THIS IS CINERAMA [1952 / 2012] [60th Anniversary Edition] [Deluxe Combo Blu-ray + DVD] [USA Release] It Plunges You Into A Startling New World!

On the evening of September 30, 1952, the shape and sound of movies changed forever with the introduction of Cinerama. This unique widescreen process was launched when television was deemed as a major threat to US film exhibition. Fred Waller, Cinerama's creator, had indeed laboured that long on his dream of a motion picture experience that would recreate the full range of human vision. It used three cameras and three projectors on a curved screen 146° deep.

In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of its premiere, Flicker Alley is proud to present ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ [1953 Academy Award® Winner], exactly as seen by over 20,000,000 viewers in its original roadshow version. You will travel around the world with Cinerama, from Venice to Madrid, from Edinburgh Castle to the La Scala opera house in Milan, and concluding with a flight across America in the nose of a B-25 bomber. Experience this cinema classic once again in this unique SMILEBOX curved screen simulation! Narrated by Lowell Thomas.

FILM FACT No.1: 1954 Academy Award®: Nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Louis Forbes. 2002 National Film Preservation Board, USA: Win: National Film Registry for ‘THIS IS CINERAMA.’

FILM FACT No.2: ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ premiered on the 30th September, 1952 at the Broadway Theatre, in New York City. The producers were Lowell Thomas, Merian C. Cooper, and Robert L. Bendick. The film was also directed by Merian C. Cooper (and an uncredited Mike Todd, Jr.) had long experience with technical innovation in cinema, dating back to directing the original 1933 ‘King Kong.’ Parts of the film were shot in the Kennecott open-pit mine and in Zion National Park in Utah. Although the film score was credited to Louis Forbes, who conducted the music, it was composed by Paul Sawtell, Max Steiner who composed the opening credit sequences, Cypress Gardens, Flight Across America, and the End Credits. In 2002, the Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and inducted it into the National Film Registry for permanent preservation.

Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Gunther von Fritsch, Merian C. Cooper, Michael Todd and Michael Todd Jr.,

Producers: Lowell Thomas, Merian C. Cooper, Michael Todd and Robert L. Bendick

Composers: Howard Jackson (uncredited), Leo Shuken (uncredited), Max Steiner (uncredited), Miklós Rózsa (uncredited), Paul Sawtell (uncredited), Roy Webb (uncredited) and Sidney Cutner (uncredited)

Cinematography: Harry E. Squire and Jack Priestley (assistant cameraman)

Image Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 and 2.56:1

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: None

Running Time: 127 minutes

Region: Blu-ray + DVD: All Regions

Number of discs: 2

Studio: Flicker Alley

Andrew's Blu-ray Review: With the start of THIS IS CINERAMA [1952] the overture plays as the audience begins to settle into their seats. After a few minutes of that lovely music, the curtains start to pull back. In the centre of this curved and startlingly wide screen is Lowell Thomas. In that boxy, black-and-white frame, Lowell Thomas charts the history of capturing motion in art, from cave paintings all the way to The Great Train Robbery tens of thousands of years later. Artistic mediums and techniques are constantly evolving, and the motion picture has just stepped onto the next rung of its evolutionary ladder. Then finally Lowell Thomas announces Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS IS CINERAMA!

Cinerama Productions Corp. vice-chairman Lowell Thomas introduces the ground-breaking new film process, called Cinerama, by recounting, in a small screen format and in black-and-white, a short history of graphic arts, from cave paintings to today. The Cinerama sequences begin with a roller-coaster ride, and then scenes from a ballet at the La Scala Theatre in Milan, Italy are shown.

Next, viewers see a view of Niagara Falls via helicopter, followed by a performance of “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel's Messiah sung by the Long Island Choral Society. Images follow of a gondola floating down the canals of Venice and a Scottish pipe band parading on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. The Vienna Boys Choir perform “Tales from the Vienna Woods” from the operetta Die fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, in the garden of the Schoenbrunn Palace, then a crowd in a Madrid arena watches a bullfight. Spanish folk dances are presented. Actors then perform the finale of Act II of the Verdi opera Aida.

After an intermission, Lowell Thomas narrates a demonstration of Cinerama's stereophonic sound system. The film's second act begins with sequences of motor-boating and water-skiing, filmed at Cypress Gardens, Florida. Finally, the “America the Beautiful” sequence shows spectacular aerial views of New York, Washington, Chicago, Illinois, the Grand Tetons and other American locations.

‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ is more than anything, is an experience. Predating IMAX by nearly twenty years, Cinerama immersed the audience in an unparalleled spectacle of sight and sound. Movies up to that point had been a largely passive experience; ‘THIS IS CINERAMA,’ meanwhile, transports its wide-eyed viewers to worlds they'd likely never seen before. With a screen of such an incomprehensibly staggering size, they're not merely onlookers...they're a part of the action. There is no narrative. There are no high-wattage stars. The entrancing allure of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ is instead that it whisks viewers away. Feel as if you're screaming down the Atom Smasher coaster at Rockaway Playland. That list is just scratching the surface too.

