Alien : Previews across America

leading from

a) Leonard Kroll the ally
Leonard Kroll who was near enough a post production supervisor for 20th Century Fox  came over from America . They mixed the film at Elstree Studios and they did a six track stereo for a 70 mil print.

Fox said "We want to run, we want you to come over with  this weekend. We're going to go on a sneak preview tour."

Ridley Scott, Terry Rawlings and other members of his team arrived in America in the afternoon and 20th Century Fox told them "We want to show this film this film tonight ""

It was their first day there and it was being show to the science fiction fans of America, and they would have people turning up in all sorts of costumes, such as Star Wars and any other science fiction one could think of.


Source https://www.mapquest.com/

b) Darryl F Zanuck Theatre
They had the screening at the Darryl F Zanuck theatre which was the major dubbing theatre in the Fox lot, but the film sounded terrible.

Fox said "oh we've got a problem with this"

Rawling and the team responded "Well, there is no problem"

Leonard Kroll who was a great ally then said "I was there when they did it and everything was fine"

c) Screening at St Louis

The following day would then travel from one screening to another by 20th century Fox executives private jet to previews at St Louis, Denver and Dallas

At St Louis, Ridley wanted to check the sound system early. Someone there would say "Now speaking from speaker extreme right" and the speak would go "shhhhp shhhhp shhhhp". When Terry would be speaking from speaker extreme left, there would be silence, because they didn't have a speaker there since they took it out and used it in one of their other rooms.

This drove Ridley mad to the point that he really didn't want to screen the film there. So that meant that the theatre didn't play the sound properly and this resulted in another bad screening.



d) From Denver to Dallas and beyond
At Denver they had the same problem and by now Fox were thinking that they had a disaster on their hand. Soon they got to Dallas where in the cinema, there were two elderly men running the place, and it was was so pristine that someone could have eaten off the floor. There, the sound was fantastic, the picture was pin sharp, and people were fainting and being sick in the theatre.

David Giler stood at the back of the theatre, saying “What's going on here? They're getting a lot of walkouts." But what it was, was that people who were sitting close to the screen were walking back to stand and watch it in the back of the theatre - they didn't want to be that close to the screen, because obviously it was a scary film.


What Terry saw was crazy. They had thin red curtains at the back of the theatee and then one of the ushers looked through the curtains at the moment when as far as Alan Ladd Jr and David Giler recall Ash lost his head, but Terry Rawlings would later remember it as the moment the chestburster came out, and so fainted. The management were going crazy saying “This is terrible. People are being sick everywhere and in a state."

Ridley, Terry and the gang were all thinking "This is great.“ 

However the executives from Fox were watching this film and were very wary because they knew this film was quite violent, and so they were near enough standing at the back looking at each other,  people  were fainting and so they were looking at each other saying "Shall we run for it now or not?" Ivor recalled only two years earlier, during the preview for Rolling Thunder, the executives were chased out of the auditorium. Roger Christian was quite sure that Ridley Scott and David Giler were holding Alan Ladd down from leaving.

e) The problem at the Zanuck theatre
While Fox had been blaming Terry, Ridley and company for the bad sound, and they had the Dolby people trying to fix the problem in the theatres and then the Dallas theatre preview had no sound problems, they decided to go back and find out what the problem Darryl F Zanuck dubbing theatre was, of course it would have been important for Fox to work out what was happening in that theatre, but the realised that they had just finished mixing the film The Rose starring Bette Midler, and they had a 'rock and roll' team in there since it was that sort of a movie, so they revoiced all the speaker systems so it sounded thin and tinny compared to what they wanted for the Alien film.

