Until I saw this film, I had no idea what a shockwave the development of the Cinerama format sent through the entire world when it first appeared in the early ’50s. In my mind, it was simply the name of a theater downtown that had a big-ass screen and great sound. But the Cinerama format singlehandedly revived a film industry that was in the process of being overthrown by the arrival of television, directly leading to the development of the now-standard widescreen format, and, many claim, greatly helping the Americans win World War II.
Cinerama is based on the principle of filling the viewer’s entire field of vision, by projecting three parts of the same scene, filmed from slightly different angles, blended together as one image on a gargantuan curved screen. The filmmakers have devised a clever way of conveying this effect to the audience on a flat screen (dubbed “Smilebox”), and it’s largely effective at showcasing the way the film was supposed to be seen.
In 1952, the world was rocked by the release of This is Cinerama, a plotless feature that played in a specially modified theater and went on to become the highest grossing film of the year despite the fact that it only played in one theater. Cinerama Adventure charts the global Cinerama craze that ensued after the release of This is Cinerama, and the six other films made in the format (mostly travelogues like South Seas Adventure and Cinerama Holiday) through interviews and old clips. As a film nerd, I ate this up.
Indirectly, the film also says much about the era in which Cinerama made its appearance. The travelogue films embody the unique American idealism of the ’50s about the rest of the world that almost reduces it all to one big theme park. And did you know that the Cinerama format was employed to create revolutionary training modules for American fighter pilots that increased their accuracy by 85%?
I don’t think you have to be a film nerd to appreciate Cinerama Adventure. While I am a total whore for learning about the technical aspect of filmmaking, even if you’re not particularly into that kind of thing, Cinerama Adventure remains a fascinating look at both ’50s world idealism and a cinematic fad that changed the way we go to the movies today.