On viewing ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ on my Samsung 46” Smart 3D Television, I found myself wholly immersed throughout this two hour journey. Aided by its powerful multichannel soundtrack and the SMILEBOX curved screen simulation on this Blu-ray disc, does well in capturing as best it can with the curvature of those colossally panoramic Cinerama screens. ‘THIS IS CINERAMA' does a remarkable job making me feel as if I really am there. It also can't be overlooked that some of the imagery captured here is simply no longer there to experience first-hand. The second disc in the set is an NTSC DVD with an anamorphic widescreen SMILEBOX version of the film on Side A and its extra special features on Side B.


THE BLUE DANUBE (uncredited) (Music by Johann Strauss)

Finale of Act II from the opera "Aida" (uncredited) (Music by Giuseppe Verdi)

HALLELUJAH CHORUS from "The Messiah" (uncredited) (Music by George Frideric Handel)

TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS (uncredited) (Music by Johann Strauss)

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (uncredited) (Music by Samuel A. Ward) (Lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates)

Blu-ray Image Quality – ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ is presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.56:1, and with a stunning 1080p transfer image. As was the case with the restoration of ‘WIDNJAMMER: The Voyage of the Christian Radich.’ David Strohmaíer and his colleagues had access to limited funds to make sure that ‘THIS IS CINERAMA' looks as best as possible. They could not scan the original negative (which apparently was not in a terribly good condition), but worked with a 65mm dupe negative which was made in the early 1970s from a rejected print. Needless to say, the restorers had to spend a great deal of time to address all sorts of different anomalies. Generally speaking, detail and especially clarity is really excellent. There are some fluctuations as well as minor alignment issues, but overall the basics are rather decent. Some colour fluttering also remains, but its presence never becomes distracting. In fact, during the second act colour saturation is often very good. Specs, debris, and various scratches have been removed and the film now looks quite healthy. Furthermore, as much grain as possible has been retained to make sure that the integrity of the film is preserved. However, it is quite clear that definition and depth could have been even better. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, considering the type of elements the restorers had to work with as well as the fact that they had to operate with a small budget, I think it is fair to say that what could have been done to make `THIS IS CINERAMA' looks very presentable and was done in a very professional way. For the record, Flicker Alley has not provided an optional English subtitles for the main feature.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio. There are sequences where the surround track really impresses. For a film now sixty years old with this particular Blu-ray release, the depth and range of dynamics are quite remarkable. In the first act, in particular, the variety of dynamics is outstanding. The narration is also exceptionally crisp, clean, and stable and is also quite beautiful, indeed and gets a five star rating from me.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Audio Commentary with John Sittig (Cinerama, Inc.), Dave Strohmaier (Cinerama Historian), Randy Gitsch (Locations background), and Jim Morrison (original crew member): They provide a plethora of in-depth informative with this audio commentary, in regards to the sights and sounds seen in the Cinerama film and its 18 months restoration process. It's a consistently engaging, nicely-edited audio commentary, and startlingly comprehensive in its conversation. Every segment is explored in marvellous detail, delving into the subjects featured within the film as well as the specifics of the production itself. Among the innumerable other highlights are notes about original Cinerama productions being shot at 26fps rather than the industry standard 24fps, the challenges of projecting a film like this, a hidden cameo by Mary Martin and Larry Hagman, and we are also informed what kind of snacks audiences were allowed to munch on in Cinerama theatres.

Special Feature: Re-mastering a Widescreen Classic [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] [19:01] David Strohmaíer [Remastering Director] and Gregg Kimble [Image Restoration] discuss the 18 month re-mastering and reconstruction of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ and talk about some of the specific technical obstacles they had to overcome, especially with the negative, which they painstakingly had to do each individual frames, which helped by the use of a FURNACE CORE and is an Oscar-winning, sophisticated suite of over 40 2D image-processing plug-ins designed to enhance workflow and boost productivity for digital artists. Drawing on extensive research into advanced image-processing algorithms, FURNACE CORE's tools helped the VFX technical artists tackle everyday compositing tasks with ease and speed and helped to eliminate all of the thousands of speckles and dirt that was on the original print and it also realigned the three panels. We also get to view various before-and-after image demonstrations.

Special Feature: ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ “Breakdown Reel” [1952] [1.33:1] [1080p] [4:52] Both Cinerama and Cinemiracle 3-panel systems could breakdown during a performance. If this happened, a regular projector had an emergency reel ready to screen. The colour footage presented here comes from one such reel and is introduced by Lowell Thomas and explains why we are viewing this “breakdown reel” because of technical problems with the Cinerama projectors.

Special Feature: Alternate Act II For European Opening [1952] [1080p] [2.56:1] [1:46] ‘THIS IS CINERAMA' gives us a brief clip of an alternate intro that is introduced by Lowell Thomas and is presented in high definition, approaches things from more of a European perspective. This is the only three-panel feature on the Blu-ray disc that hasn't been processed in the SMILEBOX presentation.

