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The following article, from the July 2, 1954 issue of Motion Picture Herald, either contains some of the most interesting information or some of the most interesting mis-information that we've encountered in a good while. It's taken for granted that announcements of new motion picture systems will be loaded with exaggeration, and there's no shortage here, but there are other interesting non-technical facts stated that are true but almost unbelievable. Statements regarding the loan of Cinerama prints by Stanley Warner (parent company of Cinerama, Inc.) president S.H. Fabian for the purpose of demonstrating the system, and Cinerama, Inc. president Hazard Reeves' purported interest in the new and unproven technology are more than a little surprising. It will be noted that National Theatres, in addition to creating a Cinerama competitor in the form of Cinemiracle, (spelled Cine-Miracle at that time), also was keenly interested in getting into the business of opening Cinerama theatres in smaller cities. The curator's comments will appear in red. At the bottom of the page is an article announcing Disney's CIRCARAMA system, which appeared on the same page.


One Booth for 3-Filmstrip
Pictures Demonstrated;
Circuit Will Produce


HOLLYWOOD: Last week Thursday tall, lean, candid Elmer C. Rhoden, president of National Theatres, Inc., exploded two news bombs in the circuit's spacious Melrose theatre, once-thriving Hollywood neighborhood house converted two years ago to experimental and research uses of NT's famed technical director, R. H. McCullough.
First the straight-talking Mr. Rhoden told his press guests simply, without boast or bombast, that NT had developed a single booth setup capable of projecting Cinerama or any other three-filmstrip pictures as well as they're being projected from three booths in present engagements, as to size, brightness, clarity - better as to panel-to-panel match-up - and was going to demonstrate the setup then and there.

National Will Produce,
Roadshow Pictures

Next he told them that, since a single booth system of projecting three-filmstrip pictures isn't very useful unless you've got some three-filmstrip pictures to project, National Theatres is going to produce some, for its own use on its own equipment in its own theatres, and for the use of other exhibitors who may be disposed to book the pictures, and the equipment, on a roadshow basis.
Interwoven with these disclosures was the announcement that a working arrangement had been entered into with the Smith-Dietrich Corporation, under which that company will furnish electronically-synchronized photographing lenses capable of virtually eliminating inter-panel vignetting in multi-panel projection, and that P. Stanley Smith, president of that concern, was on hand to demonstrate their effectiveness and to answer questions.

Sees No U. S. Objection
To Production Plan

To press people quick to ask whether Government objection to production of pictures by a circuit only lately separated from a major producer-distributor might not be encountered, the circuit head said, "I don't see why it should be. The Stanley Warner Cinerama precedent is a direct parallel. We expect no objection."
To inquirers asking whether any definite subjects for production were in mind, and what kind would be filmed, the answer was, "No, we haven't acquired any story properties, so far. As to kind, we think we can take our cue from the fact that three travel type features have been produced in this type of process already, and we probably should make a story-type of subject, selecting one, of course, that will take advantage of the scope the process affords." Ultimately the single production made in the Cinemiracle process, Windjammer, was no more a story-type vehicle than the Cinerama product up to that time.
Yes, there had been conferences with a producer experienced in making three-strip pictures. "In fact it was he who led us to the Smith-Dietrich people, and made our photographing process practicable." But no deal has been made with him and he can't be named at this time. It wouldn't take a lot of detective work to figure out that the unnamed producer was Louis deRochemont.
No, NT's entry into picture production will not entail entry into distribution. NT's three-filmstrip pictures will be roadshown, only, and will move from point to point, theatre to theatre or town to town, aboard a two-truck caravan transporting the portable single-booth projection unit and the curved screen. It is estimated that installation of this portable setup will cost between $2,000 and $3,000 per theatre, on the average, but these figures are subject to reduction, rather than to increase, as simplification progresses.
An early arrival at the place of demonstration is personally conducted by Mr. McCullough on a tour of inspection through the surprisingly compact single-booth-13 x 22 feet overall - containing the three projectors that deliver the picture to the three panels and the fourth used, in this instance, for the seven-track stereophonic sound. The projection mechanism is a modified Century, with the intermittent sprocket axis specially fortified, and altered to pull down six sprocket-holes at a time, as in Cinerama and Todd-AO, instead of the standard four. Todd-AO's 65mm and 70mm film had a pull-down of five, not six sprocket holes, but this announcement was made before Todd-AO was unveiled to the public but not before virtually everything about it was publicized to Kingdom Come. The process will give a 145-degree picture. The booth requires the removal of only 52 seats, it was explained.
One of the three projectors faces the screen head-on and projects its image directly onto the middle panel of the screen. Another, positioned at right angles to this one and pointing at 3 o'clock, projects its image onto a surface-coated mirror that deflects it onto the left-hand panel of the screen. The third projector, positioned opposite to the second and pointing at 9 o'clock, projects its image onto a corresponding mirror that deflects it onto the right-hand panel.
The last 20 or 25 minutes of "This Is Cinerama," lent to Mr. Rhoden by Stanley Warner's Si Fabian for use in the McCullough experiments, and run through the NT projectors 270 times before demonstration day, was projected for the attendant press upon a screen 23 feet high (architectural limit of the Melrose theatre) and 63 feet wide, by curved surface measure, 58 feet edge-to-edge by straight line. The measurements were approximately identical with those of the Cinerama screen on which "This Is Cinerama" had its world-premiere.