  1. Terry Rawling: The thing about Alien which, I've said this before and I'll say it again, eighty percent of the film is in slow motion. When you think about it, we creep around this ship to start with, the ship glides in, it starts off with the ship gliding in. We then spend endless time wandering around the decks, onto the bridge and switching on, and it opens them up, when they open up in the , in the flower, I call it the flower, and I love the way, I wanted to make those dissolves so he was coming out of himself like he was coming out of a chrysalis, that's all slow, and then they just sit around the tall table talking, nothing's happened, nothing really happens for ages, but you're keeping everybody in their toes. There's certain things about that film, all the time you're tense, and I think you know, Jimmy Shields who was the sound editor, no longer with us unfortunately, he did an amazing job as well, because to keep people's attention is very hard when you're doing this. One of the biggest problems with this film is when we first got it together was having to show it to anybody, because the thing is until it had it's sound track on it, as Ivor just said, you would bore people to death, you just sit watching these people wandering about without any tension because tension is created with the music and the sound effects. You know, you can do it in silence, but it's not the same, so if anything it was a difficult film to get to the public to start with and we had a lot of sort of hiccups as far as that's concerned as well because when we first finished the film here, we had a man come over from America called Leonard Kroll who was their sort of er, post production supervisor for 20th Century Fox, was a great ally to me. We mixed the film at Elstree Studios and we did a six track stereo for a 70 mil print. They then said, "We want to run, we want you to come over with this", er ", this weekend. We're going to go on a sneak preview tour." So we arrived in America and they said "we want to show this film this afternoon, we want this tonight rather",  our first day there and it was being shown to the science fiction fans of America and we had all these funny people turning up dressed up like Star Wars and any other science fiction you could think of

    Wayne Imms: We've got some here today

    Terry Rawlings: Anyway, they all turned up at this thing and they had this screening as the Zanec theatre which was their major dubbing theatre in Fox and it sounded terrible. I mean the film was really sounding bad. So they were saying, "oh we've got a problem with this" and we said, "well there is no problem." And this Leonard Kroll, who was, as I said was a great ally, said "I was there when they did it and everything was fine", so we go off the next day and we go to St Louis. Well when you go to the, when you go up with a six track, which we don't do any more now, but when they went up then, you would take a seventy, right, seventy mil sound placement reel, and they play this thing and you go into the theatre and it was just the sound and lets say "now speaking from theatre six", sorry, "now speaking from speaker extreme right" and it would go shhhhp shhhhp shhhhp , do all this stuff, now I'm speaking from speaker extreme left, silence, they didn't have a speaker there because they said they took it out and used it in one of their other rooms, so you've got a theatre that's not playing the sound properly, so that was another bad screening. We went from there to Denver, we had the same problem, so by and now, Fox were thinking that they had got a disaster on their hands, so we go then to Dallas where in this cinema, they had er two older men running the place, you could have eaten off the floor, the sound was fantastic, the picture was pin sharp like you saw it today, and people were fainting and being sick in the theatre, it was, it was crazy. I mean, they had thin red curtains at the back of the theatre and then one of the ushers looked through the curtains as the chest burster came out and fainted straight into the "orchestra (?)", so the management were going crazy, you remember that?

    Ivor Powell: I have to intercede here because the 20th Century Fox thing. the kind of, erm,  Alan Ladd Junior and the other execs etc that had, made, that made this film and thank, bless them all, but they'd made another film a few years back and I can't remember what the hell it was called (Rolling Thunder, 1977) but it tanked, it was very violent and it had, er, one sort of scene where a bad guy's got hold of a, a person's hand and shoved it down one of these waste disposal things in the kitchen and the audience kind of went absolutely bananas and, er, they hate, for whatever reason they hated the violence and the executives were watching it, this preview, they actually chased them out of the cinema and down the street. So whenever execs from Fox were watching this film, they were very wary because they knew this film was sort of violent , obviously and they were all sort of standing at the back looking at each other like that, saying, as if, when people were starting fainting, they looked as if to say, "shall we run, you know, shall we run for it now or not."

    Terry Rawlings: And one of the reasons, I didn't finish ending the long endless story about the sound, but we found out afterwards, that the theatre that we ran it in first, the Zaneck dubbing theatre, had just finished mixing the film The Rose and they had a rock and roll team in there, because it was a rock and roll style movie and they re, re-voiced all the speaker systems so it sounded completely thin and tinny compared to what we wanted and that was one of the reasons, but then they decided they would run it for forty eight hours non stop from the Friday and you couldn't every... , I was staying there, and I watched the Egyptian theatre and no matter what time of the day or night they were queueing.

