Just what is it that SACD's and Cinerama have in common? Well, at least in this poster's opinion, each represented (or represents) the best that there is to offer in each respective field, but one (Cinerama) is extinct, and the other may soon be. That's unfortunate in each instance.

Cinerama was first shown in 1952 to startled audiences in New York City. The first film, "This is Cinerama" was the highest grossing film for the year, and yet played in only one theatre! I'm old enough (63) to remember the visceral thrill after hearing Lowell Thomas announce, "Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is Cinerama!" to be followed by the curtains parting to reveal what was then, and remains today, the widest and most deeply curved screen in film history. Combine the effect of being dazzled by the sheer immensity of the screen with a thunderous orchestral overture played on 5 Altec Lansing "Voice of the Theatre" speaker systems behind the screen, with two others in the rear of the theatre and then, after catching one's breath, realize that the Cinerama camera has been mounted on the front of a rickety wooden roller coaster (in New York's Rockaway Playland)! As the screen faded to black at the end of the "ride," the exasperated gasps of audience member was something I'll never forget.

Cinerama in its original "three-strip" format used three cameras and three projectors to closely approximate the field of human vision with many "corner of the eye" shots. Unfortunately, it was plagued with several problems, aside from the camera being bulky and difficult to work with: two very noticeable seams down the screen, three images of slightly different colors and contstantly jittering images that never seemed to remain steady.

All this was "solved" with the introduction of single-strip Cinerama and the first film shown in that manner was Stanley Kramer's hilarious, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." This film, and a handful that followed, used a 70mm process (usually Super or Ultra Panavision 70), and with a special anamorphic lens, spread the image clear across the Cinerama screen without any of the previous drawbacks, but with none of the near three-dimensional quality or razor-clear detail of the original 3-strip process. The most memorable film "presented" in Cinerama (the term used for these 70mm/Cinerama films) was Stanley Kubrick's classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Still, Cinerama as a corporate entity had to eventually declare bankruptcy, and with the single exception of the Seattle Cinerama theatre, isn't shown anywhere in the world today. IMAX is the current "replacement" for Cinerama, but while its screen is a good deal taller, it's not as wide, nor is it curved - the Cinerama screen was a 146 degree arc. So, the "best" widescreen format has been mothballed, apparently for good.

The fate of SACD's may be the same. While, at least in my opinion, and that of numerous recording engineers and musicians, SACD offers the best sound currently available from any medium, it's not been widely accepted and may just also fade into the sunset as did Cinerama. To lose the best of both worlds would be a crying shame, at least in my opinion, and there's still a glimmer of hope for the survival of SACD's, but it isn't too promising.

I'm a huge fan of classical music, and there's a wealth of material available on SACD (and easy to find on ArkivMusic's website), but since classical music constitues a mere 3% of all recorded music purchases, that doesn't bode well for SACD's survival. There are some popular groups available on SACD (The Dead, Depeche Mode, reissues of The Moody Blues, Elton John, Bob Dylan, and a couple of Eric Clapton recordings) but no major endorsement from any current performer in any format other than classics.

I watched enthusiastically as the local theatre in the town where I grew up (Syosset, New York) spent an unheard-of $250,000 in 1959 to install the Cinerama screen, as well as two additional projection booths in each of the theatre's walls, and saw every single one of the "three-strp" films (the last of which was "How The West Was Won"), and then saw some of the single-strip films elsewhere as the Syosset theatre removed its Cinerama screen. It was a wonderful process and it's gone. I hope SACD's don't suffer the same fate.