Widescreen Cinema: 1922 - Present Day
by Gary Palmer
This filmography is devoted exclusively to widescreen feature films with a primary aspect ratio of 2.00:1 or wider. This includes theatrical releases, TV movies and direct-to-video features, along with movies shot in Super 35 and released theatrically at 1.85:1 before being restored to their intended ratio (usually 2.39:1) for home video.
While a number of short films and special venue items employed various 'scope' formats prior to 1922, that year saw the release of the first feature length production to contain 'widescreen' material for the purposes of commercial exhibition (IL SACCO DI ROMA), hence the parameters of this particular filmography.
For our purposes, the phrase 'feature length' refers to any film known - or assumed - to run 50 minutes or longer. This is not an arbitrary figure: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) denotes a 'feature' film as running 40 minutes or more, while the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) stipulates 60-minutes as 'feature' length. However, the former seems too short and the latter too restrictive, so I've opted for a midway point between the two.
Much of the layout is self-explanatory, but here are the main details, along with a few things you should know before diving in:
Line 1: Original title
Wherever possible, I've used the title as it appears on-screen in the film's country of origin (with some exceptions - see below). In most cases, I've opted not to include possessory credits (eg. Peter Shaffer's Amadeus), since this opens up an ugly can of worms which will lead to all manner of confusion - ie. if you're looking for HALLOWEEN (1978), you'll find it under H, and not J for John Carpenter's Halloween. For certain high-profile entries, I've used cross-referencing to minimise potential confusion. For example, anyone looking for Return of the Jedi is directed to the same film under its on-screen title STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Important note: Foreign language titles which employ non-Roman text are listed under their English alternative (the originals are listed in brackets directly afterward, but are not cross-referenced), except where no English alternative exists. This is because there are markedly different ways of transliterating these languages, and the lack of 'definitive' transliterations has given rise to a bewildering array of Romanized spellings from one source to another. I won't add to the confusion here. Affected languages are as follows:
Titles are arranged alphabetically on a letter-by-letter basis (ie. IT CAN'T BE TEARS before I THANK A FOOL, etc.). Definite and indefinite articles - 'A', 'The', 'La', 'Gli', etc. - are ignored. Numbers are treated as though spelled out, except in the case of films which begin with a number that hasn't been spelled out, ie. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - these are listed separately in ascending numerical order.
Many films were co-produced by two or more countries, and were released under different titles in those territories. This listing includes only the primary title in the main country of origin. For instance, a Spanish-Italian co-production will be listed under the Spanish title, and so on and so forth.
Titles in italics indicate a non-English speaking film whose original-language title is unknown.
An asterisk (*) beside a primary title denotes an incomplete entry, where some information has not yet been tracked down.
Line 2: Alternative titles
English titles from across the world are listed here, including AKA's exclusive to home video release. Again, I've tried wherever possible to represent the title as it appears on-screen, regardless of where the print originated. Promotional titles (Die Hard 2: Die Harder, etc.) are not included. All AKA's are cross-referenced throughout the filmography.
Line 3: Country of origin - Year of copyright - Black and white (etc.) notation
The country of origin is rendered via abbreviations ('Sp' for Spain, 'WG' for West Germany, etc.), all of which should be obvious to most readers. The copyright date corresponds wherever possible with the year listed on the print itself. Be aware that this is often different from the year of release.
All films are in color unless otherwise noted. If the film is in black and white (or printed in sepia, or otherwise tinted in some way), this is noted after the copyright year. See the list of abbreviations below.
Line 3: Director
Be aware that the names of Chinese directors given throughout the filmography rarely matches what is listed on the prints themselves. Chinese names can be rendered in several different ways, and they're often credited on film prints with no more than the English Christian name and Chinese surname. However, I've opted to follow the principle established in English-language Chinese print media of using a combination of English Christian name and full Chinese name. For instance, Johnnie To's Chinese name is To Kei-fung ('To' being the surname, always listed first), so he's listed here as Johnnie To Kei-fung.
Line 4: Photographic process
All films were shot in 35mm unless otherwise noted. If another gauge was used in principal photography, this appears in parentheses directly after the photographic process. This doesn't apply to some 65mm formats such as Todd-AO and Ultra Panavision 70, which are self-evidently different from 35mm origination. Readers are directed to the glossary of widescreen formats listed separately from the main filmography, which provides more detail on the various processes mentioned throughout the listing.
'Cel animation' listed after the photographic process means an animated film whose individual cel frames were photographed in the given format.
