Comments from sguttag

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sguttag commented about Uptown Theatre on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:06 am

I wouldn’t expect it to be cut up (and there are many reasons as to why). If it was, it would lose its appeal extremely fast and likely make it not worth the hassle/cost.

My guess is that they would try to pair it with E-street to book it like one complex, in a sense. This was done back in the day to ensure that the Uptown to eject a lower performing title to Wisc. Ave cinemas or another LCE (and before that Circle) theatre. Heck, I remember a time when Circle would offer a studio a 2-week run in a take it or leave it fashion because that theatre gives a movie credibility, not vice-versa.

We’ll see. This is a different world in many ways.

sguttag commented about Perspecta Sound Test Film on Nov 10, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Looks like the video got blocked.

sguttag commented about Ambler Theatre on Apr 12, 2018 at 8:52 am

In case nobody has heard, the Ambler will be running the first of their “Film-Festivals” using genuine film! They had 35mm reinstalled in their #2 theatre.

Check their website: for specific movies and showtimes.

sguttag commented about Uptown Theatre on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Sure, by the 1950s it was 1st run. But it didn’t start out that way.

sguttag commented about Uptown Theatre on Aug 4, 2017 at 8:05 pm

It was a sub run theatre. It was “Uptown” because it wasn’t “Downtown”. It became 1st run as the grand downtown theatres closed and people moved further out.

sguttag commented about Uptown Theatre on Aug 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm

The Uptown is not owned by AMC so they have no option of selling it. They can walk away when their lease is up (whenever that is).

While the UPTOWN sign is saved, they plan to remove the iconic neon tubes and replace with LED. To me, that isn’t good either and I think the community has a card to play here. AMC plans to add an AMC sign above the UPTOWN one. Fine, in order to do that you not only have to retain the neon of the original sign, the added AMC sign should be required to also be neon to match (it should look like it belongs).

And with that, get a stipulation that they are required to maintain the signs such that the letters cannot remain non-functional for any extended period of time. Say, 3-weeks or so after a portion has failed, they should be compelled to have it working again.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Jun 18, 2017 at 1:59 am

Screens 2 and 3 have been recently changed so you shouldn’t see blemishes on them now. The newish red curtain in #1 remains fully operational too.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Mar 12, 2017 at 10:37 pm

The AFI/Silver NEVER ran movies on a platter except on rare occasions in theatres 2 or 3 (not even an option in 1). My only comment on the projectionists for the site is that the regular projectionists are no longer there.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Sep 1, 2016 at 5:02 am

The previous curtain was just some of the wall fabric. There were numerous problems with it when it opened since it has to turn 90 degrees and stack. The heavier fabric would stress the system as it made the turn.

The new curtain should last longer, providing the track system/carriers are maintained.

sguttag commented about Uptown Theatre on May 24, 2016 at 10:20 pm

The Norelco projectors came out much earlier for Cinerama. They went to the Cinema 7 theatre in Bailey’s Crossroads when it opened. There they remained until the Apex Annapolis Harbor opened when one moved there. When the Cinema 7 closed, the second moved to be a parts machine. For the DCinema conversion, they were trashed (thrown in the dumpster).

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Dec 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

70mm has a normal ratio of 2.20. At the AFI, like most older theatres, the front-end sort of dictates how big an image you can work with. Also, don’t confuse width with area. I believe that the 2.20 ratio has the largest area at the Silver. 35mm scope is wider but less tall.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Dec 29, 2015 at 5:40 am

Not entirely accurate Giles. The AFI/Silver (in all three screens) have both side and vertical masking. Believe it or not, their normal 70mm picture (2.20:1 ratio) does NOT fill the width of the screen but does fill the height. So for the Hateful Eight and all other UP70 presentations, the screen actually DOES get wider as well as less tall to complete the 2.76:1 ratio.

The current Uptown screen tops out at 2.39:1 and hasn’t gone out to the full Cinerama/UP70 ratio for a long, long time. Even if the Uptown were to run Hateful Eight, they’d likely mask it down in height rather than put in a new screen and rig it for the wider format (unfortunately, we’ll never know though I agree the Uptown’s front-end could have made this look pretty special…though lensing may have proven tricky with the deep curve and “modern” lenses).

While I don’t know the reasoning for the pricing on this movie, I guarantee you that more $$$ is being spent on the presentation at the AFI/Silver than Gallery Place. Rumor has it (and I hope they are wrong) that Gallery Place has damaged their print already. The AFI/Silver has full-time professional projectionists. The reports of the presentation quality there isn’t by accident.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Nov 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm

The orbital space station was not completed, hence it does not have its normal level of commercial traffic. Furthermore, with the “outbreak” and quarantine, nobody would be cleared to travel there from the US.

