FOR the past quarter century, people from all over the world have regularly travelled to Bradford to marvel at a globally unique cinema experience.

In the world of cinema, before digital systems such as IMAX, or the widescreen analogue systems of Panavision and Cinemascope, there was a magnificent analogue cinema process called Cinerama.

Unbeknown to the majority of Bradford’s residents, cinema pilgrims from across the world travel to Bradford to attend rare screenings of true cinema magic. The Pictureville cinema, in the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, is currently the only cinema in the world capable of screening what is called a “three strip “ analogue Cinerama movie. Cinerama irrevocably, in one fell swoop, totally changed the shape and sound of the movies and television forever. It is why the televisions in our homes have that widescreen shape.

In 1952 the emergence of Cinerama caused a box office sensation. Cinerama is presented on a deeply curved screen with a very wide field of vision. It is a little like the audience is sitting inside a giant VR headset. Some think it was much better than IMAX.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Launched in 1952, Cinerama changed movies foreverLaunched in 1952, Cinerama changed movies forever (Image: Mark Trompeteler)

On Sunday April 30, at the Museum’s Pictureville cinema, there will be a very rare screening of the best and most famous of the Cinerama feature films, the colourful and epic How The West Was Won. If you think you have seen this film before then you really haven’t. Even on the largest screen televisions - the presentation of the film is a travesty.

So how does Cinerama work? The images envisioned for Cinerama films were ones of epic scale. It was also part of the design that the films should immerse and envelop the audience. At the time this was considered to be too much for a single movie camera and single cinema projector to successfully convey to an audience. So a special rig was invented that involved three separate movie cameras bolted together.

In the analogue cinema era this meant that three rolls of film passed through the three cameras simultaneously to photograph the very wide scene and sweep of the action. In the cinemas major adaptations had to be made. A giant deeply curved screen had to be installed and two further projection boxes had to be added. The three projectors’ beams arc across each other and fill the giant screen to create the illusion of one giant picture. That is why Cinerama is often referred to as a triptych or “three strip” system. A control system synchronises the three projectors and three reels of film to run together perfectly and in synch with a multi channel magnetic soundtrack.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mark Trompeteler, left and wife Patricia with friends Charlie and Patricia Wills at last year's screeningMark Trompeteler, left and wife Patricia with friends Charlie and Patricia Wills at last year's screening (Image: Mark Trompeteler)

You may have seen IMAX but I don’t think you have seen cinema until you have seen How The West Was Won as it was originally intended to be seen - in “three strip” Cinerama. On the April 30 screening you’ll soon become aware of the join lines. You’ll notice that the deeply curved screen is louvered. It will be fabulous good old fashioned analogue celluloid film purring through three mechanical / electrical projectors in three separate boxes.

You’ll notice some occasional scratches and bits of dust on the film. The sheer power and impact of the process and the spectacular nature of the movie will soon capture your attention and the analogue imperfections will pale into insignificance. Seeing this movie in such a very rare screening is a cinema outing you will never forget. I’ve seen cinema fans emerge from one of these screenings into the foyer visibly emotionally moved by the experience.

Bill Lawrence, the museum’s former Head of Film, who is still very active in film work across the UK, championed the revival of Cinerama and the museum’s current unique installation, along with the late Tony Cutts, former Chief Projectionist at the Media Museum.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The late Tony Cutts, left, and Bill Lawrence The late Tony Cutts, left, and Bill Lawrence (Image: National Media Museum)

Two regular visitors from Hollywood also championing the Cinerama presentations have been Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch. Together with Canadian Tom March, they have undertaken significant digital restorations of all the “three strip” Cinerama films. In 2012 veteran Hollywood stuntman Loren Janes, who worked extensively on How The West Was Won, attended the screening and gave a presentation from the stage. Loren is pctured right with fellow veteran Hollywood stuntman Loren Janes, who assists in Cinerama film restorations, at the 2012 screening.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Loren James and Tom March at the screeningLoren James and Tom March at the screening (Image: Mark Trompeteler)

Bradford residents don’t have to travel so far to be part of the winning of The West. Book now!

* You can explore Mark’s image and cinema rich website at On instagram, follow him at:

* Photography by Mark Trompeteler. Thanks to National Museum of Science and Media Press Department for accreditation.