First of all, I'd like to thank Lee Stewart for taking the poll and asking for our recollections. I'm 60 years of age and have at one time or another seen all the film processes mentioned. There is a nostalgic evolutionary aspect to these technologies, because their implementation, during the late 50's and throughout the 60's, sometimes entailed complex renovation and expense, that as I look back upon it now, was almost insane. In early 1960 I saw Ben Hur, presented in MGM Camera 65 or otherwise known today as Ultra Panavision 70 at THE TOWN THEATER in Baltimore. I was twelve years old and flabbergasted by the huge curved screen and the surround sound. I was used to four track stereo cinemascope at my local theaters, but the screen for Ultra Panavision was wider and the sound was more than a magnitude up the quality ladder. and the image on the screen was clear beyond anything I had seen. This was the first real audio visual event in my life. From overture to finale I had now seen the way films were supposed to be presented and I would not be satisfied with inferior sound and projection. In 1961 I saw several 70MM films including Exodus and West Side Story in Super Panavision and 6 track, but it was 1962-63 that literally defined my future obsession. I saw Lawrence of Arabia in Super Panavsion70 which was stunning to see although the sound at THE MAYFAIR THEATER in Baltimore was pure crap! The theater installed small speakers in the ceiling for plane fly-overs .These speakers sounded as if they had been ripped out of a transistor radio while the main speakers behind the screen crackled during loud passages. Next, I went back to THE TOWN THEATER to see Mutiny On The Bounty in Ultra Panavision 70 and was surprised to find the curved screen gone! The screen on which I had seen Ben Hur just a little over a year earlier was gone! Replacing it was a super wide flat screen. The presentation was beautiful and the sound was terrific, but in the lobby was a large cardboard sign announcing that the TOWN would now be transformed into a Cinerama palace for their next presentation of How The West Was Won, and the theater would close for a month during renovation. So this theater installed a giant single sheet curved screen for Ben Hur in 1960, and then replaced it with a giant single sheet flat screen sometime in 1961-62, only to install a louvered 146 degree curved screen for 3 strip Cinerama in 1963. Whew!!!! In the late summer of that year I sat in the third iteration of THE TOWN THEATER in three years! There was now a projection booth dead center in the back of the orchestra which also necessitated the removal of seats at the center back of the theater. Gone was the draped burgundy Interior, it was now decked out in gold and the screen was much, much closer, it seemed as if the front third of the seating area was gone to accommodate the curved screen that now reached the side exits. I was not prepared for what I would see and hear. From the opening strains of the overture till the final moments reaching the California coast, I was staggered by picture and sound, especially the sound. I had become accustomed to 6 track stereo, but this was beyond the norm. I hate to use this word, but there was a three dimensional liquid quality to the sound, and the image was sensationally bright and sharp. I remember actually squinting when going from a dark scene into bright day shot. I had never found the need to squint in a theater before, nor have I ever done it again. I went back again and again, 5 or 6 times to THE TOWN THEATER to be amazed by this cinematic wonder. I took a bus to Phiadelphia to see it at THE BOYD CINERAMA and was not disappointed by the presentation, but what I saw and heard there was different. The screen was larger, but more distant, and the sound was wonderful but it fell short of the Baltimore presentation. I believe that the more intimate nature of THE TOWN THEATER produced a superior experience, and except for those join lines where the three 35MM strips met, it was the finest audio visual experience of my entire life! I will never forget it! Recently I saw a restored 3 strip print of HTWWW at THE CINERAMA DOME in Hollywood. It was a love fest, but the screen was only a 120 degree single sheet, not the official strip screen, and it did not reproduce the knockout illumination that Cinerama was famous for. I didn't squint. The sound also left something to be desired, but the sound survives in almost its full glory on the two disc cd, re-mastered by Chase sound for Turner. Some elements sound a bit worn, but on the whole, if you have a first rate surround system, the magic is there.
In 1968 I saw the premiere of 2001 in Super Panavision 70 on the Cinerama screen at the UPTOWN THEATER in Washington D.C. which was a treat, but it wasn't Cinerama .
On a visit to Disney World in 1971, I took time out from The Mouse to investigate a new fangled film process called Imax, at a now defunct theme park called Circus World. The 50 minute film was about, guess what??? The Circus!! The clarity and size of the image were mindboggling. But the material left something to be desired. I've now seen every major Imax film and format including Imax HD at Disney's California Adventure ride Soarin' Over California and all of the Imax DMR interpolations along with Imax 3 D and am impressed and hopeful that somehow the majesty of 70MM or its equivalent will survive in some kind of practical venue. They're trying!
Along with about six friends, I was treated to a demonstration of Doug Trumbull's Showscan, this was about 1990, and found the 60 fps 70MM super stable image to be strangely similar to video, but of course it was not video it was 70MM film. We all found the image startling, but strangely off putting. I think it's related to the 120hz motion flow reactions elsewhere on this forum and I'm certain there's more to be discovered about this phenomenon.
I saw Oklahoma in Todd-AO @30fps at THE SENATOR THEATER in Baltimore several years ago, and It was pure luck and a coincidence that I was there. Wonderful!
Of course I was fortunate to see many Technicolor prints during the 50's along with a recently restored print of Gone With The Wind in Santa Monica California and that was gorgeous!
The film presentation during the late 50's through almost all of the 60's was a golden era, but I have hope that we will see such splendor again.