FLICKER ALLEY’S 3-STRIP CINERAMA LINE-UP


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IT ALL BEGAN…

…back in 2008 with the release of the new experimental feature which help make up Warner’s How The West Won (1962) Blu-ray, Smilebox, a 3D mapping system which recreates the 146 degree curved screen of the three-strip Cinerama process, which only lasted 10 years before it was phased out in favour of the traditional single strip technologies.

The Cinerama name lived on for a while but it was mainly the screen which continued rather than the cumbersome three projector system. But as the latest Blu-ray restorations began in 2008, thanks to David Strohmaier, Cinerama premiered in 1952, sparking both the Widescreen revolution, in which CinemaScope would be born opening with The Robe (1953) as well as the more recent massive screen experiences which IMAX now offer.

A special feature on that Blu-ray/DVD release was the 2003 documentary by the godfather of the Smilebox revolution,  in David Strohmaier which he tells the story of the process from its inception, as well as showing off the Smilebox tech and clips from the few films made in the process.

But, these films, many of which have not been seen in the decades since their original showings, have fallen into ruin, with the negatives fading and in some cases, most notably with the second and final three-strip feature film, with the rest being travelogues, The Wonderful Word Of The Brother’s Grimm (1962), being almost lost forever, with only one notable three-strip print left doing the limited rounds. More on that later…

Cinerama Bradford ScreenBut like many cinephiles, my appetite for these films was wet with How The West Was Won’s brilliant Smilebox transfer, allowing the film to be experienced the best way possible without going to one of the FOUR remaining Cinerama screens which are left in the world.

  • Pictureville Cinema at the National Media Museum in Bradford, here in the U.K.
  • New Neon Cinema in Dayton, Ohio U.S.A.
  • Seattle Cinerama in Seattle U.S.A.
  • Cinerama Dome in Hollywood U.S.A.

SO FAR…

cinerama_filmsEnter Flicker Alley, the U.S. based Blu-ray/DVD supplier who have taken up the manufacture and distribution of these, now restored movies and considering the lower budget of these restorations, they and the team have done a fantastic job of bringing these and many other films back to life, many of which would have been lost forever without their intervention.

But my Cinerama story doesn’t begin in 2008, any more that it began in 1952, given that I wasn’t born until 1978! For me, it was a trip to Bradford’s Pictureville Cinema, attached to the National Film and Television Museum in the U.K. back in July 1993. It turns out that the Cinerama screen, still one the only ones in existence, had just opened a month earlier and as a result, they only had a very limited ability to show Cinerama films.

We were treated to the first half of the premier movie, This Is Cinerama (1952) and I was blown away! Not by the Lowell Thomas narrated travelogue/demonstration as such, but the grandeur and scale of the enterprise. A massive curved screen, a 7 channel sound system which needed to be operated by a dedicated sound engineer and the three beams from the arc lamps emitted from the three projection booths over head.

This was cinema as we no longer experience it, a night out at the theatre being the only real opportunity to feel anything like this. So, after falling in love with the next best thing, Smilebox, This Is Cinerama became the must have Blu-ray for my extensive collection. But, no chance. It didn’t exist.

But in 2010, I first became aware of the restoration of a film called Windjammer: The Voyage Of The Christian Ridich (1958), another three-strip film which was actually made using a process called Cinemiricle, which was essentially the same. It was whilst researching this that rumours began to circulate about a Blu-ray release of This and This Is Cinerama and the long wait until September 2012 began.

Released to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Cinerama, This Is Cinerama (1952) and Windjammer (1958) where both released by Flicker Alley to universally great reviews. There was an acknowledgement that the restoration wasn’t up the level of How The West Won, but since the budget for these was so much lower, the results are remarkable and real credit to the restoration team, headed by David Strohmaier, Image Trends, Digital Ice Technology and Flicker Alley.

The following year saw the release of the second feature, Cinerama Holiday (1955) and the fifth, South Seas Adventure (1958) with the latest and final two released of 2014 being the third and fourth releases, Seven Wonders Of The World (1956) and Search For Paradise (1957), completing the set.

The Blu-ray/DVD’s are packed with extras too, with a copy of the programme, restoration documentaries, trailers and the more interesting a novel ones, such as the “Breakdown Reel”, used to maintain the presentation in case of breakdown, obviously.

But also included are Cinerama shorts, such as the Renault Dauphin promotional short (1960) and the 2012 60th Anniversary short feature, In The Picture (2012), which is the first three-strip Cinerama film to be shot in the format and with an original camera since the early 1960’s. This was included with the 2014 edition of Search For Paradise (1956) whilst the Renault short was a feature of the 2013 South Seas Adventure (1958).

WHAT’S NEXT?

So indeed, what is next? Well, there have been no official announcement yet, but there are trailers for The Best Of Cinerama (1963), Cinerama’s Russian Adventure (1966), which was originally shot on the Soviet equivalent, Kinopanarama and was re-released by Cinerama in 1966 under its own banner and The Golden Head (1965), an appalling looking American-Hungarian feature from 1964, sorry but not impressed with the trailer myself. Holiday in Spain (1962) also has a trailer on Youtube in70mm, as all four of these Cinerama or curved screen 70mm productions are online now and have been from as early as 2013.