The soundtrack for this week’s showing was from the “5.1” mix which seemed to be nothing more than a 5.1 “safe” downmix of the orignial 6-channel for non 6-track theatres (or older players without the “Special Venue” version of the 6D). Normally, the AFI/Silver gets the 6-channel discs…not this time however. Since there was no subwoofer channel in the original mix, you are not likely to have any. Now there was an “8-channel” mix done for this movie (I’ve seen the discs but have never personally heard them)…I suppose if they really did a remix, then it may be possible for there to have been a subwoofer added.

Hal should talk out of ALL channels…he is to be omni-present. That is part of his eeriness.

The print was relatively low-milage and all of the leaders/tails were in-tact (never been plattered). However, as I understand it, the printing left a bit to be desired as it looked to have the pre-aged look to it, unfortunately. The original prints were done by Metrocolor and they looked fantastic! I’ve noted that some of the dupes of 70mm over the years, including Lawrence of Arabia appear to be less than stellar…with often some fogging noticeable around the edges of the frame. I did not see this particular print and am going strictly by description of the projectionist that checked it in.

As for equalization…all cinemas have equalizers on their sound systems. These are what are used to achieve a uniform sound…however they are not hand-tuned by ear to each particular movie or person’s “taste.” They are not “tweaked.” With the vast diversity of product run at a place like the AFI, it would be a hopelessly lost cause and what you may like someone else may dislike. The goal is to always present the movie as close as possible to the manner it was intended to be shown.

The AFI does have special DSP processors strictly for Mono 16 and 35mm films but the person that wanted them ended up being dismissed before ever using them. The thought behind them was that mono was more of the wild-west and with a completely lack of uniformity…particularly on 16mm. Again, it would come down to what one person “thinks” sounds best for everyone…it is a potentially losing battle.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Oct 15, 2014 at 10:15 pm

HDCAM is an HD format…1080i. There is also HDCAM-SR, which tops out at 1080p and 4:4:4 color space though it is almost always 4:2:2. It is nothing to worry about image or sound wise. That is the format most movies are formatted in all of the way up until release.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 15, 2014 at 10:07 pm

The MacArthur’s stage speakers were all behind the screen. The exposed speakers (on the stage) were subwoofers that were installed for Trek II.

The Cinema didn’t get stereo surrounds until relatively late…after 1987. The Uptown had stereo surrounds first (one of the first in the nation). The Uptown’s surround layout was “unique.” There weren’t that many but they were large speakers…Altec A7s.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

You would be mistaken. Star Trek premiered here AND played here. The Black Hole played the Uptown…maybe you were thinking that?

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm

That number does not sound unreasonable.

sguttag commented about Fine Arts Theatre on Oct 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

“Cocoon” definitely played there in 70mm.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Under K-B, the MacArthur had some E-V speaker…I forget the model. Under Circle, I’m pretty sure they were Altec Model 312 speakers. I believe Circle they flew the surrounds via aircraft cable. Depending on how you do your eye hooks you can also create a tilt so they point down a bit, as was done at the MacArthur. That level of speaker was pretty typical of surrounds really up and until about 1990, to be honest. I’ve seen TONs of bookshelf speakers used as surrounds.

As far as coverage…probably the K-B Cinema had the best surround array at that time. I forget the exact number, but there were A LOT of surrounds. They were from Frazier.

The Fine Arts used a “concept” by Community called the DSS surround. While the coverage was good, the response was not stellar. Dolby published a document suggesting that a large quantity of 8" drivers would make a good surround array and Community took it to heart. The fact that no other K-B theatre (or Circle/Showcase) ever used them again should be an indicator as to how well they were received. While they may have been adequate for optical surround tracks (35mm Dolby Stereo) since the frequency response on the surrounds was so poor, for 70mm, they were inadequate. They also looked really bad, in my opinion.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 13, 2014 at 4:11 am

