The Cinerama in Belltown, one of a handful of surviving showplaces for the vast, curved-screen, "puts you in the picture" format, is about to host a couple weeks of variously spectacular films produced in either three-panel Cinerama or a 70mm format. The picture-window clarity of 70mm can be (the teen term really does apply) awesome; I'll never forget my initial encounter with Lawrence of Arabia during its first-run, reserved-seat engagement in 1962 ... or my disappointment upon seeing the diminished, 35mm print in my college town half a year later. An integral 70mm widescreen image is also much more satisfying than the original Cinerama with its disjointed triptych. After a series of travelogues in the 1950s, the three-panel process was used on two feature films in the early Sixties, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won. The latter remains a cherished memory for those fortunate enough to have seen it back then (MGM gave it a general release in a CinemaScope reduction that reached a broader audience but grossly exaggerated the distortions in the original image). The next "Cinerama" picture, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, was in Super Panavision 70 or somesuch grandiosely yclept 70mm format, and that's the way it went for subsequent Cinerama offerings till the concept dried up and blew away.

Back in 1999, when the long-disused theater at Fourth & Lenora was restored and about to be reopened by Paul Allen, I was offered the opportunity to write a short history of the widescreen for Seattle Weekly. The piece is still in that paper's archive— http://www.seattleweekly.com/1999-05-12/film/cheesorama/ —should you care to check it out.

Meanwhile, the week's lineup as of Sept. 29—access to prints is dicey, and some slots remain to be filled:

Friday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m.
How The West Was Won (1963), a five-chapter epic with an all-star cast (James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda...), bridging narration by Spencer Tracy, and direction by three Old Hollywoodians with sterling credentials (John Ford, "The Civil War"; George Marshall, "The Railroad"; and Henry Hathaway, "The Rivers," "The Plains," and "The Outlaws"). Also shown several more times.

Saturday, Oct. 1
10 a.m. and 3 p.m.—How the West Was Won
9 p.m.—This Is Cinerama (1952), the original, three-panel spectacular; wildly uneven in interest, but the high points are well worth sitting through the insipid segments. Several subsequent shows.

Sunday, Oct. 2
11:30 p.m.—This Is Cinerama
4:30 p.m.—How the West Was Won

Tuesday, Oct. 4
4 p.m.—West Side Story (1961), the multi-Oscared Jerome Robbins–Robert Wise film of the Robbins–Leonard Bernstein–Stephen Sondheim musical. Like most of the titles to follow, not really a Cinerama-connected production.
8 p.m.—Lawrence of Arabia (1962), the next year's big Oscar collector, directed by David Lean, superbly shot by Freddie Young, and featuring Peter O'Toole's starmaking performance.

Wednesday, Oct. 5
12 noon—My Fair Lady (1964), airless, elephantine production of the loverly Shaw-derived musical, with unsung (literally) leading lady Audrey Hepburn the Oscar-neglected best of show.
4 p.m.—Cleopatra (1963), Todd-AO production that brought Liz & Dick together; director Joe Mankiewicz preferred that it go unmentioned in his filmography.
9 p.m.—2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)—2001 has come and gone; 2001, never. See that Weekly article for further comment.

Thursday, Oct. 6
12 noon—Playtime (1967), the Jacques Tati masterpiece that at least one critic figured you need to see not only more than once, but also from different parts of the auditorium.
4 p.m.—The Sound of Music (1965)
8 p.m.—Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965); lightweight stars, almost lighter-than-air planes; pretty, silly, and pretty silly.

Friday, Oct. 7
12 noon—South Pacific (1958); those primary-color filters, ugh!
4 p.m.—West Side Story
8 p.m.—Lawrence of Arabia

Saturday, Oct. 8
11 a.m.—My Fair Lady
4 p.m.—Cleopatra
9 p.m.—2001: A Space Odyssey

Sunday. Oct. 9
11 a.m.—Playtime
3:30 p.m.—The Sound of Music
8 p.m.—Tron (1982), the original ... but either way, with Jeff Bridges.

Monday, Oct. 10
12 noon—To Be Announced
4 p.m.—Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
8 p.m.—Baraka (1992), well-regarded trip movie, in both senses of the phrase.

Tuesday, Oct. 11
12 noon & 4 p.m.—To Be Announced
8 p.m.—Lord Jim (1965), Richard Brooks's long-dreamt-of, deeply disappointing version of the Conrad novel, with an etiolated Peter O'Toole and a juicier supporting cast.

Wednesday, Oct. 12
12 noon & 4 p.m.—To Be Announced
8 p.m.—Tron

Thursday, Oct. 13
12 noon—West Side Story
4 p.m.—South Pacific
8 p.m.—My Fair Lady

Friday, Oct. 14
12 noon—West Side Story
4 p.m.—Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
8 p.m.—Cleopatra

Saturday, Oct. 15
12 noon—The Sound of Music
4 p.m.—Lawrence of Arabia
9 p.m.—2001: A Space Odyssey

Sunday, Oct. 16
11:30 a.m.—This Is Cinerama
4:30 p.m.—How the West Was Won

For more information—and possible schedule changes—visit: seattlecinerama.com