History, Legacy & Showmanship

Deep Dive: Remembering “The Abyss” on its 30th Anniversary

November 14, 2019 - 2:23 pm   |   by
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The Abyss (1989) screenshot



Event and prestige movies (what we might refer today as a tent-pole or high-profile release) have on occasion been given a deluxe release in addition to a conventional release. This section of the article includes a reference / historical listing of the first-run 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo premium-format presentations of The Abyss in the United States and Canada. These were arguably the best theaters in which to have experienced The Abyss and the only way to have faithfully heard the movie’s discrete multichannel audio mix or to have been guaranteed a theater tune-up prior to the booking. This is the sort of listing (sans the duration figures) that might have trended on the Internet to assist moviegoers in finding a 70mm presentation near them had such a resource existed in 1989.

Of the 100+ movies released during 1989, The Abyss was among only seventeen to have 70mm prints prepared for selected engagements. Less than five percent of The Abyss’ initial print run were in the deluxe 70mm format, which offered superior audio and image quality compared to its 35mm counterpart prints and were significantly more expensive to manufacture.

For the release of The Abyss, 20th Century Fox employed the services of Lucasfilm’s Theatre Alignment Program (TAP) to evaluate and approve the theaters selected to book a 70mm print.

The 70mm prints of The Abyss were intended to be projected in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio and were blown up from Super-35. The noise-reduction and signal-processing format of the prints was Dolby “A” and the soundtrack was Dolby processor setting Format 42 (i.e. three discrete screen channels + one discrete surround channel + two tracks of “baby boom” low-frequency enhancement).

Fox’s 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo coming attraction trailers that circulated during the release of The Abyss included Die Hard 2, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Millennium, The War of the Roses and Worth Winning. (Additional 70mm trailers from other studios circulated during this period as well, and which trailers, if any, seen during the presentations of The Abyss varied by venue and screening.)

The duration of the engagements (measured in weeks) has been included in parenthesis following the applicable cinema name.

So, which theaters in North America screened the 70mm presentation of The Abyss?

70mm logo


  • Phoenix — Harkins’ Cine Capri (10)


  • Vancouver — Cineplex Odeon’s Granville 7-plex (7) [THX]


  • Los Angeles (Beverly Grove) — Cineplex Odeon’s Beverly Center 13-plex (9) [THX]
  • Los Angeles (Canoga Park) — GCC’s Fallbrook 7-plex (10) [THX]
  • Los Angeles (Hollywood) — UA’s Egyptian Triplex (11) [THX]
  • Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks) — GCC’s Sherman Oaks 5-plex (7) [THX]
  • Los Angeles (Westwood Village) — GCC’s Avco Center Triplex (10) [THX]
  • Mountain View — Syufy’s Century 10-plex (9)
  • Newport Beach — Edwards’ Newport Triplex (6)
  • Oakland — Renaissance Rialto’s Grand Lake 4-plex (8)
  • Orange — Syufy’s Century Cinedome 8-plex (10)
  • Pleasant Hill — Syufy’s Century 5-plex (8)
  • Redondo Beach — GCC’s Galleria South Bay 6-plex (10) [THX]
  • Sacramento — Syufy’s Century Cinedome 8-plex (10)
  • Sacramento — UA’s Arden Fair Mall 6-plex (13)
  • San Diego — UA’s Horton Plaza 7-plex (4+) [THX]
  • San Francisco — UA’s Galaxy 4-plex (#1: 11) [THX]
  • San Francisco — UA’s Galaxy 4-plex (#2: 7) [THX]
  • San Jose — Syufy’s Century 21 (8)
  • San Jose — Syufy’s Century Berryessa 10-plex (4+)
  • Universal City — Cineplex Odeon’s Universal City 18-plex (9) [THX]


  • Denver — UA’s Continental (4+)


  • Washington — Cineplex Odeon’s Wisconsin Avenue 6-plex (6) [THX]
  • Washington — K-B’s Fine Arts (5)


  • Atlanta — UA’s Lenox Square 6-plex (7)


  • Chicago — Cineplex Odeon’s McClurg Court Triplex (8) [THX]
  • Skokie — M&R’s Old Orchard 4-plex (5)


  • Des Moines — Excellence’s River Hills (10)


  • Overland Park — Dickinson’s Glenwood 4-plex (8)


  • Boston — Loews’ Cheri Triplex (5)

Abyss newspaper ad


  • St. Louis Park — Cineplex Odeon’s Cooper Twin (8)


  • Edison — GCC’s Menlo Park Twin (5)
  • Paramus — Cineplex Odeon’s Route Four 10-plex (8)
  • Secaucus — Loews’ Meadow 6-plex (6)
  • West Orange — GCC’s Essex Green Triplex (6) [THX]


  • Garden City — Loews’ Roosevelt Field 8-plex (5)
  • New York (Brooklyn) — UA’s The Movies at Sheepshead Bay 9-plex (6)
  • New York (Manhattan) — Cineplex Odeon’s Bay (5)
  • New York (Manhattan) — Cineplex Odeon’s Ziegfeld (5)
  • New York (Manhattan) — Loews’ Orpheum Twin (5)
  • New York (Manhattan) — Trans-Lux’s Gotham (10)
  • New York (Queens) — UA’s Continental Triplex (5)
  • Syosset — UA’s Syosset Triplex (5)


  • Ottawa — Cineplex Odeon’s Somerset (8)
  • Toronto — Cineplex Odeon’s Hyland Twin (9)


  • Portland — LT’s Lloyd 10 (4+) [THX]


  • Philadelphia — Sameric’s Sam’s Place Twin (6)


  • Montreal — Cineplex Odeon’s Place Alexis-Nihon Triplex (8)


  • Austin — Presidio’s Arbor 4-plex (8) [THX]
  • Dallas — GCC’s Northpark West Twin (5) [THX]
  • Houston — Cineplex Odeon’s Spectrum 9-plex (9) [THX]


  • Tacoma — GCC’s Lincoln Plaza 8-plex (11) [THX]
  • Tukwila — Cineplex Odeon’s Southcenter (6)

Note that some of the presentations included in this listing may have been presented in 35mm during the latter week(s) of engagement due to contractual terms, print damage and the distributor’s unwillingness to supply a 70mm replacement print, or because the booking was relocated to a non-70mm-equipped auditorium within a multiplex. As well, the reverse may have been true in some cases whereas a booking began with a 35mm print because the lab was unable to complete the 70mm print order in time for an opening-day delivery or the exhibitor negotiated a mid-run switch to 70mm. In these cases, any 35mm portion of the engagement (or movement out of a branded audio auditorium) has been included in the duration figure.

The listing includes the 70mm engagements that commenced August 9th 1989. The listing does not include any pre-release screenings, any of the movie’s thousands of standard 35mm engagements, or any moveover bookings, second run, re-release, international, etc.

The Abyss 70mm

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