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FLICK PICKS: Cinerama lives! (Sort of)
August 28, 2008  | By Diane Werts
How-the-West-Was-Won-Posters.jpgHow the West Was Won debuts on Encore Westerns Saturday at 8 p.m. after a six-year frame by frame restoration of the original three-strip Cinerama print of the 1962 epic.

John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gregory Peck and Debbie Reynolds head an all-star cast, directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall, in a sprawling three-part saga chronicling four generations of a 19th century pioneer family. The film won Oscars for best writing, editing and sound, and earned five other nominations, including best picture.

But an even bigger draw back in 1962 was the surround-screen Cinerama process, which wrapped the picture around moviegoers in specially equipped theaters in large cities. Cinerama films were shot with three cameras and projected with three projectors, all interlocked and overlapped, after being specifically designed to be seen on a curved screen. (Click on Cinerama for an informative Wikipedia explanation of the process. And then go here to read about filming How the West Was Won in three-strip Cinerama.)

This Is Cinerama premiered the process in 1952 at New York's Broadway Theatre, and most succeeding Cinerama titles were also travelogue-type documentaries created to exploit the wrapped-view screen (much as 3-D films tended to emphasize making objects move outward, more than making sense). How the West Was Won and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm were the only story-driven Cinerama features.

Three-strip Cinerama didn't last long, being so expensive and cumbersome, but the brand name was applied through the 1960s for such single-lens ultra-widescreen films as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and even 2001: A Space Odyssey. Surviving Cinerama theaters include Seattle's Cinerama and Hollywood's Arclight Cinerama Dome. They just don't have many Cinerama movies to show.

So find the biggest TV screen you can this weekend and tune to Encore Westerns (click the link to see a preview), while pretending you've landed a road-show ticket to a 1962 Cinerama presentation that's bending the screen around you. (Or try the same trick with the Sept. 9 DVD/Blu-ray release.) That's the closest most of us 21st century folks will get to the mind-bending Cinerama experience.

how the west wide.jpg Above: Cinerama frame from Swedish print of How the West Was Won, seen at in70mm.com.



djr 2000 said:

I missed the saturday showing of how the west was won. Is it going to be replayed. I saw it for the last time in the 60's on a school trip to the cinerama theater in nyc

Diane said:

'How the West Was Won' repeat schedule on Encore Westerns (all times ET):
Thursday (Sept. 4) at 9:50 a.m.
Wednesday (Sept. 10) at 1:20 p.m.
Monday (Sept. 15) at 11:35 a.m.

Dave said:

The thing about watching HTWWW on Cable, DVD, or Video all these years was those two lines where the three cameras overlapped. For me it was very distracting and made it very difficult to get involved in the story. After watching some of the Encore showing, it looks like they did a great job of getting rid of that distraction. I look forward to watching the whole movie in its remastered form.

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