The common belief is that Hollywood’s transition to widescreen was years in the making.

My new research has shown that 1.37:1 as a compositional ratio was abandoned VERY quickly...

The widescreen, three-dimensional and stereophonic sound revolution that spread like wildfire in the spring and summer of 1953 is one of the most turbulent periods of technological development in motion picture history. It is also one of the most misunderstood and poorly documented. Inaccurate information has been repeated so often and for so many years, that myth has now become fact.

For the past 24 years, we have searched with a fine-tooth comb through studio correspondence and production files, as well as industry trade journals from the period of 1951 - 1956. 
Utilizing primary source materials such as Daily Variety, Boxoffice, Hollywood Reporter, American Cinematographer, Exhibitor, Motion Picture Herald, Film Daily, International Projectionist, Showman’s Trade Review, Film Bulletin, Motion Picture Daily, Harrison's Reports, International Sound Technician, Kinematograph Weekly and other industry trade journals, we are able to document this period of technological development, which was evolving nearly every day. 

This article will accurately document - for the first time - the initial year of domestic widescreen feature productions, along with the director-intended aspect ratio.

THE ROBE began filming on February 24, 1953. Within four months, the production of standard ratio features had come to an end. 

Between February 24 and June 24, it was nearly an even split: fifty-one standard ratio features went before the cameras and forty-eight widescreen features had begun filming.

However, by April 1, 1.37 was rapidly declining as the compositional ratio among filmmakers. Films would still be protected for the standard ratio as exhibitors around the world were concerned with a product shortage. For that reason, studio announcements would always state that new product would be "suitable for all screens." However, widescreen was now the primary intent during production.

MGM, 20th Century Fox and Columbia each filmed one last feature in that ratio; RKO filmed two; Republic did three; Allied Artists produced seven and there were ten independent productions in 1.37. Except for two 3-D/Technicolor RKO features, these were modestly-budgeted films. It's interesting to note that of the twenty-four standard ratio features, six were 3-D productions.

In chronological order, the final 1.37 features are: Sea of Lost Ships, The Great Jesse James Raid, Mister Scoutmaster, I the Jury, World for Ransom, Half a Hero, Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, Murder Without Tears, The Moonlighter, Down Laredo Way, The Maze, Bad for Each Other, El Paso Stampede, Vigilante Terror, Hannah Lee, Son of Sinbad, Clipped Wings, Northern Patrol, The French Line, Go Man Go, The Fighting Lawman, Texas Bad Man, Captain Scarface, Hollywood Thrillmakers and Jail Bait. 

Over the last five months of 1953, the only 1.37 feature produced was Roger Corman’s independent production, MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR. Ironically, the pre-production trade listings for Corman's first film (as THE SEA DEMON) indicate both widescreen and location filming in Mexico. However, the ultra-low budget production ($12K) was standard ratio and shot in Malibu in just six days.

In each column, the total number of features composed every month for each ratio are listed.

1953 1.37 1.66 1.65/1.8 
 1.75 1.85 2:1 2.55 2.66 TOTAL 
 January 19  
      19
 February 28       1 29
 March 27 1   2   1 31
 April 15 2  2 2   1 22
 May 5 7  2 31 1  19
 June 4 14 2 4 53 2  34
 July 1 8  4 32
 4  22
 August  11 1 3 24
 3  24
 September 
  9 2 3 82   24
 October 1 3 1 2 124 1  24
 November  5 1
 5 31 6  21
 December  3  1 72 5  18
 TOTAL 100 63 7 26 47 19 22 3 287

"The change is on us and even the smallest theatre must go along with the changes or be left at the wayside."

Showmen's Trade Review: May 2, 1953

When theaters began the conversion to widescreen presentation in May of 1953, there was a backlog of nearly 200 standard ratio features at the studios. Exhibitors were spending money to install new screens and wanted to fill them so many 1.37 features were incorrectly shown wide throughout the rest of the year. They include Shane, Thunder Bay, It Came from Outer Space, Young Bess, Fort Ti, The Charge at Feather River, The Band Wagon, From Here to Eternity, The Big Heat, Mogambo, All the Brothers Were Valiant, Sangaree, Scared Stiff, The Caddy, War of the Worlds, White Witch Doctor, Island in the Sky, Blowing Wild, Calamity Jane and many more.