Special Feature: Fred Waller Radio Interview [1952] [1080i] [1.78:1] [15:30] The first part of this radio interview is entitled “Luncheon at Sardi’s” and this interview was originally broadcast on the 30th September, 1952 for the WOR Radio New York on the eve of the opening night of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA.’ We also get a Long Island Radio interview with Fred Waller, several days after the opening night of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ on Broadway. At the same time we get to view a slideshow featuring images of Fred Waller who was the inventor of Cinerama, and explains what Cinerama is and what its objective for the patron visiting the cinema.

‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ Trailer [2011] [1080p] [2.56:1] [3:17] This is a brand new recreation trailer in HD for the restored and reconstructed ‘THIS IS CINERAMA.' We get to view The Roller Coaster Ride, Niagara Falls, Venice in Italy, Florida Everglades, the Grand Canyon, Washington D.C. and Spectacular Views of America from the air.

TV Spots [1952] [1080p] [1.33:1] [1:44] Here we get to view two Black-and-White trailers that was broadcast on American Television and they were ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ and ‘7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD’ and is introduced by Lowell Thomas.

Special Feature: Tribute to the New Neon Movies [1996 / 1999] [1080p] [1.37:1] [13:57] This short film celebrates the Cinerama revival in Dayton, Ohio, USA from 1996 to 1999, at the New Neon Movies cinema where a local projectionist set up Cinerama for special screenings to people from all over America. On their opening night, Mrs. Marianna Munn Thomas informs the people behind the event, that it was the anniversary of when Lowell Thomas passed away on 29th August, 1981 which is the same day of this special screening of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA,’ now how spooky is that. We also get a brief view of the Pictureville Cinema at National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, that is now a permanent IMAX cinema. The New Neon Movies cinema in Dayton, Ohio was the first theatre in 32 years to exhibit the historic Cinerama process in America. From August of 1996 until April 200, screenings were held on weekends and special occasions. Each performance was handled by one projectionist, John Harvey. He was the inspiration for the process being installed in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California. Currently, the New Neon Movies cinema is a 2 cinema screen theater and no longer capable of showing Cinerama. Contributors include: Larry Smith, Manager of the New Neon Movies cinema [1997], John Harvey, Cinerama Expert and Historian [1997] and Mrs. Marianna Munn Thomas [Lowell Thomas' wife] [1997].

Special Feature: Tribute to the New Cooper Theatre [2012] [1080i] [1.37:1] [2:58] This is a tribute to the New Cooper Theatre and remembering the first Super Cinerama screen in Denver, Colorado, USA, which opened on the 9th March, 1961 and we get a grand tour via this very detailed slideshow, and we also get a few clips from someone’s 8mm home movie. This first Super Cinerama in Denver, Colorado, USA, featured a 146-degree louvered screen (measuring 105 feet by 35 feet), 814 seats, courtesy lounges on the sides of the theatre for relaxation during intermission, which included a concessions for smoking facilities, and also had a ceiling which routed air and heating through small vent slots in order to inhibit noise from the building's ventilation equipment. The New Cooper Theatre was sadly demolished in January 1994 to make way for a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Special Feature: ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ Behind the Scenes Slideshow [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] [5:57] This special feature shows us a collection of Black-and-White and Colour images from the production process, the original exhibition, and original publicity for ‘THIS IS CINERAMA.’ In the background we hear the composed film music for ‘THIS IS CINERAMA.’ 

Special Feature: Promotion & Publicity Image Gallery [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] Here we get to view 16 Promotional images relating to all aspects of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ including lots of rare items. To view all the images, you have to press the ENTER button on your remote control to advance the images.


Finally, the impact of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ on the way films looked, on the way they sounded, and most of all on its wide-eyed audiences, cannot be overstated, and it's such a thrill to at long last see the film find its way to home video. Flicker Alley's Blu-ray release of ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ is a labour of love in every sense of the word, from its meticulous re-mastering to an impressive selection of extras. If the film had been better cared for decades ago, there is no question that ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ would have scored very highest recommendation. It's just that as remarkable as this re-mastering is, given the dismal condition of the source material; it's still perhaps the most problematic large-format release on Blu-ray. The detail and clarity that define these films just aren't there, sadly. If only people had for thought of how history would look upon these classic films of its time, sadly no one knew that the Blu-ray format was looming over the horizon. Despite all that, even viewing it on my Samsung 46” Smart 3D Television it of course cannot hold a candle to an actual 86' x 32' Cinerama screen, which I have viewed first hand when it was shown in a London Cinema and it blew me away then, but sadly these types if cinemas no longer exist, but in the meantime with this Blu-ray disc I still find myself wholly entranced by ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ and its magic hasn't faded over these six past decades, and it remains so immersive and so powerful an experience even at this smaller scale. I can't completely overlook the issues with the presentation, though, especially given the Blu-ray disc's not-inconsiderable high price (though it's currently available through Flicker Alley who are selling it much cheaper). Here's hoping that one day, the funds will be found to do a full restoration of the original negative. In the meantime, I'm very glad and over joyed to have this classic edition of the Flicker Alley ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ in my Blu-ray collection. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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