Spanish Mobile Cinerama By Mikael Barnard

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It is my great pleasure to be able to republish this article about Spanish Mobile Cinerama by Mikael Barnard, which first appeared in the Projected Picture Trust’s Rewind Magazine in 2014.


The necessity for this sequel is a prime example of the extreme difficulty in writing ‘definitive articles’. On the very day I acquired my copy of the last issue of this magazine I logged into my Facebook account and noticed a common photograph of a Mark 1 Itinerama van. Under this was a comment from a Mr Corzo stating that he remembered seeing mobile Cinerama in the Spanish city of La Coruña circa 1974 when he was aged thirteen or fourteen years old.


“The mobile Cinerama was all the Winter in my city and I [could] watch all the documentaries. The sound was not in Castilian Spanish: it was in Latin American Spanish. The mobile unit was like a circus with 3 booths, curved screen and the spectacular sound.” (Corzo, 2014)


Mr Corzo further recalled that the “documentaries” (travelogues) were shown but not the features (“How the West Was Won” etc.) Since Mark 1 Itinerama finished in 1961 this initially caused some confusion but then I remembered a short passage from my previous article:


“Film Daily (1965) reports that Itinerama met with such strong success that a second mobile theatre was ordered. Whether this was actually constructed or not is unclear”.


Evidence of a second tent in the UK has not been forthcoming but it appears that another mobile theatre was indeed created – in Spain. This was confirmed when Mr Corzo sent web links to no fewer than ten primary sources to confirm his claim (all in Spanish of course, hence how I managed to miss them the first time round).


Access to a native Spanish speaker with an interest in historical cine exhibition formats is not a luxury I knowingly possess, however I have done my best with the resources I do have available and I offer my full apologies for any mistakes, factual or otherwise, that may result from mistranslation on my part.


In 1967 there were precious few static venues in Spain equipped for exhibiting Cinerama. There was the Cinema Albéniz, Madrid; The West, Barcelona and a third venue in Valencia. A gentleman named Alfredo Matas had, through his distribution company Cinesia, negotiated the license for mobile Cinerama in Spain and in February 1967 commissioned architect Emilio Pérez Piñero to construct a mobile three-strip Cinerama installation. (Arnao, 2013 & Calera, 2012).


“The disaster of the French Itinerama, collapsed in a storm, led Alfredo to think of a rigid structure that supported the inclemency of the weather [resulting in] what Alfredo Matas wanted: portability, rigid structure, large capacity, ample space…” (Arnao, 2013)


We can assume that construction was fairly rapid since one source, (ABC, 1968) seems to suggest screenings in Seville in late 1967 and this was at least the third stop on the tour.


The installation itself consisted of “A monumental semi-spherical tent, as if it were a circus.


Its interior was divided into two parts, one with the huge screen. The structure [was] mounted on hexagonal pieces of metal pipe and a maximum of 18 metres in height.” (Echevarrieta, 2012). Arnao (2013) describes the installation as a “hemispherical dome using hexagons that had been used in a Transportable Threatre in 1964” and that the structure was fabricated from wood and intertwining tubes of steel to form a total of two-hundred-and-fifty-five hexagons. The whole thing was built around a specially shaped frame “Starting with the base and building up, in successive turns, with a rotating crane, or pen, designed especially for this structure by José Maria, brother of the architect [and a] great mathematician.” The height of the structure is given here as seventeen-and-a-half metres rather than eighteen and a diameter of thirty four metres.


“The outside was covered with a green tarpaulin [manufactured by] Toldos Yerra of Zaragoza. The entrance was on one side. First there was the vestibule, where there was a bar and sweet shop. Then a circular enclosure that had a central corridor and another perpendicular […] Folding chairs, numbered on canvas, were placed on a wooden pallet, in upslope from the screen to the top, with the capacity for 1,200 spectators.” (Arnao, 2013)


Medina (2014) gives the number of seats as precisely one-thousand-and-thirty-two.


Seemingly no luxury was spared and, in addition to the obligatory toilet trailer (opposite the entrance), the installation was equipped with central heating system “With tubes that distributed hot air throughout the room.” (Arnao, 2013) To the rear were the three projection trailers, each equipped with 35mm Simplex projectors with 6000ft spoolboxes. The screen (once again claimed to be “the largest in Europe”) is given in Arnao (2013) as being thirty five mtres wide by eleven metres high, (thirty two metres by twelve metres in Echevarrieta (2012)), and was enclosed with red velvet curtains. Echevarrieta (2012) also makes reference to “Eight speakers, five after the screen and three distributed throughout the hall, responsible for the stereophonic sound”.