The first widescreen production at each studio is listed in green and the final 1.37 feature is listed in red. Important milestones as well as demonstrations and announcements are listed in yellow.

I have included comments from the monthly "Hollywood Report" column in Boxoffice magazine. This information was important to keep exhibitors informed on the production schedules at each studio. The number of actual features begun would usually fluctuate during the month as plans were altered and schedules were delayed, but this column helped to present an overall picture of the upcoming product.


NOTE: In compiling this data, I have utilized the starting date of actual production, not the date of release. There are a few opening dates listed and those are for significant events in the presentation of widescreen films.

In other words, the dates listed for each film are the first day of filming and not when it opened in theatres. Many of these films were not released until 1954.


September 30, 1952 – THIS IS CINERAMA premieres in New York.

November 26, 1952 – BWANA DEVIL premieres in Los Angeles.

January 14, 1953 – "Large-Screen Process in 20th-Fox Tests to Cue ‘Super-Specials’"

January 27 - "Paramount, Warner in Race for new 'Cinerama-Like' Illusion to Old Films."


February 2 – ELEPHANT WALK is the last 1.37 production for Paramount.

February 4 – 20th Century Fox shifts entire schedule to CinemaScope.

February 11 – "Columbia Eyes Wide Screens; May Build One of Own."

February 24 – THE ROBE – 20th Century Fox – filmed twice: 2.66 and 1.37



March 5 – "WB in 90 Day Research Program Including Expanded Screen Image”

March 9 – HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE – 20th Century Fox – 2.66

March 9 - RIDING SHOTGUN is the last 1.37 production for Warner Bros.

March 11 - "Metro Preps Wide-Screen in Addition to 3-D System."

March 16 – THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE – Paramount – 3-D, 1.66

March 20 – CinemaScope demonstrations for exhibitors are held at 20th Century Fox.

March 21 – Paramount demonstrates 1.66 for 300 visiting exhibitors.




March 24 – RCA introduces a new screen designed for 3-D and widescreen projection.

March 24 – Paramount converts to 1.66 widescreen production.

March 25 – "Healthy 196-film Backlog Seen Answer to Exhibitor Concern."

March 28 – WINGS OF THE HAWK – Universal-International – 3-D, 1.85

March 28 - ALL AMERICAN is the last 1.37 production for Universal-International.

March 31 – MISS SADIE THOMPSON – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

 






April 1 – Universal-International demonstrates 1.85 and 2:1 at the studio.

Click Universal Press Release to read the announcement.

April 1 - THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID is the last 1.37 production for Lippert.

April 3 – MGM introduces a 1.75 panoramic screen for overseas.

April 6 – BENEATH THE TWELVE MILE REEF – 20th Century Fox – 2.66

April 6 – Columbia announces 1.85 Vitascope for 3-D and widescreen production.

April 7 – CHARGE OF THE LANCERS – Columbia – 1.66

April 8 – ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO –MGM – 1.75

April 9 – MISTER SCOUTMASTER is the last 1.37 production for 20th Century Fox.

April 12 – SHANE is previewed in 1.66 at Paramount studios.

April 13 – THE STRANGER WORE A GUN – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

April 13 - HALF A HERO is the last 1.37 production for MGM. Some re-takes are 1.75.

April 15 – SHARK RIVER – John Rawlins Productions/United Artists – 1.66

April 23 – SHANE premieres in 1.66 at Radio City Music Hall.

The intended ratio during principal photography is 1.37.

April 23 - BAD FOR EACH OTHER is the last 1.37 production for Columbia.

April 24 - EL PASO STAMPEDE is the last 1.37 production for Republic.

April 24 - CinemaScope is demonstrated at the Roxy Theatre in New York.

April 27 – SABRE JET – Carl Krueger Productions/United Artists – 1.85

April 28 – Columbia converts to 1.85 widescreen production.

April 28 – TORCH SONG – MGM – 1.75



 
 


 
 

May 4 - MGM converts to 1.75 widescreen production. 