Films listed as 'Panavision' were shot with anamorphic Panavision lenses. This is important because Panavision no longer seems to care how their equipment is credited, whether the film was shot anamorphically or in Super 35. The on-screen credit 'Filmed in Panavision' used to mean anamorphic origination, but nowadays it can mean almost anything.
The Super 35 format is used mostly on films composed for 2.39:1, though it's sometimes used to photograph movies with a 1.85:1 ratio. All movies listed as Super 35 in this filmography were intended for 2.39:1 theatrical exhibition. In rare cases, as mentioned earlier, some Super 35 movies (such as A LIFE LESS ORDINARY and COMMUNION) were composed for 2.39:1 but released theatrically at 1.85:1, only to be restored to 2.39:1 for home video. These are noted in the relevant entries.
Films shot with HD equipment are listed in different ways: HD Widescreen means the film was shot in standard 1.78:1 with HD cameras, and the theatrical 2.35:1 portion was extracted in post-production for anamorphic 35mm and/or D-Cinema release (2.39:1 projection). HD Digital Widescreen means the camera used specific technology to alter the shape of the pixels that make up the HD image, 'squeezing' a 2.33:1 or 2.37:1 image into the 1.78:1 frame, to be unsqueezed in post-production and printed to 35mm or D-Cinema.
The last film to employ bona fide CinemaScope lenses was produced in 1967 (except for a couple of animated features and the 1997 film REDBOY 13), though the phrase 'CinemaScope' - with and without a capital 'S' - is still used to describe some widescreen movies, especially on ad-mats. Some films also use the phrase 'CinemaScope' on-screen, even when they were shot with other lenses. For post-1967 movies, take any such notation with a huge pinch of salt! All films listed as CinemaScope throughout this filmography were shot with genuine CinemaScope lenses licensed by rights-holders 20th Century Fox.
Fake 'widescreen' formats: Be careful of non-existent 'widescreen' formats which were ballyhooed on ad-mats throughout the 1960's and 70's, such as Colorscope and Actionscope, neither of which are genuine photographic processes. A number of European ad-mats credited something called Panoramica (or Panoramic), which referred to nothing more than 'widescreen' films composed between 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. Metroscope was a hard-matted spherical process which could be projected at any ratio between 1.66:1 and 2.00:1, but was never a genuine 'scope' format. You'll find more non-existent formats listed in the widescreen glossary.
Sometimes, a film will employ two separate photographic formats. In those cases, the two (or more) processes are listed on separate lines.
Line 5: 70mm and IMAX notations
Some films were blown up from their original gauge (35mm, HD, etc.) and released in 70mm or IMAX format. These are noted for the record.
Line 6: Multi-channel sound formats
For historical purposes, I've included pre-Dolby multi-channel sound formats for relevant titles (along with 6-track Dolby notations for relevant 70mm blow-ups). Unless otherwise indicated, these were recorded in magnetic stereo and released in various configurations (4-track, 6-track, etc.). However, the relevant listings include only the primary soundtrack: For example, a movie with 6-track sound may also have been released in 4-track and optical mono (for venues unable to reproduce the primary track), but those secondary formats are not included. I would like to have included a notation for those movies released in the faux stereo format Perspecta Sound, but there is no definitive listing for such movies. While some titles are known to have been released with such a track, many others are doubtful and cannot be confirmed.
Line 7: Aspect ratio
In most cases, I've opted not to include the aspect ratio because all titles in the filmography were composed for 2.35:1 (pre-1971) or 2.39:1 (1971 onwards), unless otherwise stated. It isn't necessary to repeat the same information from one movie to another. However, where the film was composed for another ratio, this is noted at the end of the relevant entries.
Prior to 1971, all 35mm scope films (regardless of origination format) were projected at 2.35:1. From 1971 onward, the specs were altered to hide splice lines that were sometimes visible on-screen whenever one shot cut to the next, and the change rendered a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The shape of the image on the print remained the same, but it was projected through an aperture which basically 'cropped' the height of the frame to an insignificant degree.
Also, prior to the late 1970's, movies shot in 65mm spherical were printed in 70mm and projected at 2.21:1. The specs were changed at the end of the 1970's, yielding a projection ratio of 2.20:1, which is how all 5-perf 65/70mm movies are screened today (in the few venues which can accommodate them!), even if they were produced before the change-over.
Line 8: Notes
These appear in brackets at the end of the relevant entries and are self-explanatory.
* = Incomplete entry.
bw = Black and white.
col = Color.
D: = Director.
LF = Large Format: This refers to any gauge larger than 5-perf 65mm, though not including VistaVision, Technirama or the various widescreen formats employed on certain movies throughout the 1920's and early 30's.