Jodar…“stereo”, in cinema, has been used for any sound format having more than 1-channel. Furthermore, Dolby quickly adopted the name “Dolby Stereo” and applied it to all of their multi-channel cinema formats. So 70mm 6-track Dolby Stereo is really a 6-channel sound format. The “stereo” has nothing to do with the number of surround channels. For whatever reason, there was never a special logo or promotion for the 70mm stereo surround format (assigned format 43 by Dolby in their CP200 processor). In Dolby’s release lists of the day…the only means of knowing which titles had a stereo-surround track would be to see the “SS” after the title’s name. The 70mm stereo-surround format is what evolved into what consumers know as 5.1. Tracks 2 and 4 in the 70mm format, which originally were used for Left-Center and Right-Center stage channels were first repurposed as “baby boom channels by only recording LF information on them and applying a suitable expander and Low-pass filter as well as a line-amplifier to raise their level. In this manner the format was compatible with non-baby-boom theatres. Those theatres would lack the expander as well as the approximate 10dB of in-band boost so their LC/RC speakers would just play those bass tracks as if they were normal tracks. When the Stereo Surround format came out, tracks 2 and 4 used the LF portion of the audio spectrum still for baby-boom (250Hz and below) but the HF portion (500Hz and above) were recorded stereo surround information. Track 6, the mono surround track would supply the LF portion of the surrounds (500Hz and below) to all of the surrounds in mono. Since directionality is proportional to the higher frequencies, it convincingly created "Stereo Surrounds.” though only the upper frequencies are stereo. Theatres without the CAT158 module in an SA5 (CP100) or the Accessory Rack (CP200) would not have the decoding circuits and just play the mono-surround track as normal. If the theatre had LC/RC speakers but no modern “Baby-Boom” sound processor that would filter the HF information above 250Hz, then one would need to disconnect the HF drivers on those two speakers (virtually all crossovers in that era were at 500Hz to keep the crossover point out of the dialog region.

The number of stereo-surround movies back in the early to mid 80s were VERY few…Apocalypse Now, Superman, Pink Floyd’s THE WALL are some of the few titles around that time. Star Trek II definitely was NOT recorded with stereo-surrounds. Even if the MacArthur had the decoder (which it did NOT under either K-B or Circle or Cineplex/Loews), there stereo surround information was not there to be decoded.

What you likely heard was possibly a cleaver mix of say Right channel and Surrounds to try and steer the sound a bit or possibly a poorly distributed surround array (the MacA didn’t have what one would consider an optimal surround layout. It had a handful of “bookshelf” type speakers going down the side/rear of the theatre (typical for that era). As such, it is possible that the nearest speaker would have a dominating influence on the surround perception. Furthermore, how the speakers were wired to achieve a suitable impedance to the amplifier could have sections of the surround array non-uniform (the series/parallel wiring could have more current going through the rear grouping of speakers if that group had a lower resulting impedance due to fewer speakers on that group). I really can’t say what you personally heard. I can only give you the facts on how the system works and how the movie was recorded.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Virtually all 70mm (blow ups or 65mm origination) movies from 1977 onwards (shot, not reissues of classic titles) had “baby boom” tracks. Even Stereo Surround movies had baby-boom. In fact, the Stereo Surround format was created in a manner that ensured that a Stereo-Surround print could be single inventoried to ANY theatre.

There were rare exceptions to the baby-boom format for titles like “Annie” which used all 5-stage channels. But those were VERY rare…in fact, my mind is drawing a blank of any other titles.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 7, 2014 at 7:17 am

Jodar…I had responded previously but apparently, it did not take! Not only was the MacArthur always a mono-surround theatre (K-B, Circle, Cineplex), Star Trek II was a mono-surround movie! The number of Stereo Surround features were very small in the early/mid ‘80s…after about 86, it started to pick up a bit. If you want to see what was recorded with Stereo surround…this list is pretty complete

Depending on the surround layout one can get fake directionality due to the lack of even coverage. For instance, the MacArthur had something like 12 surrounds for the entire theatre (it may have been less…I don’t recall anymore the exact layout for either K-B or Circle…just that they both hung just a few speakers down each side and across the rear…compare that to the K-B Cinema or the AFI/Silver). One can try to fake surround steering by mixing some of Stage Left or Right with the surrounds but you are never going to get an actual effect in the back corner. Another thing that could influence your perception of surround directionality is where you were sitting in relationship to the speakers as well as how the speakers were wired. In order to present the amplifier with a suitable load, the surround speakers were often wired in a series/parallel fashion. If the numbers didn’t work out even, one bank of surround would play louder than the rest and could also seem to steer the sound to one point in the theatre more than the other. A modern system, like the AFI/Silver…all surrounds play at the exact same volume, by design.

Note, by “Mono Surrounds” that means that ALL of the surround speakers play when something is on that track so you are going to get that “all around you” feeling. Originally, the surrounds were called the “effects” track.


K-B never had a Cinerama theatre. Furthermore, 2001:A Space Odyssey was never in 3-strip Cinerama. Its only ties to Cinerama was in name and even then it also carried the “Panavision 70” tag. The theatre you are likely thinking of was the Uptown (an RKO theatre at the time)…which was a Cinerama theatre (still has the deep-curve), was the world premiere theatre for 2001 but it played in 70mm.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Oct 4, 2014 at 5:25 am

Regarding Star Trek II at the MacArthur…I have a more lengthy response but since that is about the MacArthur, I decided to post it on THAT page instead…if interested, please go there.

sguttag commented about MacArthur Theater on Oct 4, 2014 at 5:23 am

This is a transplanted conversation from the AFI/Silver page but since it was about the MacArthur and its history…I’ve decided to post it here since it is more about the MacA.