Cine-Miracle Impact
Compares to Cinerama's

And the impact of the Cinerama footage on the attentive Melrose audience of reporters was approximately identical, too. And why not, it WAS Cinerama, after all.
The McCullough single-booth setup is asserted to achieve a reduction of inter-panel oscillation, as compared with the three-booth setup in Cinerama use, due to a gain in projector stability attributed to the fact that the three projectors are mounted within little more than arm's length of each other. Although this of necessity remains a claim open to rebuttal, it appeared to be supported by a consensus of those attending the demonstration. In fact, the claim is preposterous. But the NT planning is not limited to this degree of difference.
On the contrary, the NT plans contemplate a three-panel picture in which the lines of demarcation will be so nearly imperceptible as to escape notice save by trained experts. This improvement over all present three-strip screenings will be achieved, in the Rhoden and McCullough opinion, by the Smith-Dietrich system of three-camera photographing. As explained by Mr. Smith, the electronically-synchronized lenses to be used "achieve the essential vignetting of the panels in the photographing stage, instead of only in the projection operation, and our system permits an inter-panel overlap greater than any other." Unscientific press people who witnessed the ensuing screening of a two-panel test film shot in black and white with the Smith-Dietrich lenses were convinced that he spoke with authority. The projection demonstration was not a faithful representation of a three-panel color image. The demonstration used black & white film, thus avoiding differences in color quality between the panels. Secondly, while the mirror photography and projection for a two panel image can almost eliminate brightness differences at the panel joins, adding a third panel will show the brightness differences where the center and third panels join. See our other information provided in the Cinemiracle internal memo.

Mitchell Now Making
Cine-Miracle Cameras

In a subsequent conversation the lens expert said his system of electronic-synchonization accomplishes its purpose by altering the internal relationships of the integral parts of the lens, without altering the distance between the lens and the photographic plane, as is done in standard camera-lens focusing. The Smith-Dietrich photographing setup consists of three cameras, mounted in much the same fashion as the Cinerama three-camera unit; and two such setups, comprising three cameras each, are being manufactured for National Theatres by the Mitchell Camera Company at this time.
Mr. Rhoden said he expects it will be about six months until the Smith-Dietrich camera setups are completed and ready for the start of production, and hazarded the estimate that it might be as long as six months after that before the first picture produced in the process can be completed. Cinemiracle wouldn't debut for two years.
Answering a long-running barrage of questions, some of which he referred to Mr. McCullough and/or Mr. Smith, the circuit chief covered many points.
The Cine-Miracle pictures and the NT single-booth projection equipment are to go hand-in-hand as a package, available on a roadshow basis exclusively.
National has a number of theatres, as have other circuits, needful of tri-panel attraction of magnitude and exploitability. The circuit has been hopeful of getting an arrangement for showing the Cinerama films in secondary-size cities, and still is.
The recent acquisition of large blocks of National Theatres stock, such as the Virginia Zanuck holdings, has not been entirely unrelated to the new undertakings disclosed last week, but the relationship is not of the cause-and-effect variety.
The motion picture theatre has an abiding and growing need of entertainment that cannot be duplicated on television, and the three-panel Cine-Miracle process is one of the best answers to that need.

