The Cinerama Dome
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The Cinerama Dome Theatre stood by itself on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles since the early ‘60s, but recently it was surrounded by the ArcLight Cinema multiplex which is run by Pacific Theatres.  The theatre opened with “It’s a Mad Mad World” in the second variation of Cinerama, a 70mm anamorphic system.  Ironically, the original 3-panel Cinerama was never seen at the theatre until the autumn of 2002.

Interior of the multiplex lobby showing the ticket area.  To the left is the theatre gift shop, and in the lower frame a bar and restaurant.

Projection staff for “This is Cinerama”: Dave, B.J., John, and Gunther. John, second from right, is John Sittig, chief projectionist for the Pacific Theatre circuit, he also presides over what remains of Cinerama, Inc.  He is the one who supervises the show, while the others stay with their assigned machines.

One of the side panel machines.  The Cinerama projectors were manufactured by the original Century, when they were still based in Long Island, N.Y. These particular machines were removed from a theatre in Honolulu and restored by Cinerama guru John Harvey.

Close-up of one of the side panel machines.  The early 3-strip cameras were no great shakes as far as registration goes, so today the projectionists are obliged to stay with their machines and ride the framing knob, making subtle adjustments with almost every scene change. At the heart of the machine is a device called a “jiggle-o”, which is a moving, comb shaped affair near the gate which causes the side of the frame to blur slightly, this helps mask the join lines.

Getting ready to thread up the center panel projector. On top of the machine by the exhaust is a box containing the Cinerama alignment film.  The lamps are 4000 watts each.

The Dome’s everyday-use machine is a Kinoton 35/70 with an electronic movement.  Again, to fill the Dome’s 80 foot screen takes 4000 watts for 35mm, and 7500 for 70mm.

Close-up of the Kinoton.  During the run of “This is Cinerama”, this machine was threaded with the original 1952 ‘breakdown reel’, which was basically 30 minutes of Lowell Thomas bullshitting while the problem was addressed.  If enough people in the audience were interested, John would occasionally run it after the show, just as a hoot.

Act One and Act Two.

Six channel stereo, the hard way.  The sound track of the film is on 35mm mag full-coat, which is synchronized on this dubber.  This 7500 foot reel contains the sound for act one.  In the pre-platter days, the picture elements were also on 7500 foot reels.

Sound racks, with the dubber visible in the background.  Also visible are DTS drives and SDDS decoder, below and above the 650.  Out of the lower frame are QSC amps.

Getting ready to roll the 4:15 show.  Because a mis-thread would be disastrous, the projectionists triple check each machine.  That is, each of the three operators visit all three machines to check each others threading.

Home page menu of the automation touch-screen, showing sub-menus available.

On your way out, why not stop by the gift shop and pick up a Kollmorgan or Super Snaplite?  Pacific sells their used lenses there, at $36.99 a pop.

Special thanks to Mark Ogden and John Sittig for the pics.