Hollywood’s big new technology is 90 years old

As movie theaters search for new technology to drag people into theaters, the latest promise comes from Barco Escape, a three-screen technology designed for “immersive cinema” with a panoramic view or, potentially, action on three different screens at once.

But as Dennis Duffy once said, technology is cyclical. These ideas have come up before – in spectacular fashion.

Back in the 50s, the Cinerama format had a similar concept, using three projectors on a wide-angled screen to create a broader picture. The technique seemed so unusual at the time that the first Cinemera film, This Is Cinerama, is basically a commercial for the format; it opens with an educational lecture about the history of film to prepare viewers for what will come next. Flicker Alley released This Is Cinerama on Blu-ray a few years ago, complete with a fake curved screen. (Available from the AU Library under HU BLU 10798.)

Other movies have used multiple projectors to show several scenes at once, maybe none more famously than the 1927 silent film Napoleon. The 5-hour-long behemoth of a movie includes a sequence with three different projectors running at once. Because of the changing size of the screen and length, Napoleon is nearly impossible to watch correctly at home. You’ll have to catch one of the rare theatrical screenings, held only 14 times since the 1930s. (A Blu-ray will also come out later this year.)

Or maybe, if Barco Escape catches on, you can watch Napeleon there. Everything old is new again!

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