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70mm Film Finally Makes The Big Time

Top, frame from 34mm "Cinestage" Technicolor print used in London. Sound was provided by a four track full coat magnetic film run in sync with the picture. Immediately above, the image as it would appear when projected with a 1.567x anamorphic lens. Such lenses were generally Panavision, Superscope, Hi Lux, or Gaumont adjustable prismatic optics. Without the need for soundtracks, the London Cinestage print could display virtually all the information from the 65mm negative. The samples shown here show slightly more than is seen on a theatre screen because the projector aperture and screen maskings crop all sides slightly.

Cinestage film courtesy of Thomas Hauerslev and Dion Hanson

The tremendous critical and box office success of Around The World In 80 Days makes it difficult to believe that Todd was continually strapped financially throughout the production. The film had to be shown before he could recoup his cost and, hopefully, make a bunch of money. He used tremendous ingenuity to cut distribution costs while still maintaining as much quality in presentation as was possible. For its initial 70mm giant screen roadshow run, Todd had his prints duplicated from the 30fps 65mm negative. The exception to this was in Great Britain, where Todd reportedly refused to pay the import duty on the 70mm print. A British quota system existed on imported films other than "roadshow" pictures, which were defined as any gauge other than 35mm. For his roadshow presentation in London, Todd had Technicolor make a unique 34mm wide print, (actually, according to Michael Todd Jr., a 35mm print was made by Technicolor and 1mm was shaved from the edge) . Rather than applying four magnetic tracks to the film, the London engagement ran double system sound with a six-track 35mm fullcoat copy of the sound used in 70mm. At this point the Curator is unsure whether the unique London Cinestage print was the 30fps or the 24fps version of the film. It is assumed that it was the 30fps version.

Domestic "Cinestage" 35mm four track prints included Perspecta in the surround channel. Perspecta was never used in the six channel 70mm prints. Technical details on the directional surround scheme can be found in Projection and Sound section of this site's "Reference Library", accessible from the Lobby page.

No place on the globe was immune to Todd's continual hype.

Todd-AO frame reproductions used in the souvenir book sold in theatres.

Variety announcement of Hey, Mister! Wanna buy a newspaper?
Looking at this copy of Daily Variety it's apparent that Mike Todd bought this issue. Eight pages on Around The World In 80 Days promoted the picture. "Second Coming"? "Billions await the New Show in Todd-AO"! You can bet the farm that Todd, himself, had a hand in writing the news for this issue. Actually, the issue of Daily Variety is a concoction of the Todd Company publicity people. It was an insert in the actual paper.

New York Times ad announcing that reserved seats were now on sale.

Todd's financial problems during production don't appear in the finished film, and as a result of its unexpected success he'd never have a shortage of funds for the rest of his very brief life.

Todd's Trophy

The curator's favorite picture of Mike Todd.

Any epic worth its salt in the 50's & 60's had a Dell "Movie Classics" edition.
Menu Cover
Click on picture to see
the guest list

Above, right - cover for the menu for Todd's lavish international buffet held at the world premiere. Virtually every piece of advertising for the film featured the famous balloon. The balloon itself was the centerpiece at Madison Square Garden in New York for the 1st anniversary nationally televised celebration of the premiere of the film. Readers of the Verne novel will find no such balloon. The French "Verne Society" objected strongly to the introduction of the balloon to the story, until the film became an international smash hit, whereupon they proclaimed it the best film ever made.

New York's Rivoli Theatre running AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

New York's Rivoli Theatre seen during the Todd-AO roadshow run of Around the World in 80 Days.

In addition to having a unique 34mm film width, the print used in London also featured an unusual 1.567:1 anamorphic compression. This allowed the nearly full 2.2:1 Todd-AO frame to be printed to the narrower film without significant cropping.

Following its extremely successful Todd-AO run *, Around The World In 80 Days was then opened in a semi exclusive run in major theatres using 1.567:1x anamorphic 35mm prints with 4 track sound similar to the London showing. These prints were made from the 24fps 65mm negative, as would all subsequent showings. Ultimately the general release of the film was done using standard 2:1 CinemaScope; compatible anamorphic, from the 24fps negative, with optical mono sound which included Perspecta tones for theatres that had the requisite integrators. The odd 1.567:1 anamorphic prints were labeled as being presented in Cinestage. Many of these prints are now in the hands of private collectors, frequently the source of film segments lost by the studios. Information relating to the production of the Cinestage prints varies widely. We are researching this further and significant updates to this page may result. Any persons that can provide information are kindly requested to contact the museum curator. We'll sort it all out if humanly possible.

* There is a possibility that some of the first roadshow runs, of about 30 in total, were actually made with 35mm Technicolor dye transfer reduction prints and the audiences were none the wiser. Todd had discovered, much to his chagrin, that the Technicolor prints, if projected exactly as the 70mm versions, looked just as good and required far less investment on the part of exhibitors. While we have no proof that Todd pulled a switch, Mike Jr. has hinted to this.

Today, Around The World In 80 Days seems to be little more than an overblown travelogue. Yet in 1956, when the film was released, it received universal rave reviews, which would seem odd for a film made by a producer who had never made a movie before, and a director of little renown. How is it possible that the perception of the film could seem so totally different? The answer probably lies in more than slight differences between the flow of the 24fps version seen nowadays and the initial giant curved screen presentation of the 30fps version. Just as the 35mm reduction prints of How The West Was Won are barely a pale representation of the Cinerama original, Around The World In 80 Days was produced with the enveloping screen and six track stereophonic sound in mind. Showing it any other way can only give us clues as to what the audience experienced in those early roadshows. The film is now the property of Time-Warner and until such time as they deem it feasible to restore (or even preserve) the roadshow version of this Oscar winner it may never be looked upon as anything more than an overblown travelogue. We can only hope that it's not too late already.

Todd's Death Reported in NewspaperDuring his promotion of Around The World In 80 Days Todd became convinced that the 65mm negative and a 35mm Technicolor reduction print was all that was necessary to give the full benefit of the system. He had sold his interest in Todd-AO and during his preparation for Don Quixote he discovered that a couple thousand dollars worth of high quality still camera lenses combined with "off the shelf" 65mm Mitchell cameras were of at least equal quality to what American Optical had spent well over a million dollars to develop. His plans for Don Quixote included filming the project in the improved "Todd Process" and projecting the roadshow prints in 35mm. Unfortunately, those plans came to an abrupt end in March, 1958, a little more than a year after Around The World In 80 Days premiered. Mike Todd Jr. would use the system under the name of "Todd-70" for his film Scent of Mystery, which even he agreed, didn't smell too good.

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©1996 - 2004 The American WideScreen Museum
Martin Hart, Curator