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VistaVision approaches retirement

As the decade of the 1950's neared an end, things were changing at Paramount. Film budgets were scrutinized for every excess penny. Competitive studios did not adopt VistaVision as had been hoped and the cost of shooting in the large format put Paramount at an economic disadvantage. Thanks to the vast improvement in Eastmancolor negative, Technicolor could produce standard prints that rivalled the VistaVision optical reductions. Motion Picture High Fidelity became the system used on big budget films rather than all product from the studio. Seen below is a small copy of a two page trade paper ad for Paramount's offering for 1959-1960.

Courtesy of Stephen Paley

Of the twenty feature films listed, only six were announced to be made in VistaVision. One of them never got made, "No Bail For The Judge", (above right), was to be Alfred Hitchcock's last picture under his Paramount contract. Paramount bean counters resisted the planned use of VistaVision for the film by itemizing the cost of the large format system in his previous film, Vertigo, which had not been a huge money maker in its first release. The itemization of VistaVision excess cost is shown below, from the Alfred Hitchcock Special Collection at the AMPAS Library (courtesy of Stephen Paley).

March 25, 1959


Below is the estimated savings if PROD 10344--VERTIGO--had been shot in Standard Color instead of Technicolor VistaVision:

182,900 ft of negative @ .1261

170,000 ft of developed @ .055

11,000 ft of protective master @ .57

Sales tax

A & B dissolves & SPD

Camera techs 17 wks @ 120. -- difference in rates from that of an assistant


Location Expenses

Insurance, taxes, etc.

Overhead @ 26%

Total cost of VistaVision Color over Standard Color

cc: Messrs.     H. Coleman
                C. Mick












A. A. Grosser

ONE-EYED JACKSMarlon Brando took over the director's chair from Stanley Kubrick and actually wound up with a very solid piece of film making. One-Eyed Jacks was one of the last films made in VistaVision, and it may well be the most beautifully photographed. Even Karl Malden managed to look great, at least in the second part of the film.

Following One-Eyed Jacks, released in 1960, My Six Loves released in 1962, was the last feature to use VistaVision for principal photography. The process continues to be widely used in special effects houses where its large format negative allows several generations of effects photography to retain high enough quality to be intercut with conventional production filming.

Paramount Makes a Decision
From the March, 1960 issue of American Cinematographer
Industry News

Creators of VistaVision
Switching to Technirama

Paramount Studios, which launched its VistaVision widescreen system several years ago as its answer to 20th Century-Fox's CinemaScope, has decided to make a gradual changeover to Technirama for the studio's future color productions. Technirama, which is an adaptation of VistaVision to Technicolor cameras, employs VV's horizontal film transport system and double-frame picture area.
The launching of VistaVision involved the construction of special cameras for Paramount by Mitchell Camera Corporation, the majority of which were used extensively in the photography of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments."

Over the next few years Paramount produced a handful of films in Technirama but by the mid 60s they had adopted Panavision anamorphic as their standard for any films wider than 1.85:1.

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Martin Hart, Curator