IN 1952 HOLLYWOOD ANSWERED THE COMPETITION it faced from 12” b&w TV sets by blowing the screen up bigger than it’s ever been since.

Cinerama used three cameras shooting side by side to create a gigantic curved widescreen image that literally filled your eyes in either direction. Together with 7-channel stereo, it not only blew away 1950s TV, it remains (like a 50s Cadillac) bigger and bolder than anything anyone would dare today—even Imax.

Cinerama paved the way for today’s widescreen films. But Cinerama itself proved too cumbersome for everyday use. Only seven films, mostly travelogues apart from 1962’s How the West Was Won, were made in true Cinerama, and the last theaters stopped showing it by the mid-60s. For 30 years, it was basically a lost chapter in film history.

Until the mid-90s, when a collector moved the only working Cinerama setup in North America to the New Neon Theater in Dayton, Ohio, from its previous home—his living room.

From the moment the curtains open (and open and open) to take you on the roaring rollercoaster ride that opens 1952’s This is Cinerama, you know you’re at the closest thing central Ohio has to Disneyland. Cinerama offers the same blend of 50s innocence, gee-whiz technology, and sample-many-cultures- from-a-comfy-chair showmanship that made Uncle Walt rich. It’s a blast—like tuning in to American Movie Classics and having it blow you away like Apocalypse Now.

The next showings—Cinerama Holiday and How the West Was Won—are May 29 and 30.* So forget The Phantom Menace in mere 35mm Dolby—go see something really big.

*Needless to say, that was May 1999 and the showings are long since past. In fact, Cinerama showings have since been discontinued entirely at the New Neon; however, a Cinerama theater has been restored in Seattle and has occasional showings. Click here for more information.

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