Handbill and Schedule for Wabash Railroad Company, "Cinerama Excursion to St. Louis Via Wabash," Missouri, 1955

Summary

The Wabash Railway, with origins dating back to 1838, was a strong Midwestern carrier until Amtrak took over the national passenger railroad system in 1971. While railroads were trying to stay afloat with competition from automobiles, movies were facing stiff competition from television. This 1955 flyer advertises a railway excursion to St. Louis to view a new-fangled, widescreen Cinerama film.

The Wabash Railway, with origins dating back to 1838, was a strong Midwestern carrier until Amtrak took over the national passenger railroad system in 1971. While railroads were trying to stay afloat with competition from automobiles, movies were facing stiff competition from television. This 1955 flyer advertises a railway excursion to St. Louis to view a new-fangled, widescreen Cinerama film.

The Wabash Railway, with origins dating back to 1838, was a strong Midwestern carrier until Amtrak took over the national passenger railroad system in 1971.

At the same that railroads were desperately trying to stay afloat with competition from automobiles, movies were facing stiff competition from television. During the 1950s, they experimented with a variety of wide screens, to provide grandeur to movies that television could not offer. Cinerama, first available in 1952, set the tone for all widescreen formats to come. It claimed to "put you in the picture and excite you with the emotional impact of the real thing." This system was invented by Fred Waller, an innovative engineer and filmmaker. It involved simultaneously projecting images from three synchronized 35 mm projects onto a huge, deeply curved screen. Seven microphones provided audio recordings and the editing process was complicated. After the first public showing of "This is Cinerama," on September 30, 1952, the New York Times declared that "the shrill screams of the ladies and pop-eyed amazement of the men when the huge screen opened to its full size and a thrillingly realistic ride on a roller-coaster was pictured upon it, attested to the shock of the surprise...People sat back in spellbound wonder as the scenic program flowed across the screen." Plots were scarce, as it was all in the shock of the large size.

Because of the complexities of the exhibition, Cinerama was only available in a few major theatres. Films were presented as a major theatrical event, with reserved seating, printed programs, and red carpets, press coverage, and audience members dressing up in their fanciest attire for the evening.

This 1955 flyer advertised an excursion to St. Louis to attend a new Cinerama travelogue, "Cinerama Holiday." Based upon the stops on the flyer, movie customers came from small towns and rural areas and arrived in St. Louis (Delmar Station) 1 3/4 to 3 hours later. Bus transportation to the theatre and a complete luncheon before the show was included in the cost. This was advertised as an "all-expense value for the entire family." Parents were encouraged to "Bring the Kiddies" (like drive-in movies of the same era, another strategy to compete with television).

These types of excursions were last-ditch efforts to encourage people to choose the advertised conveniences of railroad travel over automobiles, but despite parking problems and traffic congestion, cars still won out.

As for Cinerama, its multi-projector system soon proved too expensive and too slow, and it was replaced by imitators such as CinemaScope and VistaVision, and eventually led to the development of IMAX technology.

Detailed Description
Artifact

Handbill

Date Made

1955

Subject Date

14 May 1955

 On Exhibit

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Object ID

2012.67.13

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. In Memory of John A. Barrett.

Material

Paper (Fiber product)

Color

Light blue

Dimensions

Height: 11 in

Width: 8.5 in

Inscriptions

Text on front reads in part: SECOND / SPECIAL / CINERAMA EXCURSION / TO ST. LOUIS / via / Wabash / Railroad / SATURDAY / MAY 14 / ...CINERAMA / HOLIDAY [movie title] ...

Connect 3

Discover curious connections between artifacts.

Learn More