Cinerama at the Villa

The Cinerama logo. - , Utah
The Cinerama logo.
July 1961

On July 5, 1961, the Villa closed for 16 days for the installation of Cinerama.

"The Villa Theater, which veteran showman have called one of the most beautiful showhouses in the country, is being remodeled for the third time in five years to allow exhibition of Cinerama. This project, also expected to cost several thousand dollars, involves installation of a new screen and three projection booths, plus other improvements."[1]

On 21 July 1961, the Villa hosted a benefit premiere of This Is Cinerama.  The Mormon Tabernacle Chior, which provides background music for several sequences in the film, gave a live performance in front of the new Cinerama screen.  Church leaders and government officials were in attendance.  There was even a red carpet with the word Cinerama at the entrance to the theater.

"CROWDS AT CINERAMA OPENING - Enthusiastic crowds gathered outside the Villa Theater Friday night for the premiere of "This is Cinerama " First time it has appeared in the Mountain West." - , Utah
"CROWDS AT CINERAMA OPENING - Enthusiastic crowds gathered outside the Villa Theater Friday night for the premiere of "This is Cinerama " First time it has appeared in the Mountain West."
Deseret News, page B1, 22 July 1961

"After that came 'This Is Cinerama' itself - the daddy of all wide screens and stereophonic sound.  And both elements were made even more impressive than ever with the beautiful new 96-foot curved screen and the sound system installed at the Villa for Cinerama.  Many in the audience, who have seen Cinerama several times in different cities called the Villa presentation the 'best yet.'"[2]

From 1961 to 1964, the Villa showed seven movies in the three-projector Cinerama process.  Each movie began with a benefit premiere and were often held over.  One film, Seven Wonders of the World, even made a return engagement.

This Is Cinerama (1961)
Seven Wonders of the World (1962)
Cinerama Holiday (1962)
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962)
Search for Paradise (1963)
How the West Was Won (1963)
South Seas Adventure (1964)

A drawing of the Villa Theatre entrance, with the
Advertisements for This Is Cinerama often used a logo with the text, "Exclusive. Fox Villa Theatre, Mountain West home of Cinerama.  Will never be shown in any other theatre in Utah!"
July 1961

In 1964, the Villa closed for one day to install equipment for the presentation of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  This was the first film to be shown in the new Cinerama process which used a single projector with a 70mm print.  Although the new process eliminated the center lines caused by the 3-projector system, it did not carry the same illusion of depth.

"It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" is projected in the single projector Cinerama process, but many in the premiere audience said it does not carry the illusion of depth of the three-projector technique.  Some said they preferred seeing center lines to partially losing the illusion of being in the picture. They felt, however, that the sound was excellent, picture was clear and the film did not jiggle . . ."[3]  (See: Timeline)

The Villa continued to show 70mm Cinerama through 1969, including Cinerama Circus World, Greatest Story Ever Told, The Hallelujah Trail, Grand Prix, Ice Station Zebra, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Krakatoa.

In the 1960s, the Salt Lake Tribune sponsored annual showings of Cinerama films for handicapped and "shut-ins."  (See: Annual Cinerama Showings for the Handicapped)

In 1996, the Cinerama strip screen was replaced with a solid screen with the same shape.  The Villa Theatre continued to show movies on the Cinerama screen until it closed permanently in 2003.

1. "$400,000 Hyland Project Newest Theater Remodeling", Deseret News, 17 July 1961, page B3
2. "S.L. Premiere Of Cinerama Thrills Throng", Deseret News, 22 July 1961, page B1
3. "Fun-Filled 'Mad World' Opens After Heart Fund Premiere", Deseret News, 20 February 1964, page A11