Charting the locations of the tour is a little complicated, one source makes reference to a “first installation”, giving Madrid as the debut location (Ideal (1969) in which the reviewer described the presentation as “really exceptional” despite the limitations of the format. Arnao (2013) would also seem to support Madrid as the location of the premier) but another describes a “first setting” in El Prat, Barcelona (Calera, 2012). In any event it can be claimed with some degree of certainty that these two cities were the first two stops on the route. Arnao (2013) alludes to the debut film in this incarnation of mobile Cinerama as being “This is Cinerama” (a near-certainty in any case).


“Then they did a national tour that took them to San Sebastián (Plaza Madrid), Sevilla (Parque de San Sebastián), Alicante (barrio de Benalúa), Murcia (solar cercano al Paseo Alfonso X el Sabio), Granada (Camino de Ronda), Córdoba, Málaga, Cádiz, Valladolid (Paseo Zorrilla), Gijón, Oviedo, La Coruña.” (Calera, 2012).


Calera (2012) further informs us that the installation arrived in Granada on April 26th 1969. Echevarrieta (2012) also makes reference to a screening in Bilbao on Saturday 6th November 1971 and gives the following details for the films screened there:


  • This is Cinerama – 6 November 1971 – 19 November 1971.
  • Seven Wonders of the World – 20 November – 10 December 1971.
  • Cinerama’s Russian Adventure – over the Christmas period.


In addition to the above Arnao (2013) informs us that the following films were also presented during the tour: “Cinerama Holiday”, “South Seas Adventure”, “Search for Paradise” and “Windjammer”.


We can assume from the various sources presented that this Spanish incarnation of mobile Cinerama ran between 1967 and 1974, an astonishing run given that the debut year coincides with the time when Itinerama is recorded as finishing in the UK. One can only guess where else mobile Cinerama continued to run and for how long. Thanks to Arnao (2013) we can credit Spanish mobile Cinerama with some success:


“Much expectation [for this mobile Cinerama] was created for two reasons. First by the fame that preceded it [following its appearance] in different cities of Spain. Secondly, as a structure of a Murcian architect.”


Perhaps the finest testament to mobile Cinerama (and to the format in general) can be summed up in the words of the otherwise anonymous Spanish reporter “R.M.” who wrote in Ideal (1969):

“From his seat, the viewer can, in this way, live with great intensity the vacation offered to his eyes on the circular screen. There are moments in which you experience vertigo, when a bobsleigh slides down a mountain snowfall of Switzerland or when a jet plane lands on an American aircraft carrier. He also experiences fear, surprise, awe.”



ABC. (1968). “Estreno Del Segundo Programa de Cinerama” [online]. Madrid: Diaro ABC, S.L.;command=stamp;path=H:\cran\data\prensa_pages\Sevilla\ABC%20SEVILLA\1968\196801\19680109\68E09-041.xml;id=0002960351. [Accessed: 20.09.2014].

Arnao, M.S. (2013). “Cinerama: Desde Hollywood A Calasparra” [online]. Calasparra: Ayuntamiento de Calasparra – Concejalía de Turismo.,d.ZGU&cad=rja. [Accessed: 20.09.2014].

Calera, F. (2012). “60 Años de Cinerama, Desde Nueva York a Granada” [online]. California: Google. [Accessed: 20.09.2012].

Corzo, I.B. (2014). ”Cinerama Theatre on the Move” [Facebook] 20th September. Available from: [Accessed: 20.09.2014].

Echevarrieta, A.L. (2012). “Cinerama: Cine Con 3 Cámaras” [online]. Bilbao:,d.cWc&cad=rja. [Accessed: 20.09.2014]

Medina, R. (2014). “Los Cines Del Prado de San Sebastián Hasta 1972” [online]. California: Google. [Accessed: 20.09.2014].

R.M. (1969). “Espectaculos – Un Viaje Por Las Maravillas Del Mundo a Través Del Cinerama” [online]. California: Google. [Accessed: 20.09.2012].

All articles translated by Mikael Barnard, 2014.