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The Lure of Commercial Culture: Panoramic Futures

 


The Collosseum in Regent's Park

The Colosseum panorama, which opened in 1829 in Regent’s Park, London, was a remarkable undertaking, 60 feet high and 130 feet in diameter. The panorama of London as seen from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral covered 40,000 square feet including a dome of 15,000 square feet painted as sky. Patrons viewed the 360 degree view from a central observation platform reached by one of two circular staircases or by a steam-powered elevator, one of the first passenger elevators in the world. Based on 2,000 sketches made from the top of St. Paul’s and transferred to the canvas, the panorama took almost four years to complete. Colosseum patrons were offered state-of-the-art entertainment in similar ways to the high-tech, luxury movie complexes being constructed today.

 
The Collosseum in Regent's Park
 
View near Collosseum in Regent's Park, 1829
Guildhall Library, Corporation of London
Guildhall Library, Corporation of London
 

 

 
Interior of the Collosseum
Guildhall Library Collage Database

Technological developments of the late 20th century have made it possible to extend the 360 degree concept of the panorama into today’s entertainment and marketing environments. Prominent among these phenomena are Imax films.

IMAX
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IPIX
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Be Here
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Imax Corporation, which produces films shown on gigantic rectangular or dome-shaped screens that extend beyond the viewer’s peripheral vision, has migrated from the one-time venue of the exposition fairground to a permanent purpose-built theater with rotating film attractions. Imax promoters face the ongoing challenge of moving into wider commercial markets with the long hoped for crossover film that will make Imax a serious contender to Hollywood filmmaking and its massive audience. Their hopes are reflected in increased attention to fiction films and 3-D animation productions.

"The next best thing to being there"
Courtesy of IMAX Corporation
 
IMAX: The Ultimate Experience
Courtesy of IMAX Corporation
 
IMAX: Promotion
Courtesy of IMAX Corporation

The appeal of the 360 degree view has persisted in the popular imaginary and commercial marketplace since the late eighteenth century. The World Wide Web has become a metaphor for panoramic perception, through internet based 3D imaging technologies. It offers computer users the ability to see everywhere, everything, all the time. Whether or not web surfers will eventually demand 360 degree immersive visual content remains to be seen; what we do know is that we’ve been here before.

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