From 1972 to 1980 I lived in a comfortable boarding house at Calle Primera Perejil owned by Ms. Margot. Ms. Margot was originally from Colombia, but had lived in Panama for many years, so many that I thought she was a native Panamanian. I can still remember the flavor of her food in my mouth. She had the ability to cook like an angel, specially fish-related plates. Living there was like living in a high class hotel.
Another advantage of living at Margot’s Place was Teatro Lux. This cinema was only two blocks from my house. This theater was exquisitely decorated in lush red and its silver screen was huge. I’ve never seen a bigger screen ever. It covered the viewing room from wall to wall.
Teatro Lux was specially built to project movies in Cinerama which used three different projectors, each sending one third of the image to the screen.
The huge image captured by the Cinerama cameras was displayed on a curved screen with an arc of 146 degrees, almost a half circle. The result was a feeling of depth that made the viewers feel like they were inside the movie.
Not only did the Cinerama screen wrap around the audience, the sound did as well. Cinerama used five channels of sound behind the screen and two surround channels. A rear surround channel was achieved manually. Film operators had to follow a cue sheet and throw switch to play the sixth channel on both side walls and divert the seventh channel to the rear speakers. The experience of viewing a movie with Cinerama technology is beyond words—literally.
The first Cinerama movie was released in 1952. There was a total of seven films produced in the three-camera Cinerama process:
- This Is Cinerama
- Seven Wonders of the World
- Cinerama Holiday
- The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
- Search for Paradise
- How the West Was Won
- South Seas Adventure
For those of you who were not alive during the Fifties or Sixties, let my explain that Cinerama is the trademarked name for a widescreen process which works by simultaneously projecting images from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, deeply-curved screen, subtending 146° of arc. It is also the trademarked name for the corporation which was formed to market it.
It was the first of a number of such processes introduced during the 1950s, when the movie industry was reacting to competition from television. Cinerama was presented to the public as a theatrical event, with reserved seating and printed programs, and audience members often dressed in best attire for the evening. Cinerama was invented by Fred Waller and commercially developed by Waller and Merian C. Cooper.
Today, as the world realizes the importance of the Cinerama art form in motion picture history, serious efforts are being made to ensure that a whole new generation of movie buffs will be able to experience the magic of Cinerama. Currently, there are only two places in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films: Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre and a theatre and museum in Bradford, England. The L.A. Dome, which will also offer Cinerama screenings, is currently under renovation in Los Angeles.
The 1999 re-opening of Paul G. Allen’s restored Cinerama Theatre in Seattle brings new hope that the revolutionary art form will be preserved for generations to come. Audiences well into the 21st century—and beyond—will be able to experience the magnificence of the three-eyed and 70mm Cinerama format that captivated America 40 years ago!
I was lucky to view three movies in Cinerama (e.g., This Is Cinerama, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and How the West Was Won. To this day, I can remember in great detail the quality of the images and the realistic sounds inside the theater.
Now Teatro Lux is no longer a place where magic can be experienced. It’s locale is currently occupied by a small money loan center (financiera) called Govimar and the Department of Passports of the Ministry of Government and Justice.
The sound of racing speed boats at the Florida Everglades still vibrate inside my head. Adios Teatro Lux and Cinerama. Good Day.