Today's big-budget blockbusters may make bank at the box office, but they don't come close to the true king of movie grosses, "Gone With the Wind." More than seven decades after its release, the Oscar-winning film owns the top spot for highest box office when adjusted for inflation. (According to BoxOfficeMojo, the film sold more than 200 million tickets, with its closest competition being "Star Wars" at 178 million.)
So what made "Wind" so successful? Most moviegoers would tell you it was its talented performances or breathtaking storyline. However, perhaps it was something a little different, like, uh...the projection?
One Redditor recently posted what's supposedly a set of projection instructions for the 1939 classic (the user states that she's a projectionist and that her "job used to be art, now [she] just push[es] buttons"). Entitled "Concerning the Presentation of 'Gone With the Wind,'" the four-page report lays out a set of guidelines that makes sure each screening of the film is as good as it can be.
"No time, effort or money has been spared to make 'Gone With the Wind' as perfect as possible," says producer David O. Selznick, in the introduction letter. "But all of the time, money and effort, and all of the new [technology used on the film] will have been in vain if we do not have the complete cooperation of the exhibitor, without whose showmanship and presentation abilities a perfect show is impossible."
Hammering home the importance of the presentation, Selznick ends his letter by stating "I shall be personally grateful if you will take the time to read this booklet carefully; and to abide by as many of the suggestions as you will find practicable in your particular theatre."
So what "suggestions" did the booklet include? From the looks of it, a very specific set of them:
Reel 1 of Gone With the Wind begins with a 2 minute and 31 second musical Overture preceding the Main Title. During the last 30 seconds of this Overture, it is urged that the house lights be gradually dimmed so that all lights in the auditorium (with the exception of only exit lights required by fire ordinance) will be fully out at the end of this Overture.
And what about during that Intermission?
The curtains should be closed over the INTERMISSION title and the house lights should gradually come up after the curtains are fully drawn. At the end of the title, please close the dowser, but continue running the remainder of the reel, in order to play the Intermission music on the sound track that follows the 30 seconds of silence.
If it is decided that the audience requires more than the 7 minute musical intermission...simply delay the start of Reel 7 accordingly, for as long as your experience dictates that you should increase the intermission.
Then at the end of the almost four-hour movie:
After the END title in Reel 13 there are 13 seconds of silence and black leader, followed by 4 minutes and 15 seconds of EXIT music. The house lights will presumably be gradually turned up following the END title, but because of the color effect of the last shot, it is requested that house lights should not be turned up until immediately after the END title.
Care should be exercised that a slow drawing of the curtains should not commence until "The End" is fully on the screen, as this title comes over a dramatically important pictorial effect.
So, yeah, a little more to projection back in the day than just "pushing buttons," like with today's digital players.
There are two photos of the instruction booklet below. You can see the entire thing overhere.
"Gone With the Wind," which starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, went on to win eight Academy Awards (it was nominated for 13), including Best Picture and Best Director.
'Gone With the Wind'
"'<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980621/REVIEWS08/401010323/1023" target="_hplink">Gone With the Wind'' presents a sentimental view of the Civil War</a>, in which the ``Old South'' takes the place of Camelot and the war was fought not so much to defeat the Confederacy and free the slaves as to give Miss Scarlett O'Hara her comeuppance."
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19770101/REVIEWS/701010315/1023" target="_hplink">The journey from one end of the galaxy to another is out of countless thousands of space operas</a>. The hardware is from "Flash Gordon" out of "2001: A Space Odyssey," the chivalry is from Robin Hood, the heroes are from Westerns and the villains are a cross between Nazis and sorcerers."
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19720101/REVIEWS/201010312/1023" target="_hplink">Coppola has found a style and a visual look for all this material</a> so "The Godfather" becomes something of a rarity: a really good movie squeezed from a bestseller."
"For the kids in the audience, <a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19951122/REVIEWS/50208001/1023" target="_hplink">a movie like this will work because it tells a fun story</a>, contains a lot of humor, and is exciting to watch. Older viewers may be even more absorbed, because "Toy Story," the first feature made entirely by computer, achieves a three-dimensional reality and freedom of movement that is liberating and new. The more you know about how the movie was made, the more you respect it."
"After seeing "Platoon," <a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19861230/REVIEWS/612300301/1023" target="_hplink">I fell to wondering why Stone was able to make such an effective movie without falling into the trap Truffaut spoke about</a> -- how he made the movie riveting without making it exhilarating. Here's how I think he did it. He abandoned the choreography that is standard in almost all war movies. He abandoned any attempt to make it clear where the various forces were in relation to each other, so that we never know where "our" side stands and where "they" are."
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19750101/REVIEWS/501010348" target="_hplink">That sort of observation, when it's allowed to happen, is what's best about "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."</a> We meet a classic outsider -- R.P. McMurphy, a quintessentially sane convict sent to the institution as a punishment for troublemaking -- whose charisma and gall allow him to break through to a group of patients who've mostly fallen into a drugged lethargy."
'2001: A Space Odyssey'
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19680412/REVIEWS/804120301/1023" target="_hplink">There is hardly any character development in the plot, then, as a result little suspense</a>. What remains fascinating is the fanatic care with which Kubrick has built his machines and achieved his special effects. There is not a single moment, in this long film, when the audience can see through the props. The stars look like stars and outer space is bold and bleak."
'E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial'
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?aid=/20020322/reviews/203220304/1023" target="_hplink">This movie made my heart glad</a>. It is filled with innocence, hope, and good cheer. It is also wickedly funny and exciting as hell."
"<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19800101/REVIEWS/1010328" target="_hplink">Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull" is a movie about brute force</a>, anger, and grief. It is also, like several of Scorsese's other movies, about a man's inability to understand a woman except in terms of the only two roles he knows how to assign her: virgin or whore."