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J. Evan Miller collection of Cinerama Theater Plans, 1938-
1546  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Processing History
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: J. Evan Miller collection of Cinerama Theater Plans,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-
    Collection number: 1546
    Creator: Miller, J. Evan
    Extent: 4 cartons (4 linear ft.) 77 oversize boxes
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: The cinerama process, originally developed by Frederick Waller (1939), was the first effective wide-screen process. The Cinerama Releasing Corporation (CRC) faced competition from cheaper wide-screen processes and began major construction on new buildings designed specifically for the Cinerama process (mid-1950s). CRC dissolved (mid-1970s), leaving the buildings, many doomed to technological obsolescence. The collection consists of nearly all the architectural plans, including brown lines, prints and unique pencil renderings on tissue from 1960 through the late-1960s collected by Miller for 263 theatres.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of J. Evan Miller, 1987.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], J. Evan Miller collection of Cinerama Theater Plans (Collection 1546). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 4233420 

    Biography/History

    The cinerama process, originally developed by Frederick Waller (1939), was the first effective wide-screen process; distribution required extensive renovation of existing theatres or new construction of buildings to accommodate projection booths, screens, and surround sound equipment; Cinerama Releasing Corporation (CRC) faced competition from cheaper wide-screen processes and began major construction on new buildings designed specifically for the Cinerama process (mid-1950s); CRC dissolved (mid-1970s), leaving the buildings, many doomed to technological obsolescence.

    Biographical Narrative

    This Is Cinerama opened at a world premiere in New York on September 30, 1952. Its record-breaking 122 week engagement there touched off a wide-screen craze in the 50s that temporarily reversed the flow of audiences from movie theatres to their TV sets by offering a picture big enough to engulf the audience.
    The Cinerama process was the first, largest, most expensive and most effective of the wide-screen processes that revolutionized the motion picture industry in the 1950s. Within 20 years, the process would require the redesign and construction of several hundred theatres on 7 continents.
    Frederick Waller of Huntington, New York, originally devised an electronically synchronized multi-camera, multi-projector system for the 1939 New York World's Fair. He first attempted a 16-millimeter process which debuted at an oil company pavilion at the fair. Over the next thirteen years, he simplified and refined the system to a three-camera process, projecting a picture ration of nearly 3 to 1 (the widest in the industry).
    News commentator and world traveler Lowell Thomas was a principal investor and starred in the first Cinerama production. The distribution of the pictures required extensive renovation of existing theatres or new construction of building to accommodate three separate projection booths, huge screens and surround sound equipment.
    The process first focused on special effects for maximum impact on audiences. Early Cinerama releases fell somewhere between travelogues and documentaries. The development costs for the process were offset at first by use of existing theatres which were modified under lease, and avoidance of big name starring actors which had nearly bankrupt several competing major studios.
    By the mid 1950s, however, Cinerama had saturated the side-screen novelty market, and was faced with increasing competition from cheaper wide-screen processes such as Cinemascope, VistaVision, Cinemiracle, and Panavision. Consequently, Cinerama embarked upon a major construction campaign during which they acquired leases on new buildings designed specifically for the process, and by 1962 had begun production of major "blockbuster" feature length films, garnering Academy Award nominations.
    How the West Was Won, which opened in 1962, marked the high-water mark of Cinerama Releasing Corporation as a motion picture studio. It was the most expensive picture they ever produced, and was based on an historical theme. Narrated by Spencer Tracy, it was produced in three separate units, directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. Alfred Newman was nominated for his spectacular musical score, and the cast included a veritable parade of superstars: James Steward, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Robert Preston, George Peppard, Eli Wallach, Richard Widmark, Walter Brennan, Andy Devine, Raymond Massey, Agnes Moorehead, Russ Tamblyn and Henry Morgan.
    Cited by film critics as the best blend of Hollywood filmmaking tradition and widescreen effects, the picture was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as Best Picture of 1962, and for best screenplay, best cinematography and best musical score. It was an award for best screenplay of the year.
    By 1970, however, Cinerama suffered the same fate as all the other wide-screen processes, and succumbed along with high-priced exclusive engagement road-show film attractions. By the mid 1970s, Cinerama was little more than a distribution outlet for more conventional films made by independent producers.
    Cinerama filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved, leaving behind a world-wide legacy of buildings modified or built to their specifications, many of them doomed to technological obsolescence. The decline if Cinerama ironically coincided with the appearance of newer and larger projection system made possible by newer generations of optics and engineering, under the name of IMAX. IMAX, utilizing a 150 millimeter process and double curved screen format, debuted at world's fairs in the early 1970s and although it has not emerged as a feature film format, may someday take up the legacy left by Cinerama.

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of nearly all the architectural plans, including brown lines, prints and unique pencil renderings on tissue from 1960 through the late-1960s collected by Miller for 263 theatres. Includes both submission and final plans for theatres created especially for Cinerama as well as a full documentation of remodeling adaptions. Most of the individual submissions contain multiple parts often including preliminary schematics, renderings and plans, corrected renderings and plans, and final working prints.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged alphabetically by theater.

    Processing History

    The collection was donated in four oversize cartons and several dozen tubes in 1987. Working off the original donor inventory, several Manuscripts Division staff members brieflisted the collection in 1990 and transferred it to SRLF. The collection was re-examined by Robert Whalley in 2005, when approximately 150 plans were removed from the tubes and flattened in oversize map folders, and project plans that had been divided were reunited in single folders. Architect's names and dates, as well as descriptions of any original drawings, were added to the finding aid, and the new container list was arranged into geographical series levels to enhance access to the collection.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Theater--Architecture--Archival resources.
    Motion picture theaters--Archival resources.
    Motion picture theaters--Reconstruction--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Architectural drawings.
    Renderings.