History, Legacy & Showmanship

The Great Adventure: Remembering “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on its 35th Anniversary

June 14, 2016 - 4:00 pm   |   by
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Top Gun in 70mm


The following is a list of the first-run 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo premium-format presentations of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the United States and Canada. These were, arguably, the best theaters in which to experience Raiders and the only way to faithfully hear the movie’s Oscar-winning audio mix. About five percent of the film’s original presentations were in the deluxe (and expensive) 70mm format, and of the movies released during 1981, Raiders was among only seven (plus a few re-releases) to have 70mm prints produced and it had the second-highest number of such prints that year behind The Ladd Company’s Outland.

The 70mm prints were blown up from anamorphic 35mm photography and had an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The soundtrack was Format 42 (three screen/one surround + baby boom), and the noise-reduction and signal-processing format for the prints was Dolby “A.”

The focus of this listing is on the Initial Wave of bookings that commenced June 12th, 1981, followed by a chronological listing of 70mm engagements from later in its release and during its 1982 and 1983 re-releases. The listing does not include any international engagements, nor does it include any of the movie’s thousands of standard 35mm engagements or subsequent revival and festival presentations. (This section should be considered a work in progress.)

So, which North American theaters screened the 70mm version of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Raiders at the Chinese Theater


  • Calgary — Chinook (48 weeks)
  • Edmonton — Westmount Twin (48)


  • Little Rock — Cinema 150 (23) <70mm from Week #14>


  • Burnaby — Lougheed Mall Triplex (48)
  • Vancouver — Vancouver Centre Twin (48)


  • Corte Madera — Cinema
  • Costa Mesa — South Coast Plaza Triplex (54)
  • La Mesa — Cinema Grossmont (58)
  • La Mirada — La Mirada Mall 6-plex (38) <70mm from Week #17>
  • Los Angeles (Hollywood) — Chinese Triplex (15)
  • Los Angeles (Westwood Village) — National (16)
  • Montclair — Montclair Triplex (27) <70mm from Week #23>
  • Orange — Cinedome 6-plex (56)
  • Sacramento — Century 6-plex
  • San Francisco — Regency I (23)
  • San Jose — Century 21 (25)
  • San Jose — Century 23 Twin (10)


  • Denver — Century 21 (25)


  • Washington — Cinema (25)

Raiders newspaper adILLINOIS

  • Calumet City — River Oaks 6-plex (#1: 27)
  • Calumet City — River Oaks 6-plex (#2: 1)
  • Evergreen Park — Evergreen Triplex (20)
  • Lombard — Yorktown 4-plex (16)
  • Niles — Golf Mill Triplex (15)
  • Northbrook — Edens Twin (15)
  • Schaumburg — Woodfield 4-plex (#1: 27)
  • Schaumburg — Woodfield 4-plex (#2: 1)


  • Louisville — Showcase 9-plex (57)


  • Winnipeg — Northstar Twin (48)


  • Boston — Cinema 57 Twin (27)


  • Southfield — Northland Twin (27)


  • Paramus — Route Four 4-plex (28) <70mm from Week #4>


  • Levittown — Nassau 4-plex (27) <70mm from Week #4>
  • New York — 34th Street Showplace Triplex (14)
  • New York — Astor Plaza (23)
  • New York — Orpheum Twin (14)
  • New York — State Twin <June 5th sneak preview screening>
  • Pittsford — Loews Triplex (27) <70mm from Week #5>
  • Valley Stream — Sunrise 8-plex (15) <70mm from Week #4>

Raiders of the Lost Ark


  • Springdale — Showcase 7-plex (27)


  • Scarborough — Cedarbrae 4-plex (25)
  • Toronto — Eglinton (25)
  • Toronto — Runnymede Twin (25)
  • Toronto — Uptown 5-plex (3)

Raiders newspaper adPENNSYLVANIA

  • Philadelphia — SamEric (20) <70mm from Week #2>


  • Montreal — Imperial (26)


  • Dallas — Caruth Plaza Twin (42) <70mm from Week #33>
  • Houston — Windsor Twin <70mm from Week #2>


  • Salt Lake City — Villa (53) <70mm from Week #6>


  • Tukwila — Southcenter (26)


