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1954 U-I Aspect Ratios


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16 replies to this topic

#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted May 24 2007 - 11:01 AM

I recently scanned these images to post on another site, and thought the members of the HTF would find this interesting.

Here is a list from the June 1954 issue of Exhibitor with Universal-International releases for the 1953/54 season, and their intended aspect ratios:

Posted Image

And here is an image from the Theater Catalog for 1954/55 showing comparisons of the various widescreen ratios:

Posted Image

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#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted May 24 2007 - 02:01 PM

That makes it look like the 1.85:1 ratio was a bigger screen (in area) than a 2.55:1 ratio!

I thought the height stayed the same for 1.85 and 2.55, but the way this diagram is set up, it looks as if the width stayed the same and the 1.85 ratio was achieved by increasing the height. I don't think that's the way it worked.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   John Whittle

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Posted May 24 2007 - 02:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lugoff
That makes it look like the 1.85:1 ratio was a bigger screen (in area) than a 2.55:1 ratio!

I thought the height stayed the same for 1.85 and 2.55, but the way this diagram is set up, it looks as if the width stayed the same and the 1.85 ratio was achieved by increasing the height. I don't think that's the way it worked.

Well it all depended on the theatre. Some theatres did have constant height and pulled back masking on the left and right for scope. Other theatres were limited in width and had to drop masking on the top for scope, making a wider picture but an overall loss of area. The Colseium Theatre in Seattle did the latter.

Cinerama and Cinemiracle required screens that didn't "fit" the front of the auditorium and were placed in the threatre with the house "losing" seats to accomadate the screen (and in the case of Cinerama the three projection booths and the control console).

There were also theatres that only had 1.85 screens and simply "cut off" the sides of scope pictures--that's the way "Bedazzeled" ran in the University District in Seattle on it's first run release.

The other factor in aspect ratios is that the picture was adjusted for the throw in the theatre and the keystone with cutting the aperature plates and tilting screens for high long throws in old vaudeville houses (The Orpheum Theatre in Seattle did that).

So there are no hard and fast rules and even today, armed with proper measuring equipment, you'd be surprised what the real "aspect ratios" are in your local picture palace.

John

#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Mark B

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Posted May 24 2007 - 02:26 PM

Thanks for posting that scan. It's refreshing to see documentation that backs up intended ratios.

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted May 24 2007 - 03:51 PM

I think that picture came from some promotional material put out by Paramount to extoll the "virtues" of their VistaVision format. As the above say, a lot depends on the theatre but the aim of Scope and widescreen installations generally was to keep the height the same so the screen gets wider not lower.

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted May 24 2007 - 05:22 PM

Every memory I have is that when something in 2.35 came on (CinemaScope or Panavision), the curtains opened wider on both sides. I do think that diagram is about VistaVision, which supposedly had the largest screen in area (larger than Cinerama), at least at the Paramount Theater in NYC.

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted May 24 2007 - 06:58 PM

When we set up the screen at the Loew's Jersey, we wanted the biggest possible image. The screen width is constant at 50 feet across, and we raise the top masking to fill the entire screen with the 1.85 image. For 1.37, we bring in the side masking but keep the top at full height.

I'm glad you enjoyed the aspect ratio documentation. Would you care to see more? I'll be glad to scan and post it for you.

Bob

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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted May 24 2007 - 07:46 PM

Here's the World Premiere of STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND: 4/21/55

Posted Image

Here is the accompanying article:

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This is a photo of "The World's Largest Theater Screen" measuring 64x35:

Posted Image

And finally, here are recollections from BoxofficeBill, as posted on Cinema Treasures on 4/19/2005:

You can see that the original proscenium columns were cut off and removed just above the screen so as to make use of the entire but cramped stage width. The dark midnight-blue house curtain traveled into wing spaces beyond the proscenium, past the audience's sightlines. For CinemaScope films, masking dropped several feet to frame the 2.6 ratio (I recall seeing "Inn of the Sixth Happiness" there on New Year's Eve, '58). For conventional widescreen, masking moved down at the top and in at the sides to reduce the exaggerated size (I recall seeing "Love in the Afternoon" there in August '57). I remember the Paramount's VistaVision screen in its full glory--and it was glorious--for "The Man Who Knew Too Much" in May '56. My friends and I sat in the fifth row or thereabout.

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#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted May 24 2007 - 08:43 PM

I beleive that Strategic Air Command is a special case. It is one of the few VistaVision films projected at an aspect ratio of about 2:1 from anamorphic prints, as well as at a ratio of about 1.85:1 from VistaVision horizontal prints.

In contrast, most VistaVision films were a) never projected from horizontal prints, and b) never projected for anamorphic prints. Paramount argued that 1.85:1 was the optimum aspect ratio and this image was presented from spherical (non-anamorphic) reduction prints.

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Drew Salzan

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Posted May 24 2007 - 11:52 PM

Is the stereo track on the DVD of The Glenn Miller Story the original 1950's mix?

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted May 25 2007 - 05:50 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lugoff
Every memory I have is that when something in 2.35 came on (CinemaScope or Panavision), the curtains opened wider on both sides. I do think that diagram is about VistaVision, which supposedly had the largest screen in area (larger than Cinerama), at least at the Paramount Theater in NYC.

The Cinerama theatres in New York and there screen aspect ratios:

http://cineramahisto...om/ctwarner.htm

http://cineramahisto.../ctbroadway.htm

http://cineramahistory.com/ctlowes.htm

Roland

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#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted May 25 2007 - 02:52 PM

Constant width is now pretty much the industry standard. I worked as a projectionist for a couple of years at a 14-screen Cineplex and all screens were constant width with masking top and bottom for 2.35:1 films. In fact, when the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster played at my theatre, the print was actually a flat print matted on all 4 sides to get the proper 1.33:1 a/r.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted May 28 2007 - 08:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
Constant width is now pretty much the industry standard. I worked as a projectionist for a couple of years at a 14-screen Cineplex and all screens were constant width with masking top and bottom for 2.35:1 films. In fact, when the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster played at my theatre, the print was actually a flat print matted on all 4 sides to get the proper 1.33:1 a/r.

The Showcase Cinemas here in CT have a constant height. I enjoy seeing the masking move to the sides for scope films.

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#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted May 28 2007 - 11:03 AM

As do I. How old are the Showcase Cinemas?

As a side note, whenever I see the Universal-International logo, I'm reminded of MST3K: The Movie: "Doesn't being Universal make it International?" Posted Image
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted May 29 2007 - 05:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
As do I. How old are the Showcase Cinemas?

The one I go to in Manchester opened in 1998.

Roland Lataille
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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted May 29 2007 - 10:47 AM

So not that old. The Cineplex I worked at opened in 2003, but Cineplexes have been mostly constant width since @ least 1987.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted May 30 2007 - 09:54 AM

It seems more common in the the States than, thank God, Europe or Australia.I've just returned from San Francisco where I saw Hot Fuzz at that new Westfield complex next to Nordstrom on Market. Nice big screen and good sound but my heart sank when the height came down for Scope. That rarely happens here in Sydney and if it does, I don't go again to that theatre.From memory in the UK, reducing the height was popular in the 70's and 80's but thankfully fell out of favour in the cinema building boom that followed.


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