Welcome to the online version of Wide Screen Movies Magazine, a site dedicated to those movies that have been shot and presented in one of the many and varied wide screen formats that have come and gone over the years.
Prior to 1952 films were normally projected with an aspect ratio – the relation of a screen’s width to its height – of 1.33:1. This almost square shape was what people had long been accustomed to seeing when they went to the cinema. However, with the debut – on September 30th 1952 – of a revolutionary new system called Cinerama, this was about to change.
Cinerama pushed the aspect ratio out to 2.76:1, almost the entire field of view for the human eye, and onto an all-encompassing, deeply curved screen, accompanied by a powerful multi-track surround sound system.
Over the ensuing years, Cinerama would spawn a host of ‘widescreen’ systems with very ‘wide’ sounding names; CinemaScope, SuperScope, VistaVision, Todd-AO, Panavision, etc etc., and it’s this type of film that we will be concerned with here.
For me, it all began back in the mid 1950s, when one of our local cinemas closed for a few days to have something called ‘CinemaScope’ installed (I’d actually been taken to a neighbouring town see The Robe a couple of years earlier and the term ‘CinemaScope’ hadn’t registered in my five-year-old conciousness at that time – only the stereophonic sound, during the crucifixion scene, that I found deeply unnerving; but by 1955 I was a cinema veteran, and could sit through anything).
The cinema (The Palace, Heywood, actually) reopened with Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and from that point on I was hooked! Seven Brides became an instant favourite (and has remained so), and I wanted to see more of these CinemaScopey films – and there were a lot of them about; costume epics like Demetrius And The Gladiators, Seven Cities Of Gold, Land Of The Pharaohs and Helen Of Troy; westerns like The Last Wagon, White Feather and The Man From Laramie; war films like The Man Who Never Was and Battle Cry, and so on and so on... We went to the pictures twice a week in those days before the advent of Television and I must have seen scores of films, but the wide ones were special – I remember being disappointed that The Ten Commandments wasn’t in ’Scope; VistaVision somehow never resonated as a widescreen system to me, even though it actually was, sort of.
A few years later, the 70mm systems appeared. A rare trip, in the late fifties, to the Gaumont, Manchester meant that South Pacific was the first one I ever saw (my mum told me it was a war film - mothers!), but Ben-Hur the following year was much more up my street. Then came Spartacus, The Alamo, Barabbas, El Cid – this was more like it. Now we had Technirama 70, Super Panavision 70, Ultra Panavision 70 – and finally, in 1963, Cinerama itself came to Manchester’s Theatre Royal with How The West Was Won!
Happy days, happy times. That’s the period this site intends to look back at; to try and recapture a time when going to the pictures was an event; when memories that lasted a lifetime were made; when long-forgotten terms like ‘Continuous Performance’ or ‘Roadshow’ or ‘Intermission’ or the classic, ‘This is where we came in’ were commonplace. Come in and step back in time for a little while...
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John Hayes/Wide Screen Movies Magazine
Last revised: 30 September, 2020
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