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Friday 26 April 2013, 11:53

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

There's a celebration of widescreen cinema at the National Media Museum in Bradford this weekend including a presentation in Cinerama. Has anyone experienced this extraordinary medium - and what was it like?

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    Comment number 3.

    I've never experienced Cinerama (living where I do it's enough of a trek to get to a decent IMAX venue, and that's after you've fought for hours online for the tickets), but I will point people to Bill Bryson's almost tear-jerkingly affectionate description of it in his travel book 'Notes from a Small Island'. Even if his describing a format most of us have never seen, it can still be read as a touching nod to the medium of cinema as a whole.

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    Comment number 5.

    I haven't seen Cinerama. i have been to the 180 Degrees cinema at Thorpe Park. That was quite good. But not quite what you where asking

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    Comment number 6.

    Well I've never experienced the real thing but I've watched the smilebox version of How the West was won on blu with my face about 4 feet from the Plasma and that was "Interesting".

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    Comment number 7.

    I spent a whole day at Widescreen Weekend last year and had a terrific time seeing some of the different formats. It was my first experience of non-Imax 70mm seeing Ryan's Daughter, which I enjoyed a lot, and I also saw The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.

    It was apparently the first time in 50 years the three-strip print had been shown publicly, and what was unfortunate was that some of the reels had aged at different rates (mainly towards the beginning of the film), so the colours didn't match and the three images weren't aligned properly for a good portion of the running time. So it was a bit of a distancing experience, but that's also partly because the curved perspective looks so unusual compared to what we're used to. The opening scenes of the brothers at their desks facing each other are startlingly weird, it's quite odd but also exciting.

    The drawbacks of preserving the film would possibly be helped if the Brothers Grimm was a better film!

    I also saw the digital restoration of Cinerama's South Seas Adventure, an extremely entertaining travelogue around the Pacific Islands and Down Under from a quaint '50s American perspective. So with this you get the curved Cinerama experience from one digital projector with pristine colours, and it really is terrific, as much fun as an Imax documentary and a unique way of watching a film.

    So, like Imax it seems that Cinerama is a tricky format to get right, but if it's done well then it pays off. I'd love to see How The West Was Won in the three-strip format.

    TRIVIA: re: Cinerama screens outside the US, I think there's one in Australia. The special guest for last year's South Seas Adventure screening was a lady from the Pacific islands who features in the film. It was the first time since 1958 (I think) that she'd seen it, so flew all the way to Bradford for the occasion only to be told that it is screened every year in Sydney where she has a home!

    Also worth noting that the Cinerama showreel, This Is Cinerama, which Bill Bryson wrote about, still screens in three-strip on the first Saturday of the month in Bradford. Really need to see that one of these days.


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