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Cinema Nostalgia

Old 10-14-10, 09:36 AM
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Cinema Nostalgia

I originally posted this over in the October Horror Movie Challenge discussion thread, but thought it be good to have it in its own place as well in case anyone wants to add to it.

"Pardon the detour:

I just wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts Iíve been having lately (and I really donít want to work on my OHMC list at the moment, seeing as I fell behind a couple days, so hereís my excuse not toÖ). Some of the films Iíve been revisiting (not necessarily watching) lately (The Craft; I Know What You Did Last Summer; Scream; Relic; Event Horizon; Thinner; and more titles of an even lower caliber), are all movies that I have a personal connection to.

During that time in horror movies I was the Head Projectionist/Assistant Manager for Regal Cinemas in Myrtle Beach, SC. The films I named above (plus other cool stuff like the SW re-releases/ID4) are ones that I personally spliced together reel by reel. I had such joy looking at the 35mm frames and speculating just what may be going on at that moment in the movie. The smell of the film, the feel of the platters, the clanking and heat of the projectors, and the soaking of oils that layered the air, was all a part of a hidden world that I was immersed in. And of course it was always a joy to bring my wife in at midnight to screen the prints for quality control, syncing, cues, etc, before the premier the following day. And thereís nothing like watching a movie when you have the WHOLE theatre to yourself (popcorn popper and all).

And now, though I reminisce fondly, I find it sad that with the advancement of technology, thereís no need for that troll in the top balcony of your theatre. Everything has become so automated, that (at least with Regal) there isnít even a projectionist anymore, much less one to be in charge.

So this challenge has really hit me in a personal way, which I wasnít expecting. This may not be the place to post my trip down memory lane, but it is horror related, and I just wanted to share a little bit and hopefully remind everyone that, as always, things just arenít like they used to be. (or as the great John Cusack once said: ďYou can never go home again.Ē)"

Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
Nice story Dick, and very appropriate for the thread imo.

It gave me the nice memory of a girl I dated years ago. She was an assistant manager at a Regal and we once had a private midnight screening.
I'm glad I helped with a good memory for the moment. There really is something special about those "Personal" midnight screenings.


Originally Posted by Dick Laurent View Post
When I was leaving that line of work, about the end of '97, Regal Cinemas figured out that paying someone to sit in a booth and watch the projectors running was a position that was soaking up money big time. So, by the time I was leaving, my "Assistant Manager" position absorbed the projectionist position. It makes business sense. But running 35mm projectors old-school way, splicing, dicing, and threading reels by hand was a real skill set. So the idea became, let it run itself, and fix it when it breaks. Why pay a pro to ensure flawless entertainment delivery? More money saved usually equals less care invested.
I really do miss the old projectors clanking in the dark balcony of Regal Cinema 6, in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Originally Posted by Mr. Noir View Post
Very thoughtful post! I was also a head projectionist at a movie theater in FL from summer 1994 until early summer of 2000, so I definitely relate to the experience of working in a booth building movies reel to reel and threading projectors. One of the most enjoyable jobs I've had and was suitable enough for me to pay the bills while going to college. I remember the first film I put together on my own was 'Pulp Fiction.' When John Travolta gets killed and then turns up alive and well later on in the film, I freaked out because I thought I'd put the reels together out of order. I've built and privately screened all of the movies you listed (and much more), so there is a significant personal connection to them for me, as well.

The theater chain I worked for was Muvico Theaters and soon after I left they began phasing out the head projectionist position, as well. That was one of the best jobs one could have if you love watching movies.
That's funny! The projectionist that I replaced said that happened to him as well. Apparently the projectionist notes (warning it would happen) that were to accompany the film cans did not get to every theatre. I bet that was a heart stopper for a moment.

I had a projectionist put reel 5 of Independence Day on upside down. That was fun to recover from...
Old 10-14-10, 09:39 AM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

Do you have prior experience with/as a movie theatre projectionist?

Please share your thoughts.

And if you have experience of how things are run now, feel free to share those experiences as well.

Moderators - I was up in the air as to whether or not this should be here or in "Movie Talk" - Please advise/move if needed

Last edited by Dick Laurent; 10-14-10 at 10:09 AM. Reason: Message to Mods
Old 10-14-10, 10:43 AM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

It's moved.
Old 10-14-10, 01:30 PM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

Originally Posted by Dick Laurent View Post
During that time in horror movies I was the Head Projectionist/Assistant Manager for Regal Cinemas in Myrtle Beach, SC. The films I named above (plus other cool stuff like the SW re-releases/ID4) are ones that I personally spliced together reel by reel. I had such joy looking at the 35mm frames and speculating just what may be going on at that moment in the movie. The smell of the film, the feel of the platters, the clanking and heat of the projectors, and the soaking of oils that layered the air, was all a part of a hidden world that I was immersed in. And of course it was always a joy to bring my wife in at midnight to screen the prints for quality control, syncing, cues, etc, before the premier the following day. And there’s nothing like watching a movie when you have the WHOLE theatre to yourself (popcorn popper and all).

..
Great description. Thank you. I remember as a kid every time I managed to get hold of a piece of film, whether it was 8mm, 16mm or 35mm, being totally fascinated by it. Since I couldn't afford anything remotely film equipment-related myself, I would try to create a projector using a shoebox and a lightbulb, like they'd describe in those science project books, and take a postcard picture of a movie star that you'd get from a nickel vending machine and project it dimly on the wall. Part of the love of film for me has always been that fascination of projecting images on these huge screens. When I was a kid and went to neighborhood theaters, I'd look up to the projection booth, which was all the way up there and you'd see this tiny pinpoint of light coming out and getting wider and wider until it hit and filled up the screen. (This was all pre-multiplex, of course. Once the projectionist was right over your shoulder, which would happen in tiny carved-out jerrybuilt multiplexes made from old single screen houses, some of the magic gets lost.)