May 4 – CREST OF THE WAVE – MGM – 1.75

May 6 – THE ROYAL AFRICAN RIFLES – Allied Artists – 1.66

May 7 – Warner Bros. converts to widescreen production. No house ratio is specified.

May 9 – Universal-International converts to 2:1 widescreen production.

May 11 – KISS ME KATE – MGM – 3-D, 1.75

May 11 – RED GARTERS – Paramount – 1.66

May 11 – SPOOKS - Columbia short – 3-D, 1.85

May 12 – CinemaScope ratio changes from 2.66 to 2.55 to accommodate magnetic stereo tracks.

May 13 – SINS OF JEZEBEL – Jezebel Productions/Lippert – 2:1

May 15 – FLIGHT NURSE – Republic – 1.66

May 18 – MGM demonstrates 1.75 at the studio.

May 18 – APPOINTMENT IN HONDURAS – Alpine Productions/RKO – 1.66

May 18 – FLIGHT TO TANGIER – Paramount – 3-D, 1.66

May 18 – ULYSSES – Lux Films/Paramount – 1.66

May 19 – EL ALAMEIN – Columbia – 1.85

May 20 – THUNDER BAY opens in 1.85 at Loew’s State in New York.

The intended ratio during principal photography is 1.37.

May 20 – JIVARO – Paramount – 3-D, 1.66

May 25 - THE FRENCH LINE is the last 1.37 production for RKO.

May 25 – GUN FURY – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

May 25 – IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU! – Columbia – 1.85

May 25 – DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

May 27 – CAPRICCIO ITALIEN – MGM short (prologue to JULIUS CAESAR) – 1.75

May 27 - IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE opens in 3-D and 1.85 in Los Angeles.

The intended ratio during principal photography is 1.37.

 
 

     June 1 – KNOCK ON WOOD – Paramount – 1.66

June 1 – FLAME AND THE FLESH – MGM – 1.75

June 3 – BORDER RIVER – Universal-International – 2:1

June 4 – THE GLENN MILLER STORY – Universal-International – 2:1

June 4 – KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE – MGM – filmed twice: 2.55 and 1.75

June 5 – FIGHTER ATTACK – Allied Artists – 1.66

June 5 – THE CAINE MUTINY – Columbia – 1.85

 

June 8 – MEXICAN MANHUNT – Allied Artists – 1.66

June 8 – RHAPSODY – MGM – 1.75

June 8 – THE LONG, LONG TRAILER – MGM – 1.75

June 8 – RIDERS TO THE STARS – Ivan Tors Productions/United Artists – 1.85

June 8 – HONDO – Wayne-Fellows Productions/Warner Bros – 3-D, 1.85

June 8 – GUNFIGHTERS OF THE NORTHWEST – Columbia serial – 1.85

June 9 – CARNIVAL STORY – King Brothers Productions/RKO – 1.65

June 9 – MARRY ME AGAIN – Wedding Pictures/RKO – 1.66

June 10 – CEASE FIRE – Paramount – 3-D, 1.66

    
 

June 15 – PARIS MODEL – American Pictures Corp./Columbia – 1.66

June 15 –SHADOWS OF TOMBSTONE – Republic – 1.66

June 15 – BAIT – Hugo Haas Productions/Columbia - 1.66 - not confirmed.

June 16 – THE NEBRASKAN – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

June 16 – DRUMS OF TAHITI – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

June 18 – TEXAS BAD MAN is the last 1.37 production for Allied Artists.

June 22 – HELL AND HIGH WATER – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

June 23 – THE GLASS WEB – Universal-International – 3-D, 2:1

June 24 – SOUTHWEST PASSAGE – Eclipse Films/United Artists – 3-D, 1.66

June 24 – PRIVATE EYES – Allied Artists – 1.66


     

June 25 – RETURN TO TREASURE ISLAND – United Artists – 1.75

June 25 – JACK SLADE – Allied Artists – 1.66

June 26 – THINGS WE CAN DO WITHOUT – MGM short – 1.75

June 29 – THE BIGAMIST – United Artists – 1.66

June 29 – THE NAKED JUNGLE – Paramount – 1.66

June 29 – GERALDINE – Republic – 1.66

June 29 – THE BLACK GLOVE – Exclusive Films Ltd./Lippert – 1.8

June 30 – PARDON MY BACKFIRE - Columbia short – 3-D, 1.85



July 1 – CARNIVAL IN APRIL – Universal-International short – 3-D, 1.85

July 2 – BEACHHEAD – Aubrey Schenck Productions/United Artists – 1.66

July 6 – Allied Artists announces widescreen production. No house ratio is specified.

