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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The 1955 Spectacle They Saw ...


Washington Gets Side View of Strategic Air Command

I'd like to know just how many US theatres played Strategic Air Command in true horizontal VistaVision. That experience must have been riveting. I saw White Christmas in a vertical 35mm print made up in 1954, and frankly, it wasn't that sharp. The Blu-Ray looked much better. I'm guessing there were kinks in those initial 35mm reductions from horizontal negatives. It must have been ironed out, however, because even 16mm looked glorious on these VV titles. A print I had of Strategic Air Command was a pip in that smaller format. The battered ad above was from the Washington first-run of SAC. They had it in 1955, and as is apparent here, rode hard on "Horizontal Projectors." There is footage of such a unit in a Paramount newsreel detailing the SAC world premiere in Omaha (which was the Command's headquarters). We see the operator threading his machine as the audience awaits their thrill. It may be the only film of horizontal VV inside the booth, if that's of significance to anyone beyond hardcore pic-techs. A lot of fans claim VistaVision as best of all widescreen processes, but how many of them have actually experienced the real thing? I'm wondering if even one of the horizontal projectors survives. There were only a handful to start with. Query to experts: Were any VV's horizontally projected after Strategic Air Command? What about The Ten Commandments? I never heard of it being shown that way, but maybe someone can enlighten me.

4 Comments:

Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

Wasn't "The Story of a Patriot" at Williamsburg projected in horizontal VistaVision originally?

10:11 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Right you are, Cool Cat. I had forgotten ... and after writing a post on Willimasburg back in 2012:

http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/2012/12/christmas-garbo-and-como-at.html

10:19 AM  
Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

I saw "Story of a Patriot" at Williamsburg in the early 1980s. I can't recall if it was still being projected from VistaVision prints then, but it was darned impressive. The screen was huge and ultra-wide and I remember it being very clear and colorful.

A few years before, during the Bicentennial, I saw the IMAX film "To Fly!" at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. That was jaw dropping fro a sixth grader used to the Parkway Theater in West Jefferson and the occasional 16mm film showing at school.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Brother Herbert said...

From Daniel J. Sherlock's corrections to Robert E. Carr and R.M. Hayes' book "Wide Screen Movies" (http://www.film-tech.com/warehouse/tips/WSMC20.pdf):

"The authors state that, officially, Strategic Air Command was the first VistaVision film released in double frame horizontal format, and they suspect that White Christmas was shown as an experiment of sorts in Los Angeles. In fact, White Christmas premiered on October 14, 1954 at Radio City Music Hall using prototype horizontal projectors. These were built on extremely short notice with a phone order to Century Projector Corp. placed on September 23rd. It is suspected that the decision was made on short notice to use the horizontal format due to the size of the screen and the desire to have a bright image. Sound was provided from an interlocked standard 35mm projector since the sound head was not included in the prototype projectors. An additional set of prototype horizontal projectors was installed at the Stanley-Warner Beverly Hills Theater and another set was installed at the Paramount lot at about the same time frame." [p. 27]

Since these projectors were prototypes, I assume they were only used for premieres/previews and perhaps a short run and then removed. But that makes me wonder if there were any more "temporary" horizontal setups created for later VV films or if that was abandoned after the VV novelty wore off.

3:40 PM  

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