Review: Wizard of Oz in New Hollywood IMAX 3D Theater

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wizard-of-oz-imax3d-poster-660Warner Brothers has spent 16 months with over 1000 people to convert this ever popular classic The Wizard of Oz back to big screen, but this time the IMAX screen and in crystal clear 3D.  The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 75th Anniversary and will be beginning a one week engagement at IMAX theaters beginning Friday September 20th.

Fortunately, I was able to attend a screening at the newly remodeled Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  The historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, later named Mann’s Chinese Theatre, opened in 1927 and hosted the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz back in 1939.  Nearly 75 years later after the films debut, the theater has undergone a giant transformation into LA’s only IMAX theater now known as TCL Chinese Theater.

Many were worried about this transformation, but TCL has done a fabulous job not altering any of the decorative elements from floor to ceiling movie goers have cherished forever.  Instead you will find many improvements with new stadium-style seating allowing for the largest IMAX auditorium in capacity with 932 seats.  A new 94 feet wide, 46 feet tall screen has been installed meaning parts of the theater had to be excavated to fit such a large screen also allowing for the stadium seating.

The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D will mark the debut of the remodeled theater and will also be shown in over 300 IMAX theaters across the nation.  However, it couldn’t be more fitting to seeing such a beloved movie in such a historic theater where it all began.

The Wizard of Oz: IMAX Behind the Frame

As the curtains slowly open revealing the floor to ceiling screen, the sides are masked allowing for the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 filling the screen.  IMAX screens are known to be a tad squarer than traditional theaters, but The Wizard of Oz was created before Cinemascope or wide screen was commonly used.  The film is actually a little less wide than IMAX.

You’ll find as soon as the film begins you instantly enter a certain time and place.  I felt taken back hearing the first few chords of the overture and seeing the classic sepia toned clouds and titles float across the screen.  I knew immediately that I was about to see something special; something I thought I would never get to see.  Chills ran down my arms and then I was quickly mesmerized by the clarity of the 3D.  Soon the words of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” are sung causing me to sink into my chair to soak in the moment.  This is a moment that audiences felt nearly 75 years ago, in that same theater no less.

I’m sure we all know the story and probably each scene, but seeing The Wizard of Oz with such precision, so large, with amazing sound along with the incredible 3D conversion creates an all knew experience.  Quickly I spotted details I had never noticed before and was in awe of the little things. The close-ups, although can be awkward at moments, allowed for the audience to really get to know the actors like never before.  When the film transitions to TECHNICOLOR you’ll start to see blemishes and freckles you probably didn’t see previously.  What’s truly fantastic about seeing these silly details is you get a chance to live vicariously through the production as if you are there on set at MGM Studios.

Something to remember though is that The Wizard of Oz is a film from the 30’s. Films production values were much different then and now you will really notice these things that were not as noticeable before.  Remember going in that the whole movie is basically shot on a soundstage with juvenile backdrops, some cheap materials and not the greatest special effects. However, my buddy and I still cannot figure out how they created the tornado in the distance.  Nonetheless, seeing this re-mastered beautiful conversion of the film we all (most) love with lasting memories, it’s good to be forewarned that it’s like watching a stage production.  The painted backdrops are clearer than ever causing me to have more moments wanting to yell at the actors not to run into the wall.

Even some of the close-ups of say the Lion can reveal some of the inconsistent make-up and simplicity in some costumes and sets.  I even caught a glimpse of the Wicked Witch’s’ trap door opening and a part rising to allow for either the smoke or flames.  Comical, yes; charming, absolutely!

This will be a wonderful way to reintroduce yourself to the magic or for families to possibly introduce their children to this must-see film for the first time.  I will say that I wouldn’t recommend seeing The Wizard of Oz unless you consider yourself a decent fan of the film.  Many will fall in love with the movie all over again, but I can see many finding parts odd or perhaps even childish.  Seeing so much detail may have not been originally attended when they first shot the film, but it’s great to get even more out of this film.  There are definitely moments that I felt I entered Oz and got that feeling, I’m not in LA anymore.

On October 1, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will debut a limited and numbered The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, a five-disc set including Blu-ray™, Blu-ray 3D™, DVD and UltraViolet™ versions of the film, plus myriad bonus features, new documentaries and collectible items.

Extra Fun Facts:[unordered_list style=”bullet”]

  • Warner Bros. estimates that some $25 million will have been spent on a massive marketing, advertising and promotion campaign – a cross divisional effort involving Home Entertainment, Consumer Products and Theatrical.
  • The film was directed by Victor Fleming (who that same year directed Gone With the Wind, which won the Oscar® for Best picture).
  • There are two surviving Munchkins: Jerry Maren, 93, the middle Lollipop Guild kid who gives DOROTHY™ a lollipop, and Munchkin town lady Ruth Duccini, 95. Margaret Pellegrini, one of the sleepyheads in the nest, recently passed away on August 7 of this year at the age of 89. Originally, there were 124 actors who played the Munchkins.
  • To make it look as if the WICKED WITCH™’s head is shrinking as she melts, her hat size was increased.
  • A double was used for Judy Garland in three scenes. Her name is Bobbie Koshay. In the first, at the opening of the movie, Bobbie balances on a fence and then falls into the pig pen. In the second, Bobbie is seen from the back, opening the door to Munchkin Land before DOROTHY™ emerges in Technicolor. And it’s Bobbie again, from the back, when the WINGED MONKEY™’s pick her up from the haunted forest.
  • All three stand-ins for the TIN MAN™, SCARECROW™, and COWARDLY LION™ are briefly visible in a couple of shots that show the trio climbing the mountain to get to the Witch’s Castle to rescue DOROTHY™. The costumes for the stand-ins (especially that of the COWARDLY LION™) are the giveaway.
  • In the interest of enhancing Jack Haley’s appearance as “all-tin, all-the-time,” the make-up specialists affixed an extra rivet to his face, just between his eyes – which is much more visible in the enhanced film print.