CINERAMA @ 60
60 years ago today, on the evening of September 30th 1952, Cinerama was premiered at the New York Broadway Theatre, heralding what would be come a new and enduring era of widescreen. Though the true three panel Cinerama format would not survive, How The West Was Won and The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm being the last, just 10 years later, its legacy would flourish for decades. CinemaScope, which was its greatest rival in 1950’s, would evolve in to the 2:39:1 aspect ratio which is so widely used today.
The Smilebox Simulation is finally becoming more widely used, now having been used with three films, How The West Was Won (1962), This Is Cinerama (1952) & Windjammer: The Voyage Of The Christian Radich (1958). The latter two have been released by Flicker Alley and are hopefully the FIRST of the otherwise, lost travelogue series to be restored to their former glory.
35mm , 70mm, and some three panel prints are still in use in the few Cinerama theatres around the world, with only one in the U.K. being the Bradford Pictureville, and are still shown throughout the year, as per their own schedules, often as part of 70mm festivals etc.
The travelogue series consisted of: South Seas Adventure (1958), Search For Paradise (1957), Seven Wonders Of The World (1956) and Cinerama Holiday (1955). All four titles have yet to be released but the hopes are that Flicker Alley will be able to continue the series over the next few years.
There is also a new short film in production for the anniversary, In The Picture, shot with the last remaining working Cinerama 3-Strip camera, which I hope to review in the future but whether this will be restricted to theatrical showings only, or will end up on Blu-ray has yet to be seen.
So, Happy Birthday to birth of commercially viable widescreen, and the flawed but fascinating and ambitious process that was 3 Panel Cinerama. Now, we just need a few more films to be released on Blu-ray in the innovative Smilebox Simulation, which simulates the format very well, but in the meantime, in the words of Lowell Thomas himself,
“This Is Cinerama…”