Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cinerama Postcards

I remember going to see Cinerama with my Girl Scout troop in the 1950s. I don't remember which movie I saw, but the memory motivated me to collect these postcards many years later.

The first Cinerama movie, This is Cinerama, was released in 1952. The original Cinerama system involved shooting with three synchronized 35mm cameras sharing a single shutter. Each camera photographed one third of the picture shooting in a crisscross pattern, the right camera shooting the left part of the image, the left camera shooting the right part of the image and the center camera shooting straight ahead. The single shutter in front of the three lenses assured simultaneous exposure on each of the films. The three cameras were set at 48 degrees to each other and photographed an image that was three times as wide as a standard film and covered 146 degrees of arc, close to the human field of vision, including peripheral vision.

Cinerama films were projected from three projection booths arranged in the same crisscross pattern as the cameras. They projected onto a deeply curved screen, the outer thirds of which were made of over 1100 strips of material mounted on "louvers" like a vertical venetian blind, to prevent light projected to each end of the screen from reflecting to the opposite end and washing out the image.

The second Cinerama film was Cinerama Holiday, released in 1955.

Seven Wonders of the World was released in 1956.

Search for Paradise was released in 1957.

South Seas Adventure was released in 1958.

How the West Was Won was released in 1962. I have postcards of two scenes from this film (The Buffalo Stampede and Shooting the Rapids). Several other scenes from How the West Was Won were also published on postcards (The Great Train Robbery, The Battle of Shiloh, and The Wagon Train Attack).

These films used the original three-strip Cinerama process. Rising costs of making three-camera widescreen films caused Cinerama to stop making such films in their original form shortly after the first release of How the West Was Won. Later Cinerama films were made with a system using a single camera and 70mm prints.

Originally existing theaters were adapted to show Cinerama films. This is a list of "exclusive Cinerama theatres" from the back of the first postcard, circa 1955.

Cinema Treasures blog has a series of retrospectives on Cinerama, Remembering Cinerama, listing 48 locations.

In 1961 and 1962 the non-profit Cooper Foundation of Lincoln, Nebraska, designed and built three near-identical circular "super-Cinerama" theaters in Denver, Colorado; St. Louis Park, Minnesota (a Minneapolis suburb); and Omaha, Nebraska. The last postcard is from the St. Louis Park (Minneapolis) Cooper Theatre.

Source: Wikipedia
More about Cinerama: American WideScreen Museum

Watch the trailer for classic 3 panel Cinerama movie, This is Cinerama.

Watch How The West Was Won Trailer, with "the greatest cast of stars ever together in one motion picture."

For More Vintage Film Images
Visit Sepia Saturday 113


  1. I remember going to a cinerama movie with my class probably 5th or 6th grade, so it must have been educational. I'd forgotten all about cineramas. Very interesting post for this week's theme.

  2. An extremely entertaining post. Thanks for explaining how Cinerama was photographed. I really enjoyed the trailer of How the West was Won.

    Incidentally you link on the Sepia Saturday page takes you straight back to that page. I had to find this post from the SS sidebar.

  3. I had the "Seven Wonders" book at one time.

  4. I remember Cinerama. We used to go to a big marquee to watch a series of films made especially; people on sledges and so on. Fascinating stuff.

  5. I remember hoping on a school bus when I was in the 7th grade to the Cinerama in Boston to see "The Battle of the Bulge." It was awesome when the tank was driving "over" the audience. Great post!

  6. Wow, never heard of this before. The clips look amazing.

  7. I saw "How the West Was Won" when it was released. This was still years before color television, so the colors as well as the superwide screen were a big attraction. A couple of years later I went to a circular theater like the one in Nebraska. Neither really achieved the spectacular hype on the cards.

  8. Wow, you actually saw a cinerama! I wish i had. I've only heard about them.

  9. The explanation of how it was filmed was fascinating, I would have loved to go to one of those circular cinemas. If only to experience going down a roller coaster without feeling sick:-)

  10. I had never heard of cinerama before. I notice Detroit, Michigan is not listed on the postcard so maybe they never opened one there.

  11. I'd forgotten about cinerama, too. Thanks for this very informative post.

  12. @Kristin
    I don't know why Detroit wasn't listed on the card. There is info on Detroit Cinerama at Music Hall Theater here:

  13. I added a link with 48 Cinerama locations.

  14. I remember How the West was Won! I don't know if I saw it in Cinerama or not.

  15. Of course my all time favorite here is the Cooper Theatre! It's the first theatre I ever went to in Minnesota! After I moved here! Luckily I got there before they mowed it down! I remember you could buy some of the softest seats I'd ever sat on in a movie-theatre...before they tore it down!What a great post all the way around....! (I seem to remember the restrooms were large (a huge mirror) and nicely decorated too!

  16. Smilebox, how cool! I forgot to mention how cool your video clips are too! What a great post all the way around! Bravo!

  17. I remember the big Cinerama sign in Times Square. And I remember the roller coaster ride from This is Cinerama -- it must have been re-released sometime in the 1970s, I think. I have a very vivid memory of that amazing roller coaster and the sensation of being in it.

  18. I do remember Cinerama and the way at first you could see the "join". That must have been early on.

  19. Hello, I saw your name on a comment at Oh Fair new Mexico so I had to come and check out another postcard lady. I'm going to enjoy exploring your blog. You might like mine too:

  20. Nice to see Montreal made the list!!
    How things have evolved now, what with Imax!!

  21. This is so cool! I didn't even know about it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Kathy M.


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