Monday, December 13, 2010

Projectionists: A Dying Breed

Interesting article over at Slate by Grady Hendrix about the imminent extinction of The Projectionist as we know it. You know, the person behind the scenes switching reels, checking the film is running smoothly, looking/sounding good while we're watching it. It's probably not a widely known thing (or maybe it is?), but when you go to your local Event Cinema to watch a movie, there's most probably no one there in the booth while it's being projected. Actually, just to illustrate this even clearer - if you've ever been to Sylvia Park Cinemas, it's all out there in the open. When you exit the theatre from behind, you can walk through the projection "booths", and you'll see everything's fully automated, and no one's there manning the equipment.

The machines-taking-over-people argument is a common, unsurprising debate, but nevertheless Hendrix's piece poignantly touches on the human costs of implementing such technology. It's also an "art" that'll be lost; the chemical and physical qualities unique to film projection will soon be completely replaced by a couple of mouse clicks.

I'm a "purist", and not entirely convinced by digital yet, so I'll cling onto 35mm film and projection until the very end. Seeing grain is still important to me! It'll be a sad day when the world is ruled by digital projection, but maybe by that time it might also offer the same magical properties as celluloid used to, and still do - I'll give it that.


  1. I want to be a projectionist @ cinema paradiso!

  2. I was a projectionist from 1957-1974. My last 4 years were spent at Elstree Film Studios, Borehamwood. I worked on several mechs during that time, from Ross GC3s, Westar double head with mag/optical married and unmarried sound tracks, Kalee 20s and 21s, through to Philips DP 70/35 with rock and roll capability. Arcs included BTH Zenon lamp, Peerless and President carbon arcs, and Vulcan low voltage carbon arcs hand fed. I'm 70 now and still miss the showmanship of those good old cinema days. Modern cinemas are just not the same as far as presentation goes.