projectionist is a person who operates a movie projector . In the strict sense of the term, this film and projector could be used by someone who works in a show. In common usage, the term is understood to describe a paid employee of a movie theater . They are also known as “operators”. [1] [2]

Historical background

NB The dates given in this section are approximate.

Early cinema (1895-1915)

The need for professional projectionists for the purpose of making films in the city of the United States. Before the emergence of purpose-built movie theaters, such as fairgrounds , music halls and Nickelodeons were usually operated by a showman or presenter, in the same way as a lanternist . The light source for most projectors in the early period was limelight , which did not require an electricity supply.

Between approximately 1905 and 1915, two factors combined to transform the role of the projectionist into a separate job with a specific profile of skills and training. Concerns over the flammability of nitrate film , following several major fires during the cinema’s first decade [3] resulted in the increasing regulation of the film exhibition industry, including the requirement that projectors be housed in fireproof booths, segregated from the auditorium. In the United Kingdom, for example, this requirement was introduced in the Cinematograph Act 1909, and effectively prevented the projectionist from also carrying out a public-facing role. The legal right to act as a projectionist in a public movie theater is, and to some extent still, regulated, to varying degrees in different jurisdictions. [4] Some Projectionists required to be licensed by the local exchange or government, [5] and this process Sometimes Projectionists required to sit exams or assessments UNDERGO. Trade union-based regulation of the profession has also been generalized in some jurisdictions, in which the licensing of projectionists is incorporated into collective bargaining agreements between employers and unions. In the United States, projectionists have been ‘pooled out’ to theater companies via their union. Closed shopWorking by projectionists was common in British cinema chains until the early 1980s. citation needed ] The original reason for this regulation is the need for safekeeping and the use of nitrate prints , and hence the requirement that they should be formally trained in the management of safety. But the formal training and licensing of projectionists continued in the US and Europe, and had been superseded in the 1950s, and in a minority of jurisdictions.

Two projectors installed in a changeover configuration. The machine in the background will show the first reel, at the end of which the projectionist will change over to 2, which is threaded on the projector in the foreground. If the procedure is performed correctly, the audience will be unaware that it has happened.

Classical period (1915-1953)

With the advent of feature-length films in the early-to-mid-teens and the increasing tendency for film-making role of the projectionist has become more specialized and committed to showmanship once again. The safety required with 35mm film required to be shipped in real time (approximately 15 minutes at 16 fps). In order to show a feature-length film without interruption while the following is the case, two projectors focused on the same screen were used, with the projectionist ‘changing over’ from one to the other at the end of each reel. 2,000 foot ‘double’ reels have been introduced from the early 1930s onwards (approximately 20 minutes at the standardized sound speed of 24 fps ). Until the conversion to sound, electric motors were relatively uncommon on 35mm theater projectors: most were hand-cranked by the projectionist. Contemporary accounts suggest that hand cranking at a consistent speed has a considerable amount of skill. [6]Technical presentation also began to include tasks such as operating auditorium lighting systems [dimmers], curtains [side-tabs] and masking systems and lantern slide projectors. [7] During the 1920s, movie theaters have become larger and more flexible. Limelight illumination was replaced by the electrically powered carbon arc lamp, and with the arrival of sound electric motors were installed to drive projectors. The operation and basic maintenance of audio equipment also became part of the projectionist’s job following the introduction of sound.

Post-Classical period (1953-early 1980s)

The technology of cinema projection, and with the role of the projectionist, changed fundamentally over an extended period between early 1950s and late 1960s. Nitrate film was superseded by cellulose triacetatefor publication in the US and Europe in the aftermath of the United States in 1948 (though older nitrate prints remain in circulation for quite a long time afterwards screenings). With nitrate went the restrictions on reel lengths previously necessitated by the fire risk, with the result that systems were developed to a complete feature of the film using a single projector and unattended. Two essential technologies were needed to enable this device, aka platter, ie a turntable 4-6 feet in diameter or (in the case of Sword Systems and Saber Systems by EPRAD) an extremely large film reel 3-5 feet in diameter roll, in some cases up to 30,000 feet (approx six hours at 24fps) in length; and thexenon arc lamp , which can be used in the future, and can not be used for a longer period of time. Automation systems were also introduced, which could be programmed into the performance of these auditoriums, and adjusted audio levels. Some would argue that these technologies are reduced to the level of the showmanship element of the projectionist’s job (for example, by eliminating the need for changeovers and nitrate care solutions). Others would argue that more advanced skills are needed in other areas. With the introduction of widescreenIn the early 1950s, the viewers needed to view different ratios for the first time. [8] Multiple channel audio systems using magnetic sound and 70mm film prints were also introduced in the 1950s, and these required specialized projection skills to handle. Like nitrate film prints, xenon bow bulbs require special precautions: if handled incorrectly they can explode, [9]serious injury to the projectionist. Staffing levels in projection booths declined rapidly during this period. In the classical “movie palace”, the labor-intensive nature of changeovers, carbon arc lamps and nitrate handling is a large workflow of projectionists, with up to six or seven working in a single booth and a rigid management hierarchy within the profession being common. In contrast, the multiplexes of the 1980s and ’90s were designed in such a way that .

