Cinematic earthquakes then and now

Disaster films were part of a genre that was popular for several years in the 70’s, with such movies as The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Earthquake. 

It was a genre that was basically over by 1977, although disaster films have continued on thanks to Roland Emmerich, who’s now a modern master of disaster with ID4 and 2012.

Although it’s pretty silly by today’s standards, Earthquake was a big hit for Universal, and it was the first film released in Sensurround, a short lived gimmick that loudly shook theaters with low bass tones on the soundtrack. 

Now there’s another earthquake movie in the works, and while it obviously won’t bring back Sensurround, the film will try to freak out viewers visually with 3D. (THX will probably provide the deafening soundtrack this time out, although a return of Sensurround could be fun too).


As Deadline reports, there’s a new disaster flick in the works, San Andreas 3D, which obviously centers around the famous fault, and it was a pitch sold to New Line Cinema by screenwriters Jeremy Passmore (who wrote the remake of Red Dawn) and Andre Fabrizio.

The film’s budget is expected to be in the $100 million range, but who knows? With today’s technology, which has become far more advanced than Sensurround, maybe the time is right yet again for a big, scary disaster film like this for modern audiences.


The ’74 Earthquake was produced by Jennings Lang, who was one of the first to call a movie “An Event” in Earthquake’s ad campaign. Lang reportedly came up with the idea when he was watching a movie in a theater when an actual earthquake happened, and he wanted to recreate that on the big screen. 

And at least one audience found the movie pretty frightening back in the day. When Lang screened the film at Universal, in the adjacent theater watching another movie was a group from Nicaragua who had recently endured a devastating earthquake in their homeland. 

Once the room showing Earthquake started rumbling, everyone in the adjacent screening theater panicked and fled the building.