Anamorphic Wide Screen:

Henri Chretien had been peddling his anamorphic lens system for a number of years, but none of the major studios seemed particularly interested.  His optical system was a simple and elegant idea, actually.  His anamorphot lens which was placed in front of the regular camera lens simply compressed any image it "saw" by a factor of two.  That "squeezed " image was then recorded on the film, processed and printed into release prints as is done normally for any standard film.  The complementary or "expanding" anamorphic lens is placed in front of the projector lens and the image is then stretched back out to a width twice as wide as normal.  The wide screen era was born when the head of Twentieth Century Fox bought the rights to the anamorphic process and applied it to a biblical epic, THE ROBE, released in 1953.  Fox dubbed the process CinemaScope.

 

.Fox Logo -- Anamorphic Film Frame

The compressed CinemaScope image as it appears on the 35mm anamorphic release print with the image compressed by a factor of two.  You can see the four magnetic soundtracks for the Left, Center, Right and Surround; these are the brown strips between the sprocket holes and the edge of the film and next to the image frames.  Because the Surround or "Effects" channel as it is sometimes called did not carry very much dialogue or other full bandwidth audio most of the time, it was deemed not as significant as the front main channels and so it was allocated a smaller portion of the film geography. 

In order to accommodate the four soundtracks, the Fox engineers changed the size of the sprocket holes, making them smaller than the that of a normal, mono optical sound  release print.  This allowed more room for the four magnetic tracks.

 

Fox Search Light Logo

The Twentieth Century Fox opening logo image as it appears on the screen, decompressed when projected with the proper Anamorphic lens, the image regains its original ratio as seen by the camera lens, more than twice as wide as it is high.  This was the very first CinemaScope image seen by audiences in 1953.   This fairly simple wide screen process made it possible even for the local neighborhood theatres in the smaller cities and towns to have an image that certainly dwarfed the standard, square-ish 1.37:1 "Academy" aspect ratio as it was call, after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  1.37:1 had been the only format seen in commercial cinemas since the inception of motion pictures, with the exception of a few isolated attempts at wide screen presentation.

The single commercial system that did capture the public's imagination, at least for a time, was an incomparable super-wide screen system: Cinerama.  It was wildly popular and along with the perceived threat the movie industry saw coming from television, Cinerama's phenomenal success prompted Fox's CEO, Darryl Zanuck, to demand his technicians give him a wide screen process as well.  He wanted to ride the Cinerama's wide screen  wave. 

If CinemaScope didn't exactly have the incredibly immersive impact as Cinerama, it came very close to capturing the spirit of its predecessor.  This, in fact, is exactly what Darryl Zanuck was hoping to accomplish -- a really practical system to obtain wide screen images and high fidelity stereophonic sound presentation. 

Fox CinemaSope Film Detail

This is the second, additional title frame that was placed after the familiar 20th Century Fox search light logo, heralding a new way of seeing and hearing motion pictures.

 

 

 

Fox CinemaScope Frame - corrected

Not only was this second  title frame added, but Alfred Newman who was already commissioned to write the score for THE ROBE, was asked to compose additional music to be added after the original Fox Fanfare, to cover this frame, although this extension music did not debut in THE ROBE which had the film score cover even the logo frame and fanfare.  It was used extensively in CinemaScope projections thereafter. 

The entire world-renowned piece (copyrighted as the "20th Century Fox Fanfare and CinemaScope Extension")  runs only a mere 28 seconds, but is immediately recognized by every sentient human, even from its first drum-rolls, to the very farthest reaches of the most remote parts of the planet.

The CinemaScope logo and THE ROBE frames used above and elsewhere on this site are trademarks of Twentieth Century Fox with design enhancement and additional creative elements by Martin Hart.  Used with permission..

For detailed technical and historical information about other wide screen cinema processes and their evolution, we suggest a visit to Martin Hart's extremely informative website The American WideScreen Museum

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