Among all the gimmicks to get people to the movies, Sensurround was on of the most bizarre.

Now, this fad from the 70s is making a comeback, as Steve Pratt discovers.

FILM-MAKERS have come up with a variety of gimmicks to entice people into the cinema over the years.

Seats have been hooked up to give the occupant a slight electric shock. Skeletons on wires flew over the heads of the audience during horror movies. Film-makers even experimented with pumping smells into the auditorium to make the movie more authentic.

Then there was Sensurround, a device to make the earth move even if you weren't canoodling the back row with your girl/boyfriend.

Devised for the release of Earthquake in 1975, this aimed to recreate the sensation of being caught in the middle of an earth tremor. Sound waves captured the rumble and shaking feeling you might experience if caught in such a natural disaster.

Only a handful of cinemas were equipped to show the film in Sensurround and, after being used on only a few more movies, this sound system faded away - until now.

City Screen in York plans to show Earthquake in the full nerve-shattering, bone-rattling glory that is Sensurround. With a 70mm print of Earthquake, massive speakers and a few effects of its own, the cinema aims to recreate the 1970s see it! hear it! feel it! experience.

Audiences will be warned beforehand of what's to come. Some may feel that a warning about some of the seventies hairstyles, notably a pre-Dallas Victoria Principal in an Afro wig, is also required. The dialogue too should carry a health warning.

If the screening is a hit - and that looks like being the case as it's well on the way to being a sellout - Yorkshire cinemagoers can look forward to more Sensurround-enhanced showings.

People are coming from all over the country to see the movie this weekend. One man is travelling from his home in Austria for the screening.

The film, one of the key entries in the 1970s disaster movie genre, stars Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene and George Kennedy. But the actors come a poor second to the special effects as Los Angeles is razed to the ground, the aftershock is felt, and a dam bursts.

City Screen technical manager Darren Briggs and senior projectionist Bill Thomson have spent a year preparing to recreate Sensurround.

They were unable to find any of the 1970s systems, which were taken from cinema to cinema, in this country and have set up their own. They've created the necessary electronics card from 1970s circuit diagrams, with help from people from home and abroad who've seen the original cards.

The system works by using very low frequency audio to recreate the sensations you'd experience in an earthquake. The original developers based their measurements on a real 1972 US tremour.

Distributors UIP has supplied the cinema with an original 70mm print, and Tannoy have loaned the four massive sub-base speaker units needed for the system.

A cinema in Frankfurt, Germany, was planning to show Earthquake in Sensurround simultaneously with the York screen. They've found original speakers, although a technical hitch means they're unable to go ahead, leaving City Screen with a world exclusive.

The system can be used elsewhere and other cinemas have already expressed an interest in using it for their own Earthquake screenings. City Screen plans more showings of the film and hopes to screen other Sensurround movies, such as Rollercoaster.

Earthquake (PG) is showing at York City Screen on Saturday at 11.30pm, and again in a double bill with Krakatoa East Of Java (PG) on Sunday at 10.30am. Booking line (01904) 541144.

Published: 20/11/2003