July 6 – ALASKA SEAS – Paramount – 1.66

July 6 – CRAZYLEGS – Hall Bartlett Productions/Republic – 1.66

July 7 – JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS – Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

July 7 – AIN’T IT AGGRAVATIN’ – MGM short – 1.75

July 8 – CASANOVA’S BIG NIGHT – Paramount – 1.66

July 9 – GYPSY COLT – MGM – 1.75

July 9 – KILLERS FROM SPACE – Planet Filmplays/RKO – 1.85

July 9 – HOT NEWS – Allied Artists – 1.66

July 9 – TAZA, SON OF COCHISE – Universal-International – 3-D, 2:1

July 9 – TENNESSEE CHAMP – MGM – 1.75


 

July 15 – WICKED WOMAN – World Films/United Artists - 1.66

July 15 – RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO – Universal-International – 2:1

July 16 – PRINCE VALIANT – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

July 16 – THE BOUNTY HUNTER – Warner Bros. – 3-D, 1.75

July 20 – TOP BANANA – Roadshow Productions/United Artists – 3-D, 1.85

July 20 – DANGEROUS MISSION – RKO – 3-D, 1.66

July 21 – KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

July 24 – PRIDE OF THE BLUE GRASS – Allied Artists – 1.66

July 27 – ALOHA NUI – Dudley Pictures Corporation – travelog short – 2.66

July 28 – RIVER OF NO RETURN – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

July 29 – THE AMERICANO – Robert Stillman Productions/RKO – 1.75

July 29 – THE STRANGER WORE A GUN premieres at Loew’s State in New York.

This is the first 1.85 release of a film that is actually composed for widescreen.

July 30 – HAWAIIAN NIGHTS - Universal-International short – 3-D, 1.85

July 31 – THE COMMAND – Warner Bros – filmed twice: 2.55 and 3-D, 1.85

    

 
 

August 3 – JUBILEE TRAIL – Republic – 1.66

August 3 - THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

August 4 – SASKATCHEWAN – Universal-International – 2:1

August 4 – HEAT WAVE – Exclusive Films Ltd./Lippert – 1.65

August 5 – DIAL M FOR MURDER – Warner Bros. – 3-D, 1.85

August 6 – YANKEE PASHA – Universal-International – 2:1

August 8 – Republic announces 1.66 widescreen production.

August 10 – NIGHT PEOPLE – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

August 10 – HER TWELVE MEN – MGM – 1.75

August 10 – ROSE MARIE – MGM – filmed twice: 2.55 and 1.75

August 10 – HELL’S HALF ACRE – Republic – 1.66

August 11 – THE DORSEY BROTHERS' ENCORE – Universal-International short – 1.85

August 12 – DRAGONFLY SQUADRON – Allied Artists – 3-D, 1.66

August 17 – HIGHWAY DRAGNET – Allied Artists – 1.66

August 17 – RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 – Allied Artists – 1.66

August 17 – DOWN THE HATCH – Columbia short – 3-D, 1.85

August 19 – THE FAR COUNTRY – Universal-International – 2:1


 
            
 August 20 – THREE YOUNG TEXANS – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 1.66

August 20 – BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER – Columbia – 1.85

August 24 – MAN IN THE ATTIC – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 1.66

August 24 – DUEL IN THE JUNGLE – Moulin Productions/Warner Bros. – 1.66

August 25 – EXECUTIVE SUITE – MGM – 1.75

August 26 – OVERLAND PACIFIC – Superior Pictures/United Artists – 1.75

August 27 – RIVER BEAT – Insignia Films Ltd/Lippert – 1.66

August 27 – RAILS INTO LARAMIE – Universal-International – 2:1

August 31 – RED RIVER SHORE – Republic – 1.66

August 31 – THE BLACK KNIGHT – Warwick Film Productions/Columbia – 1.66

 
 

