(kanopy/Apple TV/Blu-Ray) Cinerama was a widescreen shooting and projection process that, at its time, was the closest you could get to a wholly immersive filmgoing experience. The way it worked was primitive and troublesome, as it not only shot three negatives at the same time (similar to early Technicolor films), but it did so through three cameras, positioned so the footage could be (mostly) seamlessly projected by three projectors.
The end result is spectacularly overwhelming. While the primary allure is the all-encompassing visuals, you’re also bombarded by seven-channel directional surround sound. It truly is a unique experience when it works, but projecting films like this is a hairy process, one that requires constant monitoring for -each- projector. (You can read more about the projection process here.)
If memory serves, the process broke down and had to be re-synced when I saw THIS IS CINERAMA at Los Angeles’ Cinerama theater during TCM Fest, a time when you have your top projectionists on the job. (The LA Cinerama is one of the few existing Cinerama theaters; the other two are in Seattle and Bradford, England.)
Cinerama as a shooting process didn’t last long, thanks to the unwieldy cameras and the introduction of single-strip widescreen lenses like the Ultra Panavision 70, but the theaters survived as many widescreen spectacles were converted to their three-strip projection setup, not unlike how many 35mm films are blown up for IMAX screens.
“So,” you might ask, “if it’s about the experience of being in a high-end theater, why should I watch this on my laptop? Also, isn’t the film mostly a travelogue with some choreographed water skiing?” Well, yes, you certainly aren’t watching for the story. However, while the current restoration allows you to watch it like any widescreen film, it also allows you to view it in the shape you’d see it in at the theater. In a time when we can’t — or at least shouldn’t — be attending theaters, it’s a similarly unique home viewing experience.