Wide Screen Projection

Daryl Zanuck was an early advocate of widescreen projection. One of the first things Zanuck did when he returned to Fox in 1944 was to restart the research on a 50mm film, shelved in the early 1930s as a cost-cutting measure (a larger-sized film in the projector meant higher resolution). Impressed by a screening in Cinerama, a three-projector widescreen process, unveiled in 1952 that promised to envelop the viewer in a wrap-around image, Zanuck wrote an essay extolling widescreen’s virtues, seeing the new formats as a “participatory” form of recreation, rather than mere passive entertainment, such as television.  But Cinerama was cumbersome, and used three projectors simultaneously, potentially a hugely expensive investment. Fox, like every other studio had rejected Cinerama when the innovative new process was pitched to them for investment. In retrospect, this looked like a mistake, but nothing could be done. Cinerama was no longer for sale.

Zanuck now urged the studio to keep the same principle, but find a more feasible approach. He approved a massive investment into a system that would be called Cinemascope—$10 million in its first year alone. The urgency was increased when an aggressive appliance tycoon and shareholder, Charles Green, began threatening a proxy takeover, claiming the current Fox administration was wasting stockholders money. He attempted to conspire with Zanuck to oust the New York-based President of Fox since 1942, Greek-American Spyros Skouras. Zanuck refused; instead, he and Skouras decided to gamble on Cinemascope to save their jobs, and perhaps, their studio.

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