 

September 1 – THE SIEGE AT RED RIVER – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 1.66

September 7 – TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT – Associated British Picture Corporation/Allied Artists – 1.66

September 8 – THE GOLDEN IDOL – Allied Artists – 1.66

September 8 – GOG – Ivan Tors Productions/United Artists – 3-D, 1.85

September 8 – GORILLA AT LARGE – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 3-D, 1.66

September 8 – TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS – Republic serial – 1.66

September 9 – JESSE JAMES’ WOMEN – Panorama Pictures/United Artists – 1.75

September 10 – PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE – Warner Bros – 3-D, 1.85

 


September 14 – THE MAD MAGICIAN – Edward Small Productions/Columbia – 3-D, 1.85

September 14 – THE OUTCAST – Republic – 1.66

September 14 – THE DIAMOND WIZARD – Gibraltar Films Ltd./United Artists – 3-D, 1.65

September 15 – THE IRON GLOVE – Columbia – 1.85

September 16 – JOHNNY DARK – Universal-International - 2:1

September 16 – ALOHA NUI opens in anamorphic 2.50 at the Center Theatre in Buffalo, NY.

September 16 - THE ROBE premieres in 2.55 at the Roxy Theatre in New York.

Click to expand the articles.

September 17 – ARROW IN THE DUST – Allied Artists – 1.85

September 20 – Lippert announces all widescreen production: from 1.65 to 1.85.

September 21 – WHITE CHRISTMAS – Paramount – 1.85

September 21 – MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION – Universal-International – 2:1

September 21 - ROOGIE'S BUMP - John Bash Productions/Republic - 1.66

September 21 – YUKON VENGEANCE – Allied Artists – 1.85

September 24 – DOGGIE IN THE BEDROOM – Columbia short – 1.85 (new footage only)

September 24 – A-HUNTING THEY DID GO – Columbia short – 1.85 (new footage only)

September 25 – SAFE AT HOME – MGM short – 1.75

September 28 –THE GOOD DIE YOUNG – Romulus Films Ltd./United Artists – 1.66

September 28 – BLACKOUT – Exclusive Films Ltd./Lippert – 1.65

September 28 – SABRINA – Paramount – 1.75

September 29 – CAPTAIN KIDD AND THE SLAVE GIRL – Superior Pictures Inc./United Artists – 1.66

September 29 – THEM – Warner Bros – 1.75

September 29 – FANGS OF THE WILD – Lippert – 1.85

September 30 – PHANTOM STALLION – Republic – 1.66


October 1 – DAVID ROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA – Universal-International short – 1.85

October 5 – BETRAYED – MGM – 1.75

October 5 – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – Universal-International – 3-D, 2:1

October 5 – AFRICAN MANHUNT – Trinity Productions/Republic – 1.66

October 6 – MASSACRE CANYON – Columbia – 1.85

October 7 – PARIS PLAYBOYS – Allied Artists – 1.85

October 8 – DRUMS ACROSS THE RIVER – Universal-International – 2:1

October 12 – A STAR IS BORN – Warner Bros – 2.55

October 12 – LOOPHOLE – Allied Artists – 1.85

October 12 - ABOUT MRS. LESLIE – Paramount – 1.85

October 12 – CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON – Z-M Productions/Astor – 3-D, 1.85

October 14 – TANGANYIKA – Universal-International – 2:1

October 15 – THE SARACEN BLADE – Columbia – 1.85

October 15 – THE YELLOW TOMAHAWK – K.B. Productions/United Artists - 1.85


 
 
 
 



October 17 – DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD – Columbia – 1.85

October 19 – APACHE – Norma Productions/United Artists – 1.85

October 19 – MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY – MGM – 1.75

