm history was adequately covered in the festival program in both German and English.

It all worked fine and from what I understood, the lecture was well received. At least I got a nice round of applause. 

Following the lecture several short films were shown to demonstrate the superiority of 70mm film. Olivier Brunet's "Fanny's Wedding" (2003 - MCS-70 Superpanorama) looked absolutely stunning as did Morten Skallerud´s "A Year Along The Abandoned Road" (1989 - Super Panavision 70) which is always an audience pleaser. Herbert introduced "Fanny's Wedding" and I introduced "Abandoned Road" by explaining the technique behind nature animation. Then followed a long line of 70mm trailers and rare clips, including:

"Stuyvesant" 65mm film cigarette commercial and a MGM 6-track test film (with clips from "Doctor Zhivago"). 70mm trailers from: ”Far and Away”, "Cliffhanger", "Hot Shots: Part Deux", "Rising Sun", "Body of Evidence", "Lorenzo´s Oil", "Batman", "Ben Hur", "2001", clip from the "Ben Hur" chariot race and a faded clip from "The Agony and the Ecstasy" and finally, a French "Lawrence of Arabia" trailer.

Dear Herbert,

I am sorry to report that despite my efforts I won't be able to attend your festival next Sunday. Too much work and concerns, too much travels planned in the same short period of time. I hope the print has now reached Karlsruhe. I'll be very curious to learn about the audience's reaction after the screening of "Fanny's Wedding". Thank you again for your kind invitation. I wish you the greatest success, (I hope that there are still many 70mm lovers in Germany.

Best regards,
Olivier Brunet

"Grand Prix" was represented with a 16mm documentary titled: "Challenge of Champions"/"La Course des Champions" blown up to 70mm. A faded 70mm print of the classic Technirama film "Shellarama" concluded this morning and it seemed to please the audience once again with it's naïve view of the roaring, gasoline-consuming 1960s.

It was time for lunch and the local brewery served a nice German schnitzel and some good beer which we all enjoyed. The weather was absolutely fabulous and here we were, sitting inside all day watching 40 year old movies. We should of course have stayed outside all day enjoying the sun and the German beer (or maybe not).

During the summer Herbert had asked me which 70mm films I hadn't seen yet. One of them was "Airport" and Herbert kindly scheduled it Sunday afternoon. What a nice gesture. The print was a faded German print with mono dialogue and stereo sound. I was told the film didn't open in 70mm until late into the release and therefore the German mono dub was used on the 70mm prints. I didn't understand a word of the dialogue, but had great fun seeing it. "Airport" was one of the first disaster movies and was almost as funny as the spoofs "Flying High/Airplane I+II". The images were sharp and again showed off Todd-AO at it's very best. 

"Airport" was dubbed in Room 1 at Universal which was only set up for 4 track. I haven't seen it in 70mm since it's original release (I've heard rumours of a new 70 print being struck for ten years), so I don't recall if the appropriate dialog and effects were moved around to match the positioning of images on the screen during the multiple image sequences, but putting dialog and effects either solely in the center or bled into the other channels was pretty much the accepted standard by the January, 1970 when the final dub was being done."

Rick Mitchell 17.10.2005

Another update on the "Airport" soundtrack  - many thanks for update to Wolfram Hannemann, LASER HOTLINE

"The print was a faded German print with mono dialogue and stereo sound"

That is not exactly true. The sound was mono all way long! Not only did the dialogue not have a stereo panning, but the music and sound effects were mono, too! Certainly it was 6-track magnetic, but all tracks had identical sound information (= mono).

Wolfram, 17.12.2005

70mm film in film gate during projection

My last film this "Magnificent" weekend was "The Sound of Music" which is sometimes disparaged by critics as a piece of horse manure. The reviewers obviously  haven't seen it in Todd-AO ;-)

Anyway, to me it is one of the funniest and most enjoyable musicals ever made. With Christopher Plummer in his best musical role as Captain Georg von Trapp (despite the fact his singing voice was dubbed).  The dialogue is funny, the songs are classics and Ted McCord's solid 65mm photography is totally fantastic. The whole cast of characters are superb especially Richard Haydn as Max Detweiler, Ben Wright as Herr Zeller and of course Eleanor Parker as the Baroness. Not forgetting of course Julie Andrews and the children. Very well cast.

It is also the most successful 65mm film ever made, according to Variety, and in 2005 it's the 40th anniversary of the film. I've seen it countless times and  wouldn't miss this opportunity to see it again.

I was told the Schauburg´s presentation was the German premiere of the full version of the film. "The Sound of Music" never played well in Germany because  the Germans already had their own films about the Trapp Family Singers. "The Sound of Music" was shortened in Germany and ended with the wedding scene (making some of the the storyline pointless). The whole finale was cut from  the German release prints. I've encouraged some of the German Schauburg guests to write the story about "The Sound of Music" release in Germany.

"The Sound of Music" was released in Germany on December 25, 1965 in a completely dubbed version (even the songs were dubbed – according to the critics poorly) The German title was "MEINE LIEDER MEINE TRÄUME" (literally translated: “My songs, my dreams”). There was a German film based on the true story with the title "DIE TRAPP FAMILIE" (1956) and the second film "DIE TRAPP FAMILIE IN AMERIKA" (1958) Both were huge successes in Germany with a all German popular cast. Only in 1959 there was the Broadway premiere of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical SOUND OF MUSIC at Broadway. The German release of "The SOUND OF MUSIC" was a flop and according to industry gossip, the German 20th Century Fox Manager at this time had to go. There was a re-issue later with an almost 20 minutes shortened version to eliminate all political issues, to make the film “friendlier” and easier to “consummate” by the German audience, which ruined the structure of the movie totally.

The final film of the festival was the classic 70mm Cinerama film "2001:A Space Odyssey" in a new 70mm Dolby 6-track magnetic print. I didn't see it except  for the beginning. I have seen it so many times by now, and unlike "The Sound of Music" I had no problems not seeing it on the curved 70mm screen. Besides, it had really been a  very long day already and I didn't quite need to see one more movie.

I went back to the hotel and had one final beer with Mr. Sebastian Rosacker from Sweden. I returned to Copenhagen the next day, full of 70mm-happiness from  the German eye-orgasm.

It was a unique event to see so many Todd-AO films. 2005 has indeed been a good year for the Todd-AO film legacy with Bradford in  March and now Karlsruhe in October. Oddly enough, no one in the States organized a similar celebration despite the American origin of the process. On the other hand, many of the films takes place in Europe, so you might be able to say Todd-AO is equally European.

The citizens of Karlsruhe are lucky to have the unique Schauburg cinema. Most of these cinemas are long gone everywhere. Take good care of it - citizens of  Karlsruhe.

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Updated 21-01-24