Civic Theatre 267 Queen Street, Auckland - 1953 CinemaScope comes to the Civic.

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Civic Auditorium

Civic Theatre

Auckland, NZ

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Taken on: August 31, 2021

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Date time: 2022-06-21 23:44:43 +0000

Date time original: 2021-08-31 09:51:58 +0000

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Civic Theatre 267 Queen Street, Auckland - 1953 CinemaScope comes to the Civic.

Civic Theatre 267 Queen Street, Auckland

1953 CinemaScope comes to the Civic ( Author Ric Carlyon)

Amalgamated’s close commercial arrangements with Fox no doubt contributed to the rapid introduction of Cinemascope to New Zealand. The Civic was chosen and its screen was greatly enlarged, though some difficulties were encountered because of the theatre’s long throw from the projectors to the screen, far further than average cinemas. In theory, the longer the throw the wider the picture: adjustments were made to the lenses to ensure the picture was contained to the new screen and did not overflow either side of the proscenium which had been re-engineered to cater for the wide, wide screen.

The Robe in CinemaScope opened at the Civic in November 1953

The first movie ever released in CinemaScope was the biblical story “The Robe” which opened at the Civic in November 1953. It starred Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, and Michael Rennie with Dean Jagger, Jay Robinson, Richard Boone and Jeff Morrow.

Amalgamated made much of it. The Civic was to be the first theatre outside the US to screen the feature after its New York debut, the film quickly proving a box-office hit right across the States. The outside of the Civic had a make-over never before ventured to promote a single movie. Apart from the enormous billboard above the front doors, long signs (as if to accentuate CinemaScope’s dimension) announcing “The Robe” were erected along the length of the theatre’s wall on both Queen Street and Wellesley Street frontages. And for the first time in Auckland “travelling lights” bordered the signs: white lights that appeared to chase each other around the perimeter.

The new, wide, CinemaScope screen

Needless to say, there was a grand premiere to welcome the new spectacle, but there were a few difficulties on the night as Michael Moodabe, Junior, recalled in his book “Peanuts and Pictures: The Life and Times of M.J. Moodabe”. Friday evening shoppers and curious crowds blocked the roads outside the Civic, delaying the arrival of dignitaries, the movie started before some members of the official party were seated and the curtains only hesitatingly opened to the new, wide, CinemaScope screen requirement.

Extreme close-ups

Aficionados picked some problems with the sound track, particularly music, and sometimes a little distortion of faces in extreme close-ups, a shot which was avoided in follow up Cinemascope productions until the lenses were adjusted to overcome the problem.

Nevertheless CinemaScope had arrived via the Civic

Nevertheless CinemaScope had arrived via the Civic, a stepping stone to 70mm, Todd-AO, Techniscope and Cinerama. And “The Robe” proved very popular at the Civic: internationally it was the number one hit - by Ric Carlyon.

Contributed by Greg Lynch - .

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