October 19 – LIVING IT UP – Paramount – 1.85

October 19 – SECRET OF THE INCAS – Paramount – 1.85

October 19 – JOHNNY GUITAR – Republic – 1.66

October 20 – FIRE OVER AFRICA – Film Locations Ltd./Columbia – 1.66

October 20 – BITTER CREEK – Allied Artists – 1.85

October 26 – MAKE HASTE TO LIVE – Republic – 1.65

October 26 – SHOT IN THE FRONTIER - Columbia short – 1.85

October 30 – BLACK HORSE CANYON – Universal-International – 2:1





November – PAID TO KILL – Exclusive Films Ltd/Lippert – 1.65

November 2 – THE LONG WAIT – Parklane Pictures/United Artists – 1.75

November 2 – SO YOU WANT TO BE YOUR OWN BOSS – Warner Bros. short – 1.66

November – SO YOU WANT TO GO TO A NIGHTCLUB – Warner Bros. short – 1.66

November – SO YOU WANT TO BE A BANKER – Warner Bros. short – 1.66

November 4 – THE LONE GUN – World Films/United Artists – 1.66

November 5 – LUCKY ME – Warner Bros – 2.55

November 12 – WITNESS TO MURDER – Chester Erskine Pictures/United Artists – 1.75

November 12 – THE MIAMI STORY – Columbia – 1.85

November 13 – KHYBER PATROL – Superior Pictures/United Artists – 1.75

November 14 – NEW FACES – National Pictures Corp/20th Century Fox – 2.55

November 16 – THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY – Wayne-Fellows Productions/Warner Bros – 2.55

November 16 – RING OF FEAR – Wayne-Fellows Productions/Warner Bros – 2.55

November 16 – PRINCESS OF THE NILE – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 1.66




November 17 – THEY RODE WEST – Columbia – 1.85

November 17 – BEAU BRUMMEL – MGM – 1.75

November 17 – ON THE WATERFRONT – Horizon-American Pictures/Columbia – 1.85

November 17 – VALLEY OF THE KINGS – MGM – 1.75

November 20 – FIREMAN, SAVE MY CHILD – Universal-International – 2:1

November 23 – THE SHANGHAI STORY – Republic – 1.66

November 23 – GARDEN OF EVIL – 20th Century Fox – 2.55

November 27 – REAR WINDOW – Paramount – 1.66

November 30 – CONQUEST OF SPACE – Paramount – 1.66

November 30 – INCOME TAX SAPPY - Columbia short – 1.85

November 30 – SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS – MGM – filmed twice: 2.55 and 1.75





Early December – OVERTURE TO THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR – MGM short - 2.55

December 1 – THE ROCKET MAN – Panoramic Productions/20th Century Fox – 1.66

December 2 – RKO announces a new anamorphic variable ratio lens. Variety reports:

"Lens, the brainchild of Joe Tushinsky, an RKO technician, was demonstrated last week to Walt Disney and to Metro. Report of an industry official who witnessed the demonstration on the Coast was enthusiastic.”

December 2 – PLAYGIRL – Universal-International – 2:1

December 3 – THE FORTY-NINERS – Allied Artists – 1.85

December 7 – UNTAMED HEIRESS – Republic – 1.66

December 7 – A BULLET IS WAITING – Welsch Productions/Columbia – 1.85

December 7 – UNDERWATER! – RKO – 2:1

December 7 – PRISONER OF WAR – MGM – 1.75

December 8 – EDGE OF HELL – Hugo Haas Productions/Universal-International – 1.85

December 8 – JUNGLE MAN-EATERS – Columbia – 1.85

December 8 – OUTLAW STALLION – Columbia – 1.85


December 9 – BRIGADOON – MGM – filmed twice: 2.55 and 1.75

December 10 – KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS – Warner Bros – 2.55

December 14 – THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH – Universal-International – filmed twice: 2.55 and 2.1

December 14 – STUDENT PRINCE – MGM – filmed twice: 2.55 and 1.75

December 15 – SUSAN SLEPT HERE – RKO – 1.66

December 19 – SIGN OF THE PAGAN - Universal-International – filmed twice: 2.55 and 2.1

December 23 – THE HUMAN DESIRE – Columbia – 1.85

December 23 – JIMMY WAKELY’S JAMBOREE – Universal-International short – 1.85

December 28 – SILVER LODE – RKO – 1.85


On December 5, 1953, Boxoffice published a survey of 16,753 operating indoor domestic theaters. It showed that 80% of downtown theaters and 69% of neighborhood theaters had installed widescreens. In total, 58% of all U.S. theaters had gone widescreen by the end of 1953. The conversion was slow in the Southern and North central parts of the country and that’s why the films were still protected during photography for the standard Academy ratio.