    Wayne Imms: That was what I was justing thinking of at the Egyptian theatre, because. Is that where the actual premier was ( Source Alien Q &A, Genesis Cinema, August 24th 2014 )
  2. Terry Rawlings: We never really previewed it until we finished the film, which was interesting, ah, but we, we finished it and we had a 70mm print and we took it to Fox, and they insisted the day we arrived - we'd just arrived that afternoon - that they wanted to run it that night in their dubbing theatre, the Zanuck Theatre. And er,  they invited all these science fiction, sort of people, who had come in dressed up as most of the creatures you'd ever seen, to see the film, and it ran terribly 'cause the sound was so bad in there and we could never it because we we had a great soundtrack. We've never changed it.

    David Giler: Then we had one in St Louis where the sound wasn't quite right, and er, it just.... It was... That was... OK.

    Alan Ladd Jr: Ridley went crazy because he went down to check the theatre before the screening and two of the speakers were out and then he didn't want to screen the picture.

    Terry Rawlings: By this time they are completely convinced that we'd made a bad soundtrack in England and the wrong thing had arrived.

    David Giler: But we were all quite worried after the one in St Louis. And then in, in Dallas, the next night, er, we had the sound absolutely right in the theatre.

    Terry Rawlings: We arrive in this theatre. It was just run by these guys - you could have eaten off their floor. The theatre was fantastic. The sound was great. It was the most incredible preview I've ever been in. I mean, people were screaming and running out of the theatre. .

    Roger Christian: From what I remember, Ridley and er Ivor Powell were holding down Alan Ladd, Jr, who was trying to get out of the cinema.

    Alan Ladd Jr: The usher keeled over and - not with the chestburster scene, strangely enough. People were just too stunned at that particular moment that er they didn't react.

    David Giler: This was a through-the-roof preview. This was when we knew we really had something. In fact, one of the ushers fainted, you know. They were worried about violence in the theatres and all this kind of stuff. “Oh, my God, there's an incident here. What happened?" You know, the usher fainted when the robot's head came off.

    Terry Rawlings: We had the management saying “This is terrible. People are being sick everywhere and in a state." We thought "This is great.“

    David Giler: At first I was standing at the back of the theatre, saying “What's going on here?" “They're getting a lot of walkouts." But what it was, was that people who were sitting close to the screen were walking back to stand and watch it in the back of the theatre - they didn't want to be that close to the screen, your know, 'cause it was scary. .

    Ivor Powell: Some of the most exciting moments of my life. There's no greater buzz than being involved in a movie, and suddenly, not only was I going to the States for the first time in my life, but I was being flown around with Ridley in the 20th Century Fox executive jet from preview to preview. (The Making of Alien documentary)
  3. Terry Rawlings: But when we first finished the film we went over to America with a 70 mil print and it had been seen over here by the Fox post production supervisor Leonard Kroll because he came to the dubbing.  We ran the film through fine and then we were to take it to America, and we arrive at Fox Studios and they said we want to run it tonight in the Zanuch Dubbing Theatre and they’d invited all these crazy people who dressed up like wookies and all this other stuff.  So the whole theatre are these people in space suits and things like this and we ran the film and it sounded terrible.  I mean it really did sound bad.  And the next day we were going on this tour, we were going to St Louis, Denver and Dallas.  So they said "There’s something wrong with the film" but we had no time to change it, so we go off and I think it’s St Louis we go to, and we had a bad screening because of sound again.  Then the same thing happened in Denver.  By this time they’re going crazy. Fox are blaming us for a bad mix or a terrible transfer or whatever.  Time there fighting against the Fox people, we got the Dolby people in there, they can’t get the theatres right, and we eventually arrived in Dallas in this theatre that you could eat off the floor in the box run by these two old guys. It was absolutely perfect and we had the most amazing screening I’ve ever been to in my life, with people screaming and fainting and being sick and everything else.  It was an incredible screening.  Then they decided they would check back to find out what the problems were and they found that their Zanuch theatre which was their main dubbing theatre, they had been dubbing the rows and they’d had the rock and roll mixers in their mixing the music and they’d retuned all the sound system.  So it couldn’t play anything back and they had to re-mix some of the rows.  So we were vindicated. ( as reported from Alien Evolution interview) 

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  1. "Alien : Previews across America" was posted on 10th September 2019

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