Final film period (early 1980s-present)

The job description of the projectionist was employed in the field of theater and theater. In many of the multiplextheaters, theaters, theaters, cinematography, theaters, theaters and very basic equipment maintenance such as cleaning film path components and the replacement of life-limited parts. More extensive maintenance and repairs are carried out by the parent company and they visit its theaters to conduct maintenance on a regular cycle. In smaller chains and independent theaters, and especially those situated in geographically remote locations, both on a theater and heating equipment and other infrastructure in the building, eg heating and air conditioning plant. 35mm release prints continue to be shipped on the same day, even though very few theaters still present movies using a two-projector system with changesovers. A number of attempts have been made, but none has been widespread acceptance.[10]


Some larger theater chains are now in the process of eliminating the projectionist’s job altogether. [11] The use of the term “Booth Usher” for an employee program assembly, maintenance or repair procedures. Their starting salary is the same for dealers and ushers ($ 7.84 per hour in Ohio as of August 2009). [12] Smaller theaters in this chain and those with union bargaining contracts that specify a minimum wage utilize management for these duties. In Britain, this started to happen early 2000 onward as labor laws were wiped out by then. [quote needed ]

The introduction of digital cinema projection , we have a significant scale from the beginning of 2006-08, which is one of the projections of the projectionist as a professionally skilled operator of film-based projection equipment in mainstream theaters. As of November 2010, the major chains in the US and Europe are in the process of a large-scale conversion to digital projection, in some ways comparable to the mass installation of sound equipment in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This invention is made possible by the virtual print fee [13] model of financing equipment and installation costs, in which studios and equipment manufacturers provide equipment to theaters on a hire-purchase basis. [14]The basic operation of digital cinema servers and projectors requires a little more than routine IT skills and can be performed by a theater front-of-house and managerial staff with minimal extra training. Within a few years, it is likely that projectionists, in the traditional sense of the word, will only be found in arthouse, cinematheque and repertory theaters that will continue to show film prints from archival collections . In May 2013, the BBCreported that by October 2013, “there will be no cinemas left in this country projecting 35mm”. [15]

Elements of the job

A projectionist in a modern theater in North America or Europe will typically carry out some or all of the following duties.

Film presentation

  • Receiving film prints delivered by the distributor and completing the shipping formalities.
  • Examining prints on a workbench to determine the image, sound format and other information needed to screen them correctly.
  • Examining prints to check for physical damage, broken edge, split or strained perforations and defective splices. If there is a significant amount of dirt or scratch on the print, the projectionist may determine that it is unacceptably low quality for presentation and return to the distributor for a replacement.
  • “Making up” the reels of a release on a long-play platter or tower device, complete with the supporting material in the screening program, eg advertisements, trailers and animated company logos or announcement snipes , for example asking members of the audience switch their mobile phones off.
  • If the impression is to be made on a two-projector system, which assures that the leaders are correct and that the visual changes are present.
  • Programming automation systems to perform the presentation functions. This can sometimes take the form of self-adhesive placement on the film in the desired location (eg when you want the house lights to be dimmed), which are then detected by an optical reader in the projector’s movie path.
  • Cleaning the surfaces in the film projector that comes into contact with or proximity to the film surface.
  • “Lacing up” the movie through the projector and movie.
  • Carrying out presentation operations manually if an automation system is not in use.
  • “Taking down” the reels of a print and supporting program after the final screening, and spooling them back into 2,000 foot lengths.
  • Dispatching film prints for return to the distributor , or sometimes a “crossover” direct to another theater, and completing the shipping formalities.

Maintenance and repair

  • Replacement of xenon bow bulbs at the end of their service life, and completion of the shipping formalities for their return to the vendor for safe disposal.
  • Periodic adjustment of lamphouse reflectors to ensure even and optimum illumination.
  • Depending on the type of projector in use, maintenance of the mechanism, eg periodic draining and replacement of oil in the intermittent mechanism, and / or replacement of drive.
  • Periodic replacement of other life-limited parts of booth equipment projection, eg pressure plates and runners.
  • Periodic adjustment of the A-chain of the optical sound system, in order to ensure optimum focus and alignment.
  • Periodic adjustment of the motor control systems in a long-play device, in order to ensure optimum feed and take-up.
  • The regular projection of technical test films, eg SMPTE’s RP-40 and Dolby’s “Jiffy” [16] films, to evaluate the image and sound quality in the theater.


  1. Jump up^ The Nickelodeon
  2. Jump up^ Wayne Brittenden,Celluloid Circus, New York, Random House (2008), p. 67.
  3. Jump up^ H. Mark Gosser, ‘TheBazaar of CharityFire: The Reality, The Aftermath and the Telling’,Film History, Vol. 10, no. 1 (1998), pp. 70-79.
  4. Jump up^ Brittenden, p. 81.
  5. Jump up^ US Senate bill no. 1183, session of 1981.
  6. Jump up^ FH Richardson, ‘Theoretical vs. Practical as Applied to Standardization,Journal of the SMPE, no. 6 (1918), pp. 33-35.
  7. Jump up^ Brittenden, pp. 69-85.
  8. Jump up^ John Belton,Widescreen Cinema, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press (1992), p. 108.
  9. Jump up^ Video of a xenon bow bulb exploding, causing minor injuries to the projectionist:, retrieved 16 December 2010.
  10. Jump up^, retrieved 14 December 2010.
  11. Jump up^ Regal Cinemas, Inc., Petitioner, v. National Labor Relations Board, Respondent., 317 F.3d 300 (DC Cir. 2003) – Federal Circuits – vLex (
  12. Jump up^ Cinemark Inc. Employee Handbook 2007 edition, pp. 7-8.
  13. Jump up^, retrieved 14 December 2010.
  14. Jump up^ Digital Cinema Implementation Partners Announce Completion of $ 660 Million Financing for Digital Cinema ( -for-digital-cinema-upgrade-87249262.html)
  15. Jump up^ Report on the decline of movie screenings in cinemas, Today ,BBC Radio Four, 29 May 2013, 0739-0745 hours.
  16. Jump up^, retrieved 10 December 2010