Theatre

Ritz Cinerama

Cinerama film formats shown

3-strip

3-strip dates

06/26/62 to November 1963. Cinerama then removed

70mm dates

 

Screen curvature and size

146 degree louvered.

Address

1721 2nd Avenue N.

Comments

Single booth

Current status

Demolished

Below from Birmingham Rewound

Most amusing of all was the newspaper's remark that "Todd-AO has been described by reviewers as a 'practical version of Cinerama,' which, because of its tremendous installation and operational expense, has not been profitable for theater exhibitors except in the largest cities." With that established, wouldn't you know that the next major remodeling program at the Ritz was to turn it into the state's first Cinerama theater?

Yes, it's true: during the spring and early summer of 1962, the insides of the Ritz were ripped out and rebuilt again, this time to provide the multiple screens required by Cinerama, which had been trying to get people out of the TV viewing habit and back into the theaters for almost ten years by that time. The novelty might have worn off in the rest of the movie industry, but Birmingham (and the Ritz) treated it as though it were the greatest advancement in movies since Al Jolson. Buried down in all the publicity was the offhanded remark that up to that point, the only movies produced in the Cinerama format were travelogues. Thrilling as it might have been to take a simulated roller coaster ride or view the beauty of Florida's venerable Cypress Gardens in lifelike realism, moviegoers wanted stories, and the Ritz had to wait almost six months before the first (and some of the few) Cinerama movies with a plot were released.

The conversion to Cinerama really destroyed the Ritz's small remaining amount of historical value. The three screens took up the entire width of the front of the theater, requiring that the chambers that once housed the pipes of the $25,000 organ be unceremoniously closed off with cement blocks. The number of seats dropped dramatically, from 1700 to 500. Even the Ritz's marquee received a Cinerama logo overlay, hiding the red and green neon tubes that truly looked as if they belonged to another era.

Below an article in the The Birmingham News dated June 24, 1962 from Birmingham Rewound 

1980 picture below from http://americanclassicimages.com/