Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: Earthquake!!!

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. The following was inspired by fellow SoCal blogging colleague, Arlee over at Tossing It Out, and his subterranean sub-genre related post:

“The earthquake has been a special effects staple since the silent film era.  The effect can be as unrealistic and silly looking as a shaking camera and stumbling actors or the effects can be quite dramatic and powerful with the earth cracking open and buildings crashing to the ground.”


The Huntington Park Warner Theatre:




November 1974: Those living in, or visiting, Southern California eventually learn how fast their heart can accelerate when the ground starts something unexpected. Moving… all by itself. Jaded Angelenos say they only get excited if a quake registers a Richter Scale 4 or above. They’d be lying. At least the conscious ones. If the pharmaceutical industry could bottle the adrenaline poured into people’s veins during tremors, they’d be even more wealthy.

Such is the power, and consequence, of living in earthquake country. With hurricanes you get warnings. Maybe a few minutes with tornadoes (lucky 13, if you believe the NOAA). Not this. You’re suddenly in the moment when it happens, and the end of the ride doesn’t come fast enough. Then, there are two kinds of folk. Those who can quickly forget what just happened and those who can’t. My daughter and I belong to the former. My bride and son the latter.

Rinse and repeat.

So when Universal announced and then released a film that, they said, could recreate the same havoc in a movie, Earthquake, you had a lot folk around here more than curious. A little dubious, also. Many who had taken nature’s free version would pony up $$ at the box office to see (and feel) if the studio could deliver. They came close. Surprisingly so.

People lined the sidewalks in places like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to experience the film. Luckily, I didn’t have far to go to encounter this. The nearby Huntington Park Warner Theatre being one of the handful in the southland set up with the “Sensurround” system for the film’s first-run. For one of the few times I got into a long line, along with my college girlfriend, at the theater of my youth to buy a movie ticket.

A packed house greeted us, too. The most I’d ever seen there, and we had to sit up front and to the right of the screen. As the story unfolded I think we were all a bit underwhelmed. This was it, we thought? Then, the first of the sequences arrived, with those BGW amplifiers kicking in. Their sub-audible “infra bass” sound waves cranked up to 120 decibels, btw. The screaming began in earnest, next. I assure you that a whole lot of linen got washed that day as a result.

The entire TMT series can be found here. If you’re interested how it’s put together, click here.

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22 Responses to “TMT: Earthquake!!!”

  1. ruth

    I didn’t realize Heston is in this, then you’re pretty much safe then :D Great TMT as always Michael!

    • le0pard13

      Yes, more of Heston being Heston. Not really Judah Ben-hur-level, but entertaining (especially with the sound system turned on). Thanks, Ruth.

      • ruth

        Ahah, well NO other role of his would be on Judah Ben-Hur level, not even Moses :D I’ll give this a shot surely, sounds like an entertaining disaster movie, ahah. That’s gotta be interesting watching it in L.A. where it’s prone to earthquakes!

        • le0pard13

          BTW, every few years around here, someone hauls out the old ‘Sensurround’ equipment and screens some of the films that used it. I missed it, but in 2008 The Egyptian Theatre had Disaster Movie Week and showed ‘Earthquake’ in Sensurround. If you EVER get a chance to experience it, do so. Closest thing to a roller coaster, or an actual earthquake, you’ll feel in a movie theater.

          • ruth

            Oh my! That sounds very cool! I wish I lived in LA! Btw, I’ll be in San Diego around July 4th and might drive down to St Barbara/St Monica. I’d LOVE to meet you :D Is that too far from where you live?

          • le0pard13

            Oh, yes. It’s all possible, and I’d love to meet you (and your husband) in person. Keep me posted to your plans. Thanks, Ruth.

  2. Arlee Bird

    Came here pleasantly surprised to see the mention of my blog. I never saw Earthquake in the theater, but saw it on TV–not the same effect by any means. Maybe I should put it on my Netflix queue so I can reexperience the film with my big screen and surround sound.

    • le0pard13

      Glad to send a shout-out your way, Arlee. Your fun post really did jog the memory bank. So, you’re welcome and thank you very much, my friend.

  3. fernandorafael

    “I assure you that a whole lot of linen got washed that day as a result.”

    Funny! Great post as usual, Michael. They should bring Sensurround back!

    • le0pard13

      I agree! It was a wild experience. Back then, there were reports that ‘Sensurround’ broke tiles and cracked plaster in venues. Some patrons said it gave them nosebleeds. Plus, you could only run it in single screen theaters. If you’d have it in a multiplex, well… every theater got to experience it whether they were showing that particular movie or something else. These days, however, the lawyers would no doubt would have you sign waiver ;-). Thanks, Fernando.

  4. le0pard13

    For those in the SoCal area, The American Cinematheque Los Angeles will be screening this film at The Egyptian Theatre in SENSURROUND next week. Saturday, June 15, 2013. I’m taking the kids!


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