Cinerama Festival At The Cinerama Dome


In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Cinerama, The Cinerama Dome presents the most complete Cinerama festival of the last 50 years. From September 28 through October 3, all five of the 1950’s Cinerama travelogues, (“This Is Cinerama”, “Cinerama Holiday” (1955), “Seven Wonders of the World” (1956), “Search for Paradise” (1957), “South Seas Adventure”(1958) plus “Windjammer “(1958) which was filmed in the rival CineMiracle process, Cinerama’s Russian Adventure” (1966), “How The West Was Won” (1962) and Cinerama oddities including a 3-strip Renault automobile commercial which played with “How The West Was Won” in France, will be screened as they were designed to be seen.

The Festival launches with a free showing of “In the Picture” the first Cinerama film shot in 50 years. Cinerama Inc.’s John Sittig executive produced “In The Picture”. Director Dave Strohmaier, DOPs Doug Knapp and David Tondeur and AP/ AD Randy Gitsch shot a travelogue featuring free things to do in Hollywood.  The team refurbished to working a Cinerama camera, raiding parts from other non-operative Cinerama cameras. Fujifilm made them new stock at reduced rates and Foto-Chem labs processed the film also at reduced rates.  Shooting on weekends, the team shot for almost five months using location shoots at the Hollywood Heritage Museum at the Lasky-DeMIlle Barn, City Hall, the Disney Concert Hall, the Watts Towers, Angel’s Flight, Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese, a trip down Hollywood Boulevard, ending at the Arclight Theatre.

Also on view “The Golden Head” (1964). “The Golden Head” received its much belated U.S. premiere on September 8, 2009 at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, where the only surviving print of the film played for one night only as a double feature with the Smell-o-Rama “Scent of Mystery”  (1959), under its de-scented, 1961 Cinerama title, “Holiday in Spain”. The Anglo-Hungarian co-production began in three-camera Cinerama but switched to one-camera Super Technirama 70. Some of the three-panel footage was converted to 70mm and appears in the film.  The only surviving print of the legendary ‘Lost’ Cinerama feature “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” (1962). The cast includes Laurence Harvey (Wilhelm Grimm). Claire Bloom) Dorothea Grimm), Walter Slezak (bookseller Stossel), Martita Hunt, Buddy Hackett, Terry Thomas, Jim Backus, Yvette Mimieux, Russ Tamblyn, Oscar Homolka, Karlheinz Bohm (Jacob Grimm) and Arnold Stang (as Rumpelstiltskin) Harry Levin directed the dramatic sequences and George Pal produced and directed the fairy tale sequences.

Rounding out this remarkable tribute audiences will be treated to Stanley Kubrick’s Super Panavision “A Space Odyssey” (1968) and Stanley Kramer’s epic road comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963), shot in 2.75:1, anamorphic 70 mm (with extras Cinerama Dome construction and Mad World Premiere newsreel)  and the breakdown reels of “Cinerama” (with  Lowell Thomas & Dimitri Tiomkin) and “Cinerama Holiday.”

In 2002 Producers Randy Gitsch & Gary S. Hall, co-producer, writer- director David Strohmaier and executive producer Carin-Anne Strohmaier completed their remarkable “Cinerama Adventure” the definitive history of the three-camera widescreen projection process that changed the way audiences viewed film forever. In it’s mere ten years run, Cinerama, and it’s derivatives (Cinemiracle, VistaVision, Cinemascope, Technirama, Panavision and Todd-AO) established the widescreen ratio as the industry standard.

Tracking the story from special effects master Fred Waller’s inventive “Vitarama”  an early vital reality experience used to train Aerial gunners for World War ll, and the subsequent involvement with sound engineer Hazard Reeves (who created the  7-channel surround sound system which was remixed and customized at each roadshow performance), producer Mike Todd and filmmaker- adventurers  Lowell Thomas and Merion C. Cooper, all involved in the original “This Is Cinerama”.  We also meet the remarkable collector/ historian John Harvey,who prior to his debilitating stroke, built his own 3-strip cinema in home and had assembled  3-strip prints of “This is Cinerama”, “How The West Was Won” and “Cinerama Holiday”. Harvey collector Willem Bouwmeester of the International Cinerama Society (ICS) helped install the theatre at Pictureville at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford, England.


