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2001, A Space Odyssey gives Cinerama a new lease on life

Photo caption: NASA camera operators prepare still photo cameras that will operate at an extremely high speed. They are setting cameras that will be used to shoot the space shuttle landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida early the next day.

Cinerama used three interlocked cameras and four interlocked projectors (one for the stereophonic sound), and the final prints were projected side by side instead of on top of one another as in 3-D.

What moviegoers experienced was a wrap-around effect of three screens made to appear as one. It created the sensation that the body was in motion. The first Cinerama film was This is Cinerama, featuring a roller-coaster ride and a coast-to-coast flight over America.

IA members embraced Cinerama, despite its shortcomings, including a complex projection process, which meant only a few theaters in major cities were equipped for it.  It was marketed much like the road company of a Broadway hit, with reserved seats, scheduled performances and high ticket prices.  Cinerama retained a mystique, and customers would return again and again if an opportunity presented itself.

Cinerama ran into trouble when producers tried to use it as a legitimate process for feature production. Features such as How the West Was Won and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World were overcome by the grand scope of Cinerama.  The dramatic elements of these films were simply overwhelmed.

Just as it started to fade, however, Cinerama was given a brief new lease on life through Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 landmark film, 2001, A Space Odyssey.  The film used a modified Cinerama process shot with a single camera but projected onto a Cinerama screen.  Kubrick let the big screen and fast camera work enhance the story.