Sunday, September 22, 2013

"...IN 70MM!"

In just a few words, my heart races, my eyes dilate, colors become more vivid and I frantically search for the nearest box of kleenex! Such is the pavlovian response of a film addict. Phrases such as: ’70mm’, ‘Cinerama’, ‘anamorphic’, ‘6-track stereo’, ‘Cinemascope’, ‘Panavision’, ‘’Super Panavision’, ‘’Todd-AO’, ‘Vstavision’, ‘Technirama’ and don't forget about ‘frame rate!!!’ and of course the much whispered about but still dubious ‘Sensurround!’ (actually, the Studios did try this sound process once to disastrous results:

The preceding film process phrases are the, ahem, erotic film equivalents to porn cinema as we know it (obviously, foreign art-house erotica, with a well written script, impeccable lighting and hopefully a soundtrack by Serge Gainsbourg.

 What? What kind of ‘film’ did you think I was referring to??!)

ANYWAY, bigger, more expansive, totally immersive is where a film addicts craving begins but, alas, it’s never enough. Is it? (usually this where the shaking and tremors start also.) Like any addiction, you want more (see: ‘Bigger, Louder- The Man Who Never Saw Enough’, Peel, 1985) and this is the part of story where disappointment, despair and despondency ensues a the thought of what once existed in our own state of Minnesota. I am referring to a theater that is no longer with us: ‘The Cooper Theater.’
The Cooper was located in St. Louis Park, MN. Here is a brief history of the theater:

Fortunately, it still existed when I lived in Minneapolis. I treated every occasion that I attended like a pilgrimage (except the occasion when my girlfriend at the time won tickets to the Midwest Premiere of ‘Dragnet’ (1987). I have never got that visual violation out of my head. Although, I still want to wake-up one day, wearing goat leggings, with no recollection of the previous evening. It will make sense if you watch 'Dragnet'….no, wait!) Even by the time I was able to enjoy the theater, it was neglected and in serious need of repair. Whatever the story in how it came to this ‘state’, I don’t know (Megaplex boxes anyone?!) Still, even in it’s last decade, it was the most impressive and what I imagined a movie ‘palace’ was and what it should be like. The design was impressive inside and out. 

It was specifically built to screen Cinerama movies (one of only 3 in the country at the time.) The decor was pure 60’s era modernism (see: swanky.) Alot of the ‘amenities’ that were originally built were either gone or no longer usable by the mid 80's. At one time it had it’s own private lounge, a mezzanine level (for the ‘beautiful people’), a bar!, a television room? and for the kids (and parents) a soundproof nursery. This was in the early 60’s and it still cost $1million dollars to build. Just for a minute think about this amazing building; the entire complex was built because of one screen…ONE screen! Incredible. A bygone era indeed….sigh. The Cooper hosted the local premiere of the movie ‘Airport’ (1970) and at the time, the property around the theater had not been filled by urban sprawl, so they actually had an area where you could fly, land and park your private small airplane next to the theater! 

The original couches, chairs still were present in the immense lobby in the 80's (where you could smoke your clove cigarettes; like a real pretentious film snob) but the refreshment bar had been winnowed down to just a fraction of what it once was (they eventually split/expanded the theater into three theaters. It was the beginning of the end.) The original, main screen was 35 feet high and 105 feet wide.  

The screen was curved to accommodate Cinerama and mainstream film presentations. Whereas IMAX is one big monstrosity ‘box’ , The Cooper in contrast, when showing the biggest’ 70mm movie presentations on it's curved screen, made you feel much more immersed in the film, as if you were an actual on set 'participant' to the action on screen. It was by a far a more satisfying film experience. Towards the end of it’s run, someone had the foresight to start running re-issued, re-mastered 70mm films. I still look back on that time and marvel at how fortunate I was to be able to see movies such as: ‘Ben Hur’ (1959), ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962), ( I know opinions vary on David Lean’s film but seeing it in a venue such as this reminds you of what a ‘big’ event a film like this could be. You are really ‘drawn into’ the environment and it showcased the vision of the filmmaker. note: this was the completely frame by frame refurbished version with 'lost scenes' that at one time were presumed lost forever.) ‘Ice Station Zebra’ (1968), ‘Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ (1963) and one of THE best movie experiences for me up until that time, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) Nothing more needs to be said about that!

Then it was gone.

That is what is so disappointing. It was as close to a perfect venue to watch a film or how a film presentation was meant to be. Sublime does not begin to describe the experience. What the Cooper represented was the focus on viewing experience, the film as a real art event instead of how much $$$ can we squeeze out of the customer nowadays. (see: ‘Wretched Masses’, Brown, 1964.)  A theater like this had the power to ‘transform’ your opinion of certain films; even films that you may have dismissed initially. 
If you still are a bit skeptical, listen to my good friend Douglas Trumball on 70mm:

Here is an excellent and simple article on the basics of 70mm:

This site was partially updated recently because of articles like this imploring people to see the recent P.T. Anderson film ‘The Master’ (2012) in the 70mm presentation:

The following video is in Dutch but it is worthwhile to watch and you will have no problem following along (I included the English translation below the video also.)

Owner of the cinema:
 Am I on now? Welcome to the cinema in Aalborg and in the moment we´re showing P. T. Anderson´s [sic] film "The Master". Not only do we show it, we also showing it in the original 70mm version. And we´re extremely proud and happy about that. We can now only hope that the audience will come and see it in the real 70mm format.

Girl with yellow shirt:
I´m going to see "The Master" because it seems like a really interesting story. I don´t know what it´s about from viewing the trailers. And also because it´ll be show in 70mm and it will only do that here and at another place in Copenhagen and the screen should be perfect, because it´s a curved screen. And the director had a vision with this format, that it had a significance, so I´m really excited to see what effect it will have on the story and the whole experience.

Woman in cinema:
It´s truly a great visual story. I´s a flat image but the image is sculptural. the opening scene itself, with the helmet. it looks like silver but it´s completely sculptural, as if you dragged into the image. I think that´s amazing. also the sand sculpture. it should be hard to see it, you know it´s a woman but even the nipples are completely in detail. I think it´s the image quality that makes it so amazing.

Man in cinema: 
It´s an amazing film, an amazing story. there is some footage of water and I´m completely certain that it´s only on 70mm you can capture the waves like that, made by the ship. then there´s some CUs of the faces and it´s really amazing. also because of the great performances. They are all great. It´s not a movie where you think "Ah, there was that actor who was embarrassing". They are all great. So, it´s all pretty perfect.

Fortunately, there are still outstanding theaters around the country where you can have the same experiences (and get rid of the ‘jonesing’!) Here is an updated listing of US States that have had or still have theaters that show 70mm presentations:

Here is another link to current 70mm films being shown around the country (this is also the best site for anything, everything 70mm you would ever need or want to know):

If you have the chance to go to one of these theaters, you will not be disappointed. I can think of alot of worse reasons to take a road trip but this is not one of them (well, a road trip for any reason is good enough) but here you have '70' reasons!

Like I mentioned before, there is something physically and emotionally ‘exciting’ when hearing the terms that are associated with the above films. If film terms can be viewed as ‘erotic’ in nature, the Cooper was the porn palace. It was that good.

~Scooter Polanski

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