  • 1981-06-26 … Chicago, IL — Esquire (13)
  • 1981-07-03 … Ottawa, ON — Nelson (35)
  • 1981-07-03 … Toronto, ON — University (22) <moveover from Uptown>
  • 1981-07-31 … Lakewood, CA — Lakewood Center 4-plex (9)
  • 1981-08-21 … Des Moines, IA — River Hills (15)
  • 1981-09-25 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Hollywood (7) <moveover from Chinese>
  • 1981-10-02 … Quebec City, QC — Canadien (11)
  • 1981-11-06 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — National (4)
  • 1981-11-13 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (5)
  • 1981-11-20 … Lakewood, CA — Lakewood Center 4-plex (9)
  • 1981-11-20 … San Francisco, CA — Royal <moveover from Regency I>
  • 1981-12-04 … San Jose, CA — Century 25 Twin (56) <moveover from Century 21>
  • 1981-12-11 … Montreal, QC — Imperial (9) <Version Francaise>
  • 1981-12-11 … Montreal, QC — York (7) <moveover from Imperial>
  • 1981-12-11 … Lynnwood, WA — Grand Alderwood 5-plex (31) <moveover from Southcenter>
  • 1981-12-25 … Cleveland, OH — Colony (4)
  • 1982-01-22 … Los Angeles (Century City), CA — Century Plaza Twin (3)
  • 1982-02-05 … Atlanta, GA — Phipps Plaza Triplex
  • 1982-02-12 … Montreal, QC — Palace 6-plex (14) <Version Francaise>
  • 1982-02-17 … Chicago, IL — State Lake (1)
  • 1982-02-26 … Chicago, IL — McClurg Court (1)
  • 1982-03-05 … Toronto, ON — Cumberland 4-plex (1) <“La Reserve“>
  • 1982-04-02 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Cinerama Dome (10)
  • 1982-04-16 … Portland, OR — Music Box (6)
  • 1982-06-11 … Los Angeles (West Los Angeles), CA — Picwood (5)
  • 1982-07-16 … Atlanta, GA — Fox
  • 1982-07-16 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — Avco Center Triplex (3)
  • 1982-07-16 … Montreal, QC — Le Parisien 5-plex (5) <Version Francaise>
  • 1982-07-16 … New York, NY — Ziegfeld (3)
  • 1982-07-16 … Renton, WA — Roxy (2)
  • 1982-07-16 … Seattle, WA — Crest 4-plex (4)
  • 1982-07-16 … Washington, DC — MacArthur (3)
  • 1982-08-06 … New York, NY — Embassy I (3)
  • 1982-08-20 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Cinerama Dome (5)
  • 1982-08-20 … San Francisco, CA — Alexandria Triplex
  • 1982-09-03 … Burnaby, BC — Lougheed Mall Triplex (1)
  • 1982-09-24 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (7)
  • 1983-03-25 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (1)
  • 1983-03-25 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — Bruin (1)
  • 1983-03-25 … Montreal, QC — Imperial (2) <Version Francaise>
  • 1983-03-25 … New York, NY — Astor Plaza (3)
  • 1983-03-25 … San Diego, CA — Valley Circle (1)
  • 1983-03-25 … Toronto, ON — Hollywood Twin (2)
  • 1983-03-25 … Toronto, ON — Uptown 5-plex (3)
  • 1983-04-01 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Fox (2)
  • 1983-04-01 … Riverside, CA — Canyon Crest 5-plex (6)
  • 1983-04-08 … Toronto, ON — Palace Triplex (1)
  • 1983-04-22 … San Francisco, CA — Regency II
  • 1983-04-22 … San Jose, CA — Town & Country (3)
  • 1983-05-20 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (3)
  • 1983-06-17 … Chicago Ridge, IL — Chicago Ridge Mall Triplex (1)
  • 1983-07-08 … New York, NY — Paramount (2)
  • 1983-08-12 … Cleveland, OH — Colony (1)
  • 1983-09-02 … San Francisco, CA — Cinema 21
  • 1983-09-16 … Los Angeles (Hollywood), CA — Chinese Triplex (2)
  • 1983-09-16 … Los Angeles (Westwood Village), CA — National (2)
  • 1983-09-09 … Edmonton, AB — Meadowlark (1)
  • 1983-09-16 … Calgary, AB — Northill (4)
  • 1983-09-27 … Ottawa, ON — NAC Opera (2 days)

Note that some presentations were in 35mm during the latter weeks of engagement due to print damage or movement to a smaller, non-70mm-equipped auditorium within a cinema complex.

Raiders in theaters



This segment of the article features a Q&A with a sextet of Spielberg authorities. The interviews were conducted separately and have been edited into a “roundtable” format.

Steven Awalt is the author of Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014; paperback, 2016). A film historian and noted Spielberg authority, Awalt was the editor of SpielbergFilms.com from 2001 to 2009 and appeared as an interview subject in the 2007 Jaws documentary, The Shark is Still Working. He is currently working on Steven Spielberg and The Sugarland Express.

Steven Awalt

Laurent Bouzereau is the author (with J. W. Rinzler) of The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films (Ballantine/Del Rey, 2008) and the producer of the supplemental material on the Indiana Jones DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases (as well as several other Spielberg films). Some of his behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentary projects include Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck (2013), Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2011), A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King (2011), and The Making of American Graffiti (1998). His other books include Hitchcock: Piece by Piece (Abrams, 2010), The Art of Bond (Abrams, 2006), Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (Ballantine, 1997), and The DePalma Cut: The Films of America’s Most Controversial Director (Dembner, 1988).

Laurent Bouzereau

Scott Higgins is the author of Matinee Melodrama: Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial (Rutgers University Press, 2016) and is Professor of Film Studies and Chair of the Film Department at Wesleyan University, where he teaches several film courses including Cinema of Adventure and Action. His other books include Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s, (University of Texas Press, 2007) and Arnheim for Film and Media Studies (Routledge, 2010).