The labor of love documentary includes riveting backstories, interviews with historians and veterans of the Cinerama years and clips from all extant Cinerama films. It also gave legendary pilot Paul Mantz, who flew Cinerama cameramen for many death-defying sequences, his public props. (Mantz died filming “The Flight Of the Phoenix.”)  In order to show the clips in conventional movie houses David Strohmaier developed the innovative “Smilebox”, a revisioned format that simulates the seamed curved screen effect.  After the resounding festival and DVD success of “Cinema Adventure” Strohmaier approached John Sittig, the Director of Projection and Sound at Arclight and director of Pacific Theatre’s then inactive division Cinerama Inc, to discuss preserving the rotting Cinerama film stock. Sittig continued pressuring the people at Cinerama Inc. and Pacific Theatres, who own the Cinerama materials and the historic Dome, one of three extant three-projector theaters: the Martin in Seattle, the Dome in Hollywood and Pictureville at the National Media Museum at Bradford.


William R, Foreman bought the Cinerama process and assets from Nicolas Resini in the early 1960s. Forman, the founder of Pacific Theatres, built the Cinerama Dome in 1963.  Based on Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, the Dome was designed by Los Angeles architect, Welton Becket. (Becket also designed the circular Capitol Records and the rotating restaurant at LAX.)  Michael Forman, now Chairman of the Board of Pacific Theaters, oversaw the construction. His son Chris runs Pacific Theaters.


By the time the Dome opened, the industry and Cinerama Inc. had switched to the less expensive Ultra-Panavision anamorphic 70mm process and the 3-strip equipment was never installed in the two side booths.  In 2002, to celebrate 50th Anniversary of the release of “This Is Cinerama” (1952), Pacific Theatres installed three restored vintage Cinerama projectors and a sound dubber from the Cinerama Theatre in Honolulu.  “South Seas Adventure” has been digitally restored. Digital restorations of “Search For Paradise” and “Seven Wonders Of The World” are in the works. The other titles have all been remastered. There are no current plans by MGM to restore “The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm”, co-produced by Cinerama, Bavaria Film and MGM. Historian Strohmaier calls the various projects, including the digital remastering and restorations and Smilebox DVD releases “Cinema Forensics”.


Flicker Alley will be releasing two Cinerama Features, “This is Cinerama” and “Windjammer” in Smilebox Format. Smilebox has been used on the 2008  Blu-ray release of “How The West Was Won”, and as an extra on Kevin Brownlow’s ”I’m King Kong!: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper” (2005)  DVD. On October 18th, to celebrate Cinerama’s 60th Anniversary, Turner Classic Movies will air “Cinerama Adventure”, “This Is Cinerama” and “How The West Was Won”. It will be the first on-air used of the Smilebox format. I had a chance to interview John Sittig about how Cinerama has been saved for film lovers of the 21st century. Visionary Sittig, who is essentially “Cinerama Inc”, runs the virtual division for the Foreman family.

“It all began with John Harvey, who showed Cinerama in his private home theatre in Dayton Ohio in the 90’s. Dave (Strohmaier) came to me when he was contemplating making his documentary. At the same time Chris Foreman had a new cinema concept (which became Arclight Cinemas). Chris saw the transformative power of the movies. I went to the family and said, you have assets that have been untouched for 45-50 years, that fit Chris’s overall view of what Arclight is. Michael Foreman financed a photochemical reconstruction of “This Is Cinerama”. Working from the original negatives (not the black and white separations) we made a new color print. Even without going back to the separations, it was extremely expensive. Because there were only two theaters and one museum that could show the film, we though that was the end of it. Then came the digital age, Working with Image Trends in Austin, who digitally scanned and color corrected about 3, 400,000 negative frames of “South Sea Adventures”, we realized we could digitally restore the 4 three-strip Cinerama features “Seven Wonders Of the World”, “Search For Paradise” (as well as “Cinerama Holiday” and “How the West Was Won”) for the cost of the one photochemical print we did ten years ago. Dave removed dust and other artifacts. Some of the frames were unusable. We went to the Library Of Congress for sections of the original copywrite registration prints of the 1950’s.”

Q. What is Smilebox’s involvement? A. “Smilebox is a the registered trademark of a company owned by Dave Strohmaier and Cinerama Inc. Dave gets all the credit.’

