My Cinerama Project Begins This Weekend


Seattle Cinerama
Photo: Seattle Cinerama

If you’re not familiar, Seattle is home to one of only three movie theaters in the United States with the capability of playing three-panel Cinerama films. It is rightfully called the Seattle Cinerama theater and in 2014 it was fully restored, equipped with a Christie 6P laser projection system and Dolby Atmos sound along with the ability to screen 35mm, 70mm and Cinerama films.

On Valentine’s Day night I had my first experience with the new theater, when I saw Some Like It Hot, but a couple days later I got my first taste of what the new theaters actually had to offer, mind you only a small taste. And this is where this Cinerama project I’m referring to comes into play.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I will be putting together a short video exploring the ins and outs of the newly restored Cinerama. In their projection room they have two 35mm projectors, a 70mm projector and two Christie 6P laser projectors. These five cameras are on a track system that allows them to be moved depending on what movies the theater is showing and this weekend, as part of their current Fists & Fury Festival, they will be showing a DCP version of Bruce Lee‘s The Way of the Dragon (1972) followed by Kung Fu Hustle (2004) on 35mm. This means in the two hours between showings the projection room will go through a bit of a change and I will be there to document it. This will only be the start of what I plan on doing.

You know those videos that get uploaded online every now and again, featuring a projectionist assembling a film, such as this one for an IMAX screening of Interstellar? Well, I plan on documenting that exact process, but a little more up close and looking to obtain a lot more information about the process. I want to know more of the technical details, information regarding the matting process and, quite simply, answers to what the hell everything is and not so much as a commercial (though it will definitely show off the Cinerama’s capabilities), but more as a piece of information giving you an idea of what all goes into a proper screening of a movie on both digital and film.

I’m not sure how long this is going to take, because while I only intend the video to be about five to six minutes long, or thereabouts, I am hoping to wait until the Cinerama has another 70mm festival so I can get a chance to watch a 70mm film be assembled and hopefully one that will show on the Cinerama screen, which is how I caught Cleopatra a few years back.

For a taste of what that looks like, the Cinerama screen is a 97-foot long, curved screen consisting of 2,000 vertical strips and it isn’t just a matter of opening the curtains a little wider as you’ll see in the video below. They have to actually tear down the current screen in an effort to properly install the Cinerama screen as the timelapse video below exhibits.

The Seattle Cinerama is an impressive beast of a cinema and if all goes well I’m going to be able to shed a little light on the projection process that I personally want to know more about as well as show off the Cinerama facilities. For more information on the Seattle Cinerama click here and check out the timelapse video below showing all that goes into installing the 146 degree Cinerama Curve.