30 years of change

Cinema Technology is celebrating its 30th anniversary year in 2017 — here we  look back to the distant days of 1987 to see just how much has really changed in the world in the past three decades. Comfortingly, it’s not entirely unfamiliar!


We are all familiar with how fast things move in our industry, but those who have been about for a while know that it was ever thus. Back in the first issue of Cinema Technology in October 1987, the Empire Leicester Square was being re-modelled for Cinema International Corporation (subsequently merged with AMC to form UCI) and their new High Wycombe six-screen multiplex was described as the ultimate in luxury. Technically ‘all cinemas have full automation and stereo Dolby, with No.1 cinema equipped with the George Lucas THX sound system of which there is only one other in the country, namely Warner Theatre Leicester Square’. [By coincidence, we look inside this cinema, Vue West End, in our 30th anniversary issue, see page 78.]

Cannon Cinemas new eight screen multiplex in Salford Quays had just opened, and was technically notable for a film interlock system that allowed a single print to be used in up to four cinema projectors at once.

Intermittent movements, sprockets and avoiding heat damage to films were items of great concern to readers and there were numerous questions and answers about the importance of cleanliness in projection rooms to avoid dirt and scratches.

Xenon lamps were rapidly completing their takeover from carbon arcs, and it was informative to read that ‘xenon lamps are essentially hand-constructed, taking up to six weeks to make.’

The BKSTS CTC was (as it still does) organising training courses and regional seminars, with one entitled ‘It’s Your Image’ being aimed at ‘Theatre managers, Manager Operators and Projectionists’.

Frame rates were under discussion in 1987 with tests comparing 24fps to 30fps film systems for flicker/motion portrayal.

Harkness was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for a 93ft x 70.5ft IMAX screen in Japan.

Videowalls were of great interest in 1987, with Philips and Electrosonic offering various solutions.

Sound — the 60th anniversary of the introduction of sound to movies was being celebrated, and it was amusing to learn that, as today, there were complaints to the broadcasters about the poor audibility of dialogue in television programmes.

Surround sound for the home was being described by Dolby, who had recently introduced their ‘Pro Logic’ matrix system for consumers.

Westrex was still operating, but had been taken over by Quad 8 in 1983 and it was, in turn, absorbed by Mitsubishi.

Technical standards for projection have always been of interest. In 1987, the recently revised ANSI/SMPTE 196M-1986 standard was being brought in, demanding 16ftL open-gate luminance.

Satellite broadcasting and digital TV were being introduced as futuristic concepts ­— ‘to 2001 and beyond’ was the strapline.

3D wasn’t of much interest ­— the only reference in the any of the journals was to a talk on history of 3D in film back to 1951!