TV = TV movie: Sometimes a film is produced specifically for television with a view to condensing the material for theatrical exhibition in non-domestic markets. With the dominance of 16:9 TV's and HD sets, allowing for easy letterboxing of 2.35:1 and 2.39:1 movies on wider TV screens, this has prompted some directors to use the scope frame for their TV productions. This is duly noted in the relevant entries.
V = This designates a movie produced for - and released directly to - home video.
Though the filmography is comprehensive, I cannot pretend that it is definitive. There are hundreds - perhaps even thousands - of eligible titles which haven't made the list, either because I cannot confirm their aspect ratios or because they've simply eluded my investigations. That said, dozens of new titles are added on a weekly basis, whenever I stumble across new info.
Scope cinematography (whether anamorphic, 2-perf or 65mm) peaked in the 1960's, nowhere moreso than South East Asia, where anamorphic photography and presentation were viewed as a commercial imperative. Japan and Hong Kong were the first countries in this geographical area to embrace scope cinematography with a vengeance, quickly followed by Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia. While I've managed to confirm a huge chunk of the Asian titles shot in scope throughout this period, many more are surely missing. Barely half the relevant Japanese titles are represented here, and the number of Indonesian titles is embarrassingly small, even though that country's national cinema enjoyed a huge surge in popularity throughout the 1960's, 70's and 80's. The world's largest movie-producing nation - India - is covered in a separate list, representing hundreds of films produced since 1990 (along with a handful of earlier titles), though even this falls short of the desired mark.
Information on the aspect ratio of movies from many of these territories is incredibly scarce, and far beyond the grasp of my limited resources. As such, it will take time to add those missing titles, and I can't guarantee I'll catch them all - but I aim to give it my best shot. After all, this is a global filmography, and no such venture can claim 'definitive' status without casting its net as wide as possible.
Given the size and (ahem!) 'scope' of the filmography, mistakes are inevitable. Sources are checked and double-checked, but no one can guarantee complete accuracy. As such, additions and corrections to the filmography are not only welcomed, but positively encouraged. So long as the information is verifiable, I urge readers to provide updates, corrections and new titles. I can be contacted at :
Updates will be published every six months, and anyone who provides useful information will have their names added to the list of acknowledgements.
- Gary Palmer (July 2010)
I'd like to thank Michael Coate for the many years we corresponded on the subject of widescreen movies. Not only did he provide valuable information on individual films, he taught me a great deal about the technical side of 'scope cinema' and how those w-i-d-e images make their way from production to projection. His contribution to the filmography is incalculable, especially his research on pre-Dolby stereo soundtracks. It was his work in this area which resulted in the vast majority of magnetic stereo listings noted throughout this filmography (see URL below).
Two other generous souls whose support has gone above and beyond the call of duty are Rick Mitchell and Dan Sherlock, both of whom championed the filmog and were kind enough to 'proof-read' the material during the latter stages of completion. Their insights and corrections have bolstered a raft of individual entries, and their comprehensive knowledge of the history and technology of widescreen cinema has proved truly indispensable. This filmography is all the better - and all the more accurate - for their contributions.
3-D Movies: A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema (R.M. Hayes, 1989)
Halliwell's Film Guide (Leslie Halliwell & John Walker, 1977 - present)
The Hong Kong Filmography 1977 - 1997 (John Charles, 2000)
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (Leonard Maltin, 1969 - present)
Variety (1905 - present)
Video Watchdog (1990 - present)
Widescreen Review (1992 - present)
American Widescreen Museum (www.widescreenmuseum.com)
Big Movie Zone (www.bigmoviezone.com)
The Complete Index to World Film (www.citwf.com)
Google groups: rec.arts.movies.tech (http://groups.google.co.uk/group/rec.arts.movies.tech/topics?hl=en)
Hong Kong Film Archive (http://ipac.hkfa.lcsd.gov.hk)
Hong Kong Movie Database (www.hkmdb.com)
In 70mm (www.in70mm.com)
Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
KODAK Online Publications: InCamera (http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Publications/In_Camera/index.htm)
The Korean Movie Database (www.kmdb.or.kr/eng/)
The Korean Movie and Drama Database (www.hancinema.net)
Mag stereo filmography (www.widescreenreview.com/og_magstereo.php) [Subscribers only]
Spanish Film Database (www.mcu.es/bbddpeliculas/cargarFiltro.do?layout=bbddpeliculas&cache=init) [Spanish text]
Swedish Film Database (www.sfi.se/en-gb/Swedish-film-database/)
Copyright © 2010 by Gary Palmer