The History of a Theater, and the of creation of a Cinemiracle

Dec 05, 2009 by Lisa Newton

Jensen Melrose Theatre

Located in East Hollywood and built in 1924 by brick manufactures, Henry C. Jensen & Sons, the Jansen Melrose Theater was supposed to be “a better class” neighborhood movie theater.

The Melrose Theater had a 2 manual, 4 rank theater organ, and ten-piece orchestra, so I can safely assume that watching “silent movies, wasn’t that silent.

Renaissance Revival

History was made at the Melrose during the early 50’s when, Russell McCullough, the Director of Research and Development for the National Theaters, conceived and developed Cinemiracle, a 3-strip wide-screen process for showing movies.

It was a cheaper and better projector and viewing movie system than its then competitor, the Cinerama companies. Cinemiracle, being the comet that blasted at warp speed through the sky, was alas, only to show one movie, “Windjammer.” It was produced and released, using the Cinemiracle system. The world premiere of both the movie “Windjammer;” and the introduction of the innovative Cinemiracle system, was unveiled at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on April 8, 1958.

Here’s what the camera system looked like next to its originator, Mr. McCullough:

Russell McCullough and Cinemiracle

As typical in business, upon Cinerama’s management having caught wind of their new competitor, Cinemiracle, they subsequently bought them out–of course, taking along its highly prized lucre–which included all of the patents that McCullough had received for the Cinemiracle projection system, only to “closet” and shutter it forever. Perhaps McCullough received an “offer to good to refuse.” We’ll never know. But its lore is the lore of movie and cinematic history. One often ponders how many times this has occurred in the highly competitive and cut-throat business’ of the IT and technology sectors.

I remember our local Cinerama theater near my house. I recall watching their movies, and the stunning way the projection was domed, its wrap-around technique, and the tremendous impact it had upon me– including watching the Exorcist, and 2001, a Space Odyssey, at the Cinerama Theater.

Closing in 1959, the Melrose Theater was bought by the Ukrainian Cultural Center, who transformed the building between 1959 and 1961 into their main Los Angeles headquarters. Although the main orchestra floor was taken out and the balcony and projection suite sealed off, the building currently retains most of its original decorative features, both inside and out.

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2 Responses to “The History of a Theater, and the of creation of a Cinemiracle”

  1. Ebie says:

    The architecture has a character. I have seen quite a bit of this style in the downtown area, near the office. Going down east on 7th street to Broadway street, there are old theatres too. There is a walking tour that I might join someday.
    Ebie´s last blog ..Watery Wednesday: Serenity My ComLuv Profile

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    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Ebie, I love both walking and taking my camera. Old buildings have such character and style. Oh, I like the new ones, too, but the details in the older ones stand out.

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