This 180° cinema was one of the park’s first attractions and a UK first.
Originally - In one of the small domes in Fantasy Reef.
Then - In 1995 this building was used for ‘Seasonal Attractions’ such as the Batman Forever Exhibition and in 1998 Dare Devil Drivers opened.
Now - Zodiac now stands in this area.
Official Thorpe Park Description:
From the 1986 park map “CINEMA 180 – Experience some of the world’s most exciting thrills without leaving the ground or the Park!”
When Cinema 180 opened in 1981 it was a UK first, a cinema where the footage was projected on a 180° curved screen that wrapped around the dome. The idea behind this format of cinema was to create a feeling of ‘total immersion’ for the viewers, with the 180° screen filling their field of vision.
Thorpe Park’s main film was one that featured POV (Point of View) footage filmed on a roller coaster, this film finished with a runaway pushchair scene with the pushchair flying out on to the road and then stopping at the last second. For the first three years of Cinema 180’s operation Thorpe Park did not have a single roller coaster and it would be another 15 years before the park’s 1st non-powered coaster X:\ No Way Out would open so this film gave Thorpe Park’s guests a chance to experience something they could not elsewhere in the park. Other films shown at the park contained sequences involving races around city streets and helicopter flights.
These films were ran every half hour or even more often at busier times. Whilst the films were playing the audience would be stood watching, trying to keep their balance and not fall over.
The company that supplied and serviced the equipment & film was based in the USA. As the huge projector was a maze of buttons and it was often difficult to feed the delicate film through it, there were many chances for potential mistakes to be made. Because of this working on Cinema 180 was quite a responsible job as one mistake with the film could damage it and cause the attraction to be closed for weeks whilst the film was sent to the USA to be repaired at great expense.
The Cinema 180 Format
The Cinema 180 format was created by a firm called Omni Films, so it is sometimes referred to as Omnivision Cinema 180 and it was first used in 1979. To create the 180° effect the films were both shot and projected using special fisheye lenses that matched the shape of the 180° dome screen.
During filming the footage was recorded on 65mm (2.6 in) wide High-Resolution film gauge, this was a higher resolution than the standard 35mm film normally used in the movie industry. For projection this footage was then printed on 70mm (2.8 in) film. The standard frame speed for a Cinema 180 film was/is 30fps, this compares to the normal standard of 24fps.
In the early 1980’s Cinema 180 attractions became very popular at Theme Parks, Fun Fairs and other visitor attractions around the world. Nowadays however there are nearly no examples left as they have all been removed or replaced over the years.
Simex-Iwerks are the current distributors of some of the old Cinema 180 films. This is the same company that own/distribute the Pirates 4D film.
Memories of Cinema 180:
Facts & Trivia:
The first film ever to be shown in the Cinema 180 format was ‘Crazy Wheels’ in 1979.