The use of various wide screen aspect ratios would continue for several more years but one thing was certain: 1.37:1 - the standard production and exhibition ratio since 1932 - was abandoned. In September 1954, Merle Chamberlin (Director of Projection at MGM) stated, "All of the studios are convinced that the old 3/4 picture is gone and the wider aspect ratio is here to stay."

By October 1955, there was a total of fifteen different 35mm release print aspect ratios/sound formats available. Frustrated projection booth operators were having a difficult time keeping track of the different formats.




Producers in the UK had begun filming for widescreen just a few months after the transition took place in Hollywood. By the end of 1953, all UK producers were composing for some form of widescreen, with ratios including 1.65, 1.66, 1.75 and 1.8. On January 21, 1954, the Kinematograph Weekly wrote: "The interim report of the BKS shows that the optimum ratio is 1.65:1. This can be accommodated by 94 per cent of the kinemas in the United Kingdom within the proscenium opening and without structural alterations or reducing the present picture height. Recent inquiries show that many exhibitors have already adopted this ratio." 

By the fall of 1955, the British film industry had established 1.75:1 as their new widescreen standard. On October 6, 1955, the Ideal Kinema reported: "Every projectionist will welcome the decision (reported in KINE last week) that the British Film Producers' Association has approved its technical committee's proposals for standardization on aspect ratios.

This is a matter in which the British industry, most commendably, has given a lead to the world, including the United States. The decision  to standardise at a ratio of 1.75 to 1, tolerable for both 1.65 to 1 and 1.85 to 1, means that, very soon, the man in the box should be able to relax from the tiresome necessity of re-racking to prevent either topping or tailing his picture."

Robert A. Mitchell was a leading authority on all aspects of motion picture projection and technology. His monthly technical papers for International Projectionist led to the 1957 publication of “Manual of Practical Projection,” an essential book containing the very best of his extremely detailed articles.

In June 1956, he stated the following: “The trend toward wider-than-normal theatre screens is now so well established that the conventional 4:3-proportioned screen has become a rarity. Only a few theatres have retained the normal screen when wide screens are used for CinemaScope projection, and almost none have changed back to the standard aspect ratio after giving non-anamorphic widescreen pictures a fair trial.”

By September 1956, increasing demands from exhibitors for standardization would finally result in 1.85:1 becoming the accepted non-anamorphic industry standard for widescreen production in the United States.


In conclusion, while preparing this article, it was very disappointing to discover that many of these films have been mastered for DVD, Blu-ray, cable and streaming in full frame. Most of them have not been seen in widescreen since the original theatrical bookings nearly sixty years ago.

There were 187 widescreen films produced in 1953 and 101 are available on either DVD or Blu-ray.

As of May 6, 2014, only 35 have been released close to their original aspect ratio.

For the complete list, please read 1953 Widescreen Productions on DVD/Blu-ray.

It is my sincere wish that our new research will convince the studios to properly master these films   in widescreen so that we may once again see them as the filmmakers intended.

For more information, please read The New Era of Screen Dimensions.


International Projectionist: January, 1954

This article would not have been possible without the generous contributions of the following individuals:

Ned Comstock at the Universal Collection/USC Cinematic Arts Library, 

Janet Lorenz at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences/Margaret Herrick Library,

Brett Service at the Warner Bros. Archive/USC Cinematic Arts Library,

John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows,

John Bishop, Brandon Conway, Todd Feiertag, Gary A. Hoselton, Greg Kintz and Jack Theakston. 

Thank you very much for helping to make this article as complete and accurate as possible.


High resolution files are available on the restored posters in this article.

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