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 10-14-10 at 01:36 PM.
Old 10-14-10, 04:18 PM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

I just got an instant memory recalled after reading these posts - when I went to watch Die Hard the projectionist got one of the reels out of order. John McClaine was just starting to figure out there were shenanigans going on at the Nakatomi building, and all of a sudden, he's in the bathroom pulling glass out of his feet. I remember my dad standing up and yelling to the back, "Wrong reel!"

There was then a smattering of applause once the projectionist scrambled and got the movie back in order, and I thought my dad was so cool. He was already cool for taking his 11 year old to watch Die Hard.
Old 10-14-10, 07:30 PM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum View Post
Great description. Thank you. I remember as a kid every time I managed to get hold of a piece of film, whether it was 8mm, 16mm or 35mm, being totally fascinated by it. Since I couldn't afford anything remotely film equipment-related myself, I would try to create a projector using a shoebox and a lightbulb, like they'd describe in those science project books, and take a postcard picture of a movie star that you'd get from a nickel vending machine and project it dimly on the wall.
That is very innovative. Talk about "going for it" as far as a love for something is concerned. I'm not sure if it affects everyone, but having real film in your hand is such a treasure. And as a kid I'd imagine it would be equal to a Golden Ticket.

Part of the love of film for me has always been that fascination of projecting images on these huge screens. When I was a kid and went to neighborhood theaters, I'd look up to the projection booth, which was all the way up there ...
At the time I was doing this, Regalís booth design was to have the projector behind a two-panel window, one of which would slide open and allow for cleaning the glass in front of the projector, or airing out when needed. We had one projectionist that would do a little dance after starting a movie. If you were the curious one, you would catch a glimpse of this odd performance happening over your shoulder, at least until he closed the curtain. Just one of the many ways to amuse ourselves up there. Of course, this was when there were people that practically "lived" up there while the movies were going.

Originally Posted by rabbit77 View Post
I just got an instant memory recalled after reading these posts - when I went to watch Die Hard the projectionist got one of the reels out of order. John McClaine was just starting to figure out there were shenanigans going on at the Nakatomi building, and all of a sudden, he's in the bathroom pulling glass out of his feet. I remember my dad standing up and yelling to the back, "Wrong reel!"
There's nothing that will turn theatre patrons against you (the cinema) faster than messing with their movie. You can work as fast as possible to fix the problem, but when it comes down to it, they want their entertainment and you're just in the way.

This also makes me think on how hard I worked, and kept my booth working, to ensure the highest quality of movie presentation. I checked my projectors every 15 min (and with six running at once, that takes some time when different ones are ending and starting during the course of the day). I even had to watch over a "brain" (the electric feeder unit that controls the speed from which the film is feeding to the projector) that went bad, causing me to stand and control the platter (what the film itself was sitting on and fed from) speed myself to ensure there was no hang-ups with the film movement. And today I go to a movie and there's ALWAYS something wrong. Wrong aperture; screen not configured for the correct framing; ghosting; focus; loud vent. There's always something wrong, and Iím not really looking for wrong, itís just so glaring sometimes. And I paid how much to be distracted by inadequate theatre control? (Iím looking at YOU, every Santikos Iíve ever been toÖ)

There was then a smattering of applause once the projectionist scrambled and got the movie back in order, and I thought my dad was so cool. He was already cool for taking his 11 year old to watch Die Hard.
My dad's "cool" moment was when he took me to see Cobra. And I can imagine how your moment played out, on the cusp of chaos and triumph all at the same time. A little peek behind ďthe curtainĒ if you will.
Old 10-15-10, 06:19 PM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

Any talk or opinions of general cinema memories are welcome too (not just exclusive to projectionists here)! Like, remember when you couldn't order a hot dog and pizza when going to watch a movie?
........
Old 10-16-10, 08:32 AM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

Originally Posted by Dick Laurent View Post
Any talk or opinions of general cinema memories are welcome too (not just exclusive to projectionists here)! Like, remember when you couldn't order a hot dog and pizza when going to watch a movie?
........

I never liked the food they sold at concession stands...ever! That candy was awful. Who could eat Jujubes and expect to keep their teeth. I remember sneaking food in as a teen, even before I started carrying a bag with me. We would carry jackets and stick a wrapped sandwich and a beverage into the sleeves and tie the ends of the sleeve if we had to and then just carry the jackets into the theater. I remember going with a friend to a Times Square theater to see a quadruple bill of Clint Eastwood westerns (ca. 1971), which meant we were in the theater ALL DAY, so we had to go to Blimpie's and load up on food for the day and smuggle it in.

Just last night, I went to see THE SOCIAL NETWORK and I bought yogurt and a piece of fruit beforehand and took it in with me. (Has my diet changed since I was a teen.)
Old 10-16-10, 11:00 AM
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Re: Cinema Nostalgia

I prefer the lame candy and usually decent popcorn to a full-on restaurant. There's some really nice restaurant/theatre combos that seem to be popping up everywhere now, but no matter which one I go to (all different companies) there's still the same problem of being interrupted two or three times DURING the movie.

It seems theatres nowadays might as well be McDonalds and Pizza Hut at the same time. I don't mind a little nachos and cheese, but it seems that movies should be for movie watching, and eateries should be for eatin'.

And I also have to defend Snocaps and Sour Patch Kids. Those were (are) some good candies.

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