Scott Higgins

Eric Lichtenfeld is the author of Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie (Wesleyan, 2007), an authoritative and entertaining study of the action film genre. He has taught or spoken about film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque, Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, Wesleyan University, and the Harvard School of Law. Eric has also contributed supplemental material for several DVD and Blu-ray releases, including SpeedPredator and Die Hard. In 2011, he introduced Raiders of the Lost Ark and interviewed a number of its makers for the Academy’s 30th anniversary tribute to the film.

Eric Litchtenfeld

Mike Matessino is an accomplished music producer, mixer, editor, mastering engineer and film music historian. While he hasn’t (as of yet) been formally involved with an Indiana Jones soundtrack, he has proven to be an expert on Spielberg/Williams collaboration, having worked on numerous titles including 1941, Empire of the Sun, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Jaws, all produced under the supervision of the composer and director. Other (non-Spielberg) John Williams projects include Star Wars, Superman and Home Alone, and Spielberg (non-Williams) projects include Poltergeist, Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, and Innerspace. He was the Restoration Supervisor for The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and directed behind-the-scenes documentaries on The Sound of MusicAlienThe Last Starfighter, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Mike Matessino

Joseph McBride is the author of Steven Spielberg: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1997; University Press of Mississippi, 2011, second edition; Faber & Faber, 2012, third edition; Chinese translation published in Beijing in 2012). A professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University, McBride has written several other books, including Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit (Hightower Press, 2013), Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Searching for John Ford (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career (University Press of Kentucky, 2006), and Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless (Vintage, 2012). His latest book is The Broken Places: A Memoir (Hightower Press, 2015) and he is currently working on a critical study of Ernst Lubitsch. He was a co-producer on the documentary Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece and a co-writer of the screenplay for Rock ’n’ Roll High School (1979). His website is josephmcbridefilm.com

Joseph McBride

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is Raiders of the Lost Ark worthy of celebration on its 35th anniversary?

Steven Awalt: Raiders of the Lost Ark is such a superb film from first viewing through as many times as you could wish to watch it. You can plainly see the finely-tuned machinery working in the plotting and within each set-piece and yet somehow the film still plays in so fresh even after watching it annually for 35 years. No matter how well I think I know the film and the behind-the-scenes production stories*, I never fail to get wrapped up in Raiders from its opening moments. Like most very special films, there’s an ineffable alchemy at play in it. Movie magic. (*Speaking of production stories from the film, I can’t suggest enough that your readers seek out Derek Taylor’s The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark book released in 1981. It’s one of the great boots on the ground, fly on the wall looks at the making of a motion picture.)

Laurent Bouzereau: Raiders of the Lost Ark was an event and a revelation. I don’t think there was necessarily a huge build up to it or expectations. It’s a film that completely lived on its own merit as pure entertainment. And while it paid homage to serial films, it was unique and felt fresh, original and unique.

Scott Higgins: Well, it is a landmark—one of the trio of films largely responsible for the action-adventure orientation of contemporary “four-quadrant” Hollywood cinema. (The others being Star Wars and Superman.) Some bemoan that, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs. But whatever you think of the trend that these films inspired, Raiders remains an elegant, rock-solid piece of craft and a source of joy.

Eric Lichtenfeld: As usual, you’re asking questions that can be answered a few different ways!.... Raiders deserves to be celebrated because it helped us recover the exuberant spirit of the serials — think 1940s pabulum like Don Winslow of the Navy, Spy Smasher, Jungle Girl and others — but married it to very high quality, even sophisticated, filmmaking. In fact, it didn’t just help recover that spirit; it helped elevate it…. Raiders also deserves to be celebrated because of the convergence of sheer talent it embodies. And I don’t just mean Lucas, Spielberg, Harrison Ford and John Williams (although that would be enough right there). I mean every department head — from cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and editor Michael Kahn to re-recording mixers Steve Maslow and Gregg Landaker, and everyone in between and beyond. And not only was each one the best in their field, but they were also, at that particular moment, working at their own personal best. So even though Lucas and Spielberg routinely have great collaborators, this kind of conjunction is still rare. I’d venture to say even for them…. But in the end, it comes down to something very simple, even elemental — and that thing is joy. Raiders is worth celebrating on its 35th anniversary because it’s been bringing us joy for 35 years. And not only in when we’re watching it, either. I mean, to this day, when I just make it through a yellow light, what piece of music do you think goes through my head? I’ll tell you this: it isn’t Pachelbel’s Canon.

Mike Matessino: A movie like Raiders is worth celebrating any year at any time because it is a template for not only the action genre but for cinematic structure in general. It’s a movie that itself celebrates everything that is fun about the movies in the classic sense. Dare I say, “it’s not the years it’s the mileage.”

Joseph McBride: Steven Spielberg’s reputation as a director of fantasy and action films is only part of his legacy. But it is an important part. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an efficient, lively, entertaining, but somewhat deplorable example of his skill in those genres.

A scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark

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