Lawrence of Arabia at the Cinerama Dome

I’ve written on Lawrence of Arabia on multiple occasions. There is also a Vlog post from a few years ago that you might find interesting. This film is awe inspiring. I first saw it in a truncated form on television. It was a pan and scan version, badly edited from one of the versions that had been circulating in the 70s which had been cut by distributors to shorten running times. The first time I saw it in it’s complete form was in 1989 after the restoration by Robert Harris. I saw it in Century City with my father and I fell completely in love with it then. It was one of the first Criterion Laserdiscs I bought when that was still a thing.

We now make it a habit, just like with the movie “Jaws” to try to take advantage of every screening on a big screen in our area. It’s been almost two years since we last got the chance, but a Sunday afternoon screening is early enough not to be discouraging to people who get up early to go to work. While the movie was not screened on film [it was a DLP projection] it still looks great up on a big screen and the Cinerama Dome has just such a screen. In fact it is a curved screen and at times the images almost look three dimensional.

If you are not familiar with the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, let’s just say it is unique in construction and history. The original Cinerama films made using a three camera projection technique were the prime reason the theater was built. It uses the geodesic form created by Buckminster Fuller. The shapes actually fit together and support each other without a separate framing process.

The theater was scheduled to be torn down several years ago when a new complex was being built on the site. Preservationists and cinefiles from around the world reminded the Archlight Company of the legacy, and they found a way to keep the theater in place as part of their location. As a result, they frequently screen special film presentations of older movies that would benefit from such a unique venue. The sound system is superb and as I said, the screen gives the film a dynamic dimension that you will not get anywhere else.

The theater can accommodate more than 800 customers and today they came pretty close to that. While not every seat was filled, the house felt packed. One easy measure of that is to take a look at the concession stand for a single screen theater. Below is a little shot for you from when I was waiting to get a drink, just about a minute before the overture started. There are at least seven lines and most of them were ten deep.

 

 There is always something new to see in a film if you watch it differently each time. So many little touches in this today were obvious because of the sound and the screen. Prince Faisal’s tent posts creating in the breeze when he first meets with Lawrence is a good example. Also spectacular is the way the sand blows across the feel of Lawrence as he wanders at night, contemplating how to deliver a miracle for the Arab cause.

I have no doubt that I will get the chance to post on this again, and maybe a fresh review will be called for. For the moment, this will simply remain a report on a great movie going experience.

I hope all of you will get a chance someday to see a great movie in one of the remaining historic theaters in Hollywood. It’s not as old as some of the others but it certainly is different.

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