Starting Friday, we get the chance to see original Cinerama three-strand films in the renovated Seattle Cinerama, including 1962 frontier epic How the West Was Won …which needs a super-wide panoramic screen to contain all the Hollywood egos in this flick. Seriously, watch the trailer—the lineup is gratuitous. In this journey across the plains, "James Stewart is the mountain man. Henry Fonda is the plainsman. Gregory Peck is lucky in cards…and in love." Oh, and John Wayne plays General Sherman. It’s a rare western where he doesn’t get top billing.
The MGM classic helps kick off Cinerama’s Big Screen Film Fest (Sept 30–Oct 16), a two-week celebration of 1960s technology and 70mm reels of Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey, plus a dozen others. A quick crash course on Cinerama films: They were shot with three 35mm cameras on one mount, and three separate projectors would run the reels on a special curved widescreen. How the West Was Won is one of the few feature films made for Cinerama, and the DVD version just doesn’t compare to seeing this on the appropriate screen.
Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen rescued Seattle’s Cinerama from demolition 12 years ago, but last year he decided to change management (dropping AMC Entertainment) and refurbish the 48-year-old building with the help of Greg Wood, owner/operator of Portland’s Roseway Theater. Wood had just upgraded his own 1920s indie theater to show blockbusters like Avatar in all their glory. And in Seattle, “we upgraded everything,” Wood told Culture Fiend. “The big thing is to get Cinerama back in touch with the community, make it feel like Seattle’s living room.” To wit, Seattle’s living room has 3D capabilities, a digital projector, a new sound system, and chocolate popcorn.
Here’s the festival lineup:
This Is Cinerama
How The West Was Won
The Sound Of Music
Lawrence of Arabia
2001: A Space Odyssey
My Fair Lady
West Side Story
Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Cinerama Big Screen Film Fest runs Sept 30–Oct 16 and is copresented by SIFF. Tickets are $12; visit seattlecinerama.com for times.