But as for the almost lost The Wonderful World Of The Brother’s Grimm (1962), there is no word so far but there’s always hope for the second of the ONLY two actual Cinerama films to be made in the legitimate three-panel format.

There is actually a campaign in place to release this film, after one of the few existing three-panel prints was shown in Bradford as part of the 60th Anniversary celebrations in 2012.

PLEASE SIGN THE ONLY PETITION

Smilebox has so much more life to it than just these restorations, which admittedly have an extremely limited audience. After 1962, a single strip process took over, in fact several single strip 70mm processes took over the cumbersome three-strip process, Technorama and Ultra-Panavision to name just two, but several films where still produced by Cinerama, such as the first to be changed to a single strip, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and later films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), let alone earlier 70mm epics such as Ben-Hur: A Take Of The Christ (1959).

All of these to name just a few, were shown on the curved Cinerama screen, yet have never been released in Smilebox, but it is still early days and it is my hope that this could become a very interesting special feature in future releases of these movies.


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CHECKLIST

this-is-cinerama-1st-cinerama-presentation-dvd-01894THIS IS CINERAMA (1952)

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Blu-ray/DVD Released 2012

cinerama-holiday-movie-poster-1955-1020395488CINERAMA HOLIDAY (1955)

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Blu-ray/DVD Released 2013

6747SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD (1956)

TRAILER

Blu-ray/DVD Released 2014

A1709-lo-resSEARCH FOR PARADISE (1957)

TRAILER

Blu-ray/DVD Released 2014

ssa2SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE (1958)

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Blu-ray/DVD Released 2013

WindjammerWINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH (CINEMIRICLE) (1958)

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Blu-ray/DVD Released 2012

wonderful_world_of_the_brothers_grimmTHE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962) (TBA)

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No release date

HolidayInSpain_zpsce30816bHOLIDAY IN SPAIN (1960/1962) (Originally “Scent Of Mystery”)

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Filmed in TODD-AO 70mm

Blu-ray and OST

how_the_west_was_wonHOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) (NOT FLICKER ALLEY)

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Blu-ray/DVD Released 2008 (Smilebox on Blu-ray only)

best-of-cinerama-movie-poster-1963-1020672082THE BEST OF CINERAMA (1963)

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No release date

l_56835_8db97931THE GOLDEN HEAD (SUPER TECHNORAMA 70) (1965)

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No release date

downlCINERAMA’S RUSSIAN ADVENTURE (KINOPANARAMA) (1966)

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No release date

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. nEoPOL says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

  2. Shane O'Neill says:

    I’m a NumberOneFan of Flicker Alley.
    Keep going. Can’t wait for… anything you do in SmileBox.
    2001 would be just out of this world (hmm..), and the piecing together of Wonderful World of Brothers Grimm ?? Fantastic!!
    Let’s not forget those weird mid-60’s dhort movies either (NASA, Shell Oil, etc) filmed for the curvey screen.
    I built my own and I’m able to show a young generation why we’re so nuts about it all.
    My very greatest good wishes for the future in this genre.
    (my local is Bradford Cinerama.. 250 miles from me).
    Shane O’Neill Cinerama veteran since 1965.
    London England

  3. nEoPOL says:

    What a great comment Shane. I too am from England, Manchester to be precise and fell in love with Cinerama after seeing it at Bradford back in 1993.

    I have considered building my own curved screen for years but it is not really an option at the moment so will have to settle for Smilebox. I completely agree with your comments about the other films, especially 2001 and Grimm but I don’t know anything about the NASA, Shell etc…) Very interesting…

    Can you share more? 😉

  4. Brian Zachel says:

    It would be great for 70mm films such as Oklahoma, Around The World In Eighty Days, It’s a Mad Mad Mad World and others to get the SmileBox treatment. Some Cinerama purist scoff at this because 70mm was not real Cinerama which is true but they were a part of film history and should be made available for film posterity.

    1. nEoPOL says:

      I absolutely agree. If it was ever shown on a curved screen, then Smilebox it should be 🙂

      1. Shane O'Neill says:

        I was introduced to the curved screen in 1966.
        I grew up to be a sound engineer and a small-time producer too.
        I eventually built my own mini-‘Cinerama’ and show any High Definition movie on it.
        The Smilebox types are a perfect fit, and I can only FERVENTLY HOPE (!) that ANY would-be 70mm movie gets the Smilebox treatment.
        Where is Around The World..(’56) and Brothers Grimm (’62) ??!!
        Actually, others would also benefit (MacKenna’s Gold, Technirama 70 I seem to remember, plus even Paint Your Wagon (cheesy but great fun); Becket; Lawrence; Zhivago; Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, and so on.. Quite a long list.
        Shane O’Neill, UK

  5. Shane O'Neill says:

    Oops.. Old brain-age.. I was introduced to Cinerama in ’65, not ’66 as I mistakingly said.
    ‘Khartoum’, followed by ‘Battle Of The Bulge’.
    2016… My favourite is STILL ‘SPACE ODYSSEY’.
    Smilebox please PLEASE??? ANYONE??

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