Elmer Rhoden, National Theatres president, in New York this week, said he will conduct talks with Stanley Warner officials on the possible use of "This Is Cinerama" with Cine-Miracle. He questioned whether SW is "free to negotiate" the use of the first Cinerama production, referring to SW's contract with Cinerama Productions on exclusive production and exhibition rights.
He also said National plans to acquire additional theatres although he denied any "great expansion movement" under way, saying NT is interested in theatres to "complement" holdings in areas already occupied. Acquisitions will be "where permitted" by the justice Department.
Mr. Rhoden said he, representing himself and a group, had acquired 100,000 shares of NT stock from Mrs. Virginia Zanuck, bringing management's holdings to more than 500,000 shares.



The announcement in Hollywood of National Theatres' new Cine-Miracle process created lively interest in the east. Also, the chances appeared excellent that the circuit would get Justice Department approval to produce pictures in the process, subject to the same kind of restrictions on number and distribution as the department set up in the case of Stanley Warner and Cinerama. A department spokesman said this week in Washington that preliminary conferences on "general terms" already have been held with the circuit.

Among the industry personnel expressing interest in the new medium were Paul Raibourn, Paramount vice-president; Hazard E. Reeves, president of Cinerama. Inc., and the developer of the Cinerama system, and Eugene Picker, vice-president of Loew's Theatres.

And also appearing on the same page, by coincidence:

HOLLYWOOD: The widening of the motion picture screen, which started with Cinerama, continued through CinemaScope, VistaVision and other expansions, culminating last week in National Theatres' Cine-Miracle process, which produced a 145 degree image on a curved screen, attains the finalistic maximum in Circarama, demonstrated Monday morning here at the Disney studios, where it was produced.
In Circarama, a spectator stands in side a round enclosure, completely encircled by the screen which surrounds him. Although not intended for theatre use at this time, Circarama, which will be among the free attractions at Disneyland, clearly could be employed theatrically for Cinerama-type productions in appropriately constructed housings.
The Circarama setup demonstrated this week, and to be installed immediately at Disneyland as part of the American Motors Corporation exhibit, measured 40 feet in diameter with an 11-panel screen extending completely around the circumference, and with eleven 16mm projectors, pointed through interstices between panels, projecting their 11 constituent segments of a complete 360-degree picture.
The projectors are synchronized, as also were eleven 16mm cameras with which the picture was photographed, and the interstices between panels, surprisingly, sharply minimized the demarcation junctures which are perceptible in other multi-panel setups.
In photographing, 11 cameras, equipped with matching lenses, were mounted, linked for synchronization, on top of a stationwagon which then was driven through Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Monument Valley, Little Grand Canyon and, aboard a boat, through Balboa Bay. The effect on an observer standing in the enclosure is to make him feel he is viewing the scene from a moving vehicle and able to look in any direction he chooses. The "participation" effect is dismayingly sometimes dizzyingly-complete.
Eastman cameras, projectors and film are used in Circarama, although other brands could be utilized. Likewise, 35mm film can be used with a larger setup, although none is contemplated by the producers at this time.-W.R.W.

Reprinted from the July 2, 1955 edition of Motion Picture Herald.


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