Star Trek II 70mm prints will ALL be very magenta by now. 1982 was a pivotal year for Kodak film stocks…later in 1982, the low-fade prints became available…unfortunately Star Trek II was not made on that. I still have some of the 70mm test material from its original release (at the MacArthur) and boy is it pink. Also, Paramount gave us (K-B Theatres) a couple of reels of Star Trek II for when we were opening new 70mm theatres (e.g. Montgomery Mall) to test it out prior to the first run…those reels are VERY Magenta.

Sound wise, all 70mm recorded prior to Jedi will be with the older standards (narrower track widths on the recording heads and lower reference levels). Furthermore, the oxides used were of lesser quality than 1983 and onwards. Trek II would fall into the “prior” category. Note, the MacArthur never had stereo surrounds. The World Premier of TMP ran in 35mm optical stereo via an EPRAD Starscope (not even Dolby) at the MacArthur. That was eventually replaced in 1982 by a CP200 for the 70mm opening (and area premier) of Star Trek II. However the surrounds remained mono. In end of 1982/1983 when the theatre transitioned to Circle theatres, the surrounds remained mono too (again with a CP200). I believe Circle’s debut 70mm film was THE DARK CRYSTAL at the MacArthur.

I would agree that Star Trek II was not 70mm’s best example. What I remember most was what appeared to be a lack of uniformity in the development of the image…it was almost as if it was streaked in processing. Another bit of trivia for MacArthur fans…the screen was not wide enough for Scope/70mm and we cropped the sides. In order for the opening of Star Trek II to NOT show “aramount Present”…we left the curtains shut and douser closed for the opening notes of the new “theme” until the Paramount card passed, then opened the curtains on the star field. I thought it was actually kind of a cool effect…almost like a very mini overture.

sguttag commented about AFI Silver Theatre on Sep 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I can’t speak to the Ziegfeld’s set up…but I can to the AFI/Silver’s (and MOST of the 70mm venues in the DC area during 70mm’s heyday. At some point, I probably tuned most of them…notably, the K-B Cinema, The Uptown and even Embassy and Avalon. the AFI/Silver’s sound system(s) are spot-on on levels, including surrounds.

In fact, few venues outside of a studio get the kind of attention the AFI gets. They have to run most every type of movie ever made in whatever format it was made.

Setting levels is not something done on popularity of having hot surrounds but by precise measurement to recreate, as accurately as possible, the environment that the movie was mixed. This is NOT something that a home release enjoys where the mix is deliberately altered from the theatrical mix to cater to wants of the home and the typically different listening environment.

Unfortunately, the subject of surround levels is further muddied by the fact that before digital audio, SOME cinema sound processors (Dolby CP55 and CP65, in particular), would raise the optical surround level by 3dB…allegedly to overcome the effects of the 2:4 decoder. This is a practice that was not used in prior processors (CP50, CP100, CP200) or latter processors (CP500, CP650).

Cinema surrounds has yet another complication that home video does not have to contend with…a legacy of a monaural surround. The surround level when all speakers are playing should have the SAME SPL level as any one of the stage speakers given the same input level. However, when cinema went to a stereo surround, it was essential that the same soundtrack play at equal level in a mono or stereo surround theatre. To accomplish this, the stereo surrounds are lowered by 3dB each such that when they acoustically sum, they once again play at the SAME level as either a mono surround system or any one of the stage speakers. When Surround EX came out in 1999…we AGAIN had to ensure that regardless of the theatre capability, the same track would play at the same level and Surround-EX decoders had to ensure that either stereo surround or EX movies would play properly at the same level. At the AFI you can go through any mode, mono surround, stereo surround, Surround-EX, Surround 7.1…given the same source level, the same SPL will be in the theatre and precisely balanced to the stage channels. Furthermore, when non-Cinema content is played (Broadcast or even consumer formats like BluRay), there are gain stages in the sound systems to ensure that they too will playback at the correct level since they didn’t ever have to content with the legacy of backwards compatibility with a mono surround system.

Now add into all of that exhibitors know that people like to hear the surrounds and would goose the levels (“If I paid for them, I want to hear them!”). It doesn’t make it right but it make make some happy. Whereas I often have to set up a theatre for a studio screening, the levels have to be exactly right.

The DCP of “Oklahoma!” was a 4K 30fps version. It was within a Scope container. The image was good, the colors were very good. It was a FAR cry from a 70mm image though. It was more akin to a good 35mm image.