This Week in History


Cinema Reinvented: Experience IMAX!

For the Week of Monday, March 13, 2017

On March 15, 1970, the first IMAX (Image Maximum) film, Tiger Child, premiered at the Fuji pavilion during Japan’s Osaka Expo. Shown on a huge screen with excellent clarity, IMAX thrilled audiences with a new way of watching movies – and it was invented by Canadians!

Stamps commemorated the novelty and excitement of the IMAX experience
© Canada Post Corporation / Library and Archives Canada

At Expo 67 in Montréal, Quebec, Roman Kroitor produced the experimental film In the Labyrinth for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB)’s pavilion. The 21-minute film was projected onto five screens set up in a cross-shaped pattern, which showed both complementary and contrasting images to create a unique audience experience. Also at Expo 67, Graeme Ferguson, who had worked for the NFB as a student, displayed his film Polar Life, which used multiple screens to create a panoramic effect.

Kroitor was soon approached by the Fuji group of Japan. With Ferguson and Robert Kerr, he formed Multi-Screen Corporation and set about designing a triptych, which consisted of three sideways 70mm projector images. They went on to develop a single projector and screen format with the help of William Shaw, Jan Jacobson, and Ron Jones. Later that year, the company was renamed IMAX Systems Corporation.

The Labyrinth pavilion at Expo 67. The expo was a hub for experimentation in film
© Library and Archives Canada

The experimental Osaka projector ran 65mm negative film (processed as 70mm film) sideways through the camera, making an image 10 times larger than conventional 35mm and three times larger than conventional 70mm film. However, the increased image size came at the price of larger and heavier film, which shredded in the prototype projectors. To fix this, Shaw designed a projector that used a rolling loop method involving wave motion and a vacuum to ensure the film ran smoothly. The result was a high resolution image that was eight-storeys tall and 30-metres wide.

The National Film Board in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, is a classified federal heritage building. To learn more, see The National Film Board of Canada in the This Week in History archives. Also, read about the Rialto Theatre and Outremont Theatre, designated national historic sites, in The Golden Age of Theatres.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

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