Q. What’s left to be done? A.  “Search For Paradise” and “7 Wonders Of the World” are still in the digital restoration process, We will be showing  “Search For Paradise” in an original original 1957 3 -strip Eastman color print. (Expect faded magenta images.)  A work in progress version of “7 Wonders Of the World” will be shown using the restored 3-strip sections and sections from a Telecine 35 mm anamorphic print.”

Q. I understand that John Harvey’s wife sold all of his assets to pay for his daunting medical costs after his stroke. What happened to the material? A. “I believe it was purchased by a private collector in Cleveland.”

Q. What are your hopes for this historic festival? A. “There are enthusiasts traveling from all over the world to this event, I just want them to have as much fun watching these films as I have. You know, any film student who graduated after 1995 has never had an opportunity to watch Cinerama”. The digital restorations, which can be shown in Smilebox format at Universities and Performing Arts Centers and the upcoming Smilebox DVD releases will give them that chance.

SCHEDULE. Friday September 28. 10:00am IN THE PICTURE – FREE EVENT. Presented in 3-strip CINERAMA with extras including behind the scenes documentary on filming.

12:00noon SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE (1958). Digital presentation, remastered from original negative. (Rescreens Monday 3:20pm)

3:00pm CINERAMA HOLIDAY (1955). Digital presentation, remastered from original negative including the original break-down reel. (Rescreens Wednesday 2 PM)

7:00pm HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962). Presented in 3-strip Cinerama including a short on film locations & 3-strip Renault automobile commercial.  (Shows 7:00 Thursday)

11:00pm 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Presented in 2K Digital. (Rescreens Tuesday 8:15 )

Saturday September 29. 10:00am GOLDEN HEAD (1965). Digital Presentation, remastered from 65mm negative.

12:45pm THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962). Presented in 3-strip CINERAMA, original print courtesy of National Media Museum. (Rescreens Monday 7 pm.)

4:00pm SEARCH FOR PARADISE (1957). Presented in 3-strip CINERAMA including original break-down reel with Lowell Thomas & Dimitri Tiomkin. (Rescreens Thursday 12:30

7:00pm SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD (1956). Digital presentation, plus extra IN THE PICTURE SHORT. (Rescreens Monday 12:00 noon)

11:00pm HOLIDAY IN SPAIN(1961). Digital presentation remastered from 65mm negative.

Sunday September 30th. 10:00am CINERAMA’S RUSSIAN ADVENTURE (1966) XX. Digital Presentation, remastered from 65mm negative. (Rescreens Tuesday 1 Pm)

1:00pm WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH  XX. (1958) Digital Presentation, remastered from Swedish Film Institute 35mm composite print. (Rescreens Tuesday 4:30)

4:30pm IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963) SOLD OUT. Presented in 70mm Ultra Panavision Extra: Cinerama Dome construction and Mad World Premiere newsreel. (Show added for October 3rd) (Rescreens Wednesday 7 PM)

8:15pm 60th Anniversary Screening of THIS IS CINERAMA (1956). Presented in original 3-strip CINERAMA, plus IN THE PICTURE short including a follow up behind the scenes documentary accompanied by a Q&A with filmmakers.

Monday October 1st. 12:00noon SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD (1956). Digital presentation remasted from original negative.

3:20pm SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE(1958). Digital presentation, remastered from original negative. Extra: IN THE PICTURE short.

7:00pm THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962). Presented in 3-strip CINERAMA. 

10:15pm CINERAMA HOLIDAY (1955)  breakdown reel & IN THE PICTURE.

Tuesday October 2nd. 1:00pm CINERAMA’S RUSSIAN ADVENTURE (1966). Digital Presentation, remastered from 65mm negative.

4:30pm WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH. (1958) Digital presentation including IN THE PICTURE short.

8:15pm 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Presented in 2K digital.

Wednesday October 3rd. 2:00pm CINERAMA HOLIDAY (1955). Digital presented including original breakdown reel & IN THE PICTURE.

7:00pm IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963). Presented in 70mm Ultra Panavision Extra: Cinerama Dome construction and Mad World Premiere newsreel.

 Thursday October 4th. 12:30pm SEARCH FOR PARADISE(1957). Presented in 3-strip Cinerama.

3:45pm THIS IS CINERAMA  (1952). Presented in 3-strip Cinerama. 

7:00pm HOW THE WEST WAS WON(1962. Presented in 3-strip Cinerama Extras: Q&A, location short, Renault Automobile Commercial in Cinerama. For Tickets check


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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