Film Projection Quality Control, How Bad Can it Be?

April 11, 2007

MayanLast night I went to catch a screening of Disturbia at the local Landmark Mayan art house theater, one of my favorite theaters in all of Colorado. I love the place because of the decor, the atmosphere, and importantly that every time I go to screenings (usually morning press-only screenings of such indie greats as Babel, Little Children, or Perfume) the picture is always perfectly in focus, looks beautiful, and the sound is spot on. Most of that is because the manager of all of the Landmark's in Denver takes a lot of care and concern in the films he displays, and makes sure they live up to the quality of his theaters. However at this screening, that wasn't the case.

This time around it was a disaster. When it started out the framing was off and about 10 minutes it disaster struck - the boom mic made its first of many appearances up at the top of the screen.

As time went on it continued to get worse, with the mic (or multiple mics) showing up more often and with much more visibility. Then the frame started to go between filling to the top of the screen and a black bar cutting off the top half. There was even a scene I remember watching where you could see the entire black rigging on the ceiling on the house set along with the boom mic. It was terrible and I began to get a bit more annoyed every minute that passed.

As I watched the audience around me laugh and gasp every time they saw the mic, I realized that this film had just gone down the drain. When they go to high school the next day (the audience was full of this crowd - exactly what Disturbia is playing for) and tell their friends all about the screening, what is the first thing they're going to mention? The boom mics! And who are they going to blame? The filmmakers!

It's Not Hollywood's Fault, It's The Theater's

The first inclination of any and every person who is just there to see a good movie is blame Hollywood and the filmmakers. Oh the guy holding the boom mic was terrible and it kept showing up in frame. Or they forgot to edit it out, or the camera work was so bad it showed up. The truth is, that's not the case. The blame isn't on them. It was a decision director D.J. Caruso made to film it with a certain aspect ratio that included all of those elements in the actual frame of the film. What would happen afterwards is the quality control that projectionists at theaters around the world would need to make sure it's framed and formatted exactly as they specified and all would be well.

It was the distributor's decision, for whatever reasons (cost, timing) to simply send this print out, whether an early cut for screening purposes or not, without cropping and with those still in the frame, with a note that says how to set it up correctly and there would be no problem. So it should've been easy for them to simply make sure it was setup correctly and this would have never occurred, right?

Where Is The Quality Control

The excuse the theater gave us when we yelled at them multiple times was that they "didn't tell us" that it needed to be framed a certain way until the movie had already started, and it wouldn't be possible to fix now that it's running. Now think about this multiplied on the scale of 2000+ screens that the film is going to open up in this Friday. What is the quality control on this, how wide scale will it be? What if two or three out of every ten lazy projectionists skip the note and before you know it Paramount's great film is ruined on 600 screens.

I've ranted since we've started FS.net about the troubles that theaters have and how ridiculous the movie theaters can be when it comes to such simple things as this. Is there not a quality control somewhere that can just make sure every movie looks great? I guess they've got their minimum wage projectionists starting each movie, but someone working at the theater has to care, right?

The End Of It All

Fortunately they got a projectionist down who fixed it part way through the movie. And for all I know this could've been just an early print of the film and the final ones going out on Friday will all be fixed. However this should never happen, to anyone, anywhere. Who's out there making sure this doesn't happen? Nobody. Paramount can't go yelling at the theaters, that's too widespread for them to worry about, but it's their movie that gets the negative buzz in the end. Hopefully in time we'll see the theaters improve, but it's going to take a lot of work for them to get there.

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That whole experience you described at the Mayan sounds strangely familiar. I totally agree with you Alex! Especially when a film like DISTURBIA, which although funny in parts, is supposed to be a tense thriller. Having people laugh because they see a boom mic totally destroys that mood that the writer and director are trying to create. Hopefully the staff at the Mayan will clean up their act so that any future screenings can go by without incident.

Ken Evans on Apr 11, 2007


I started having similarly bad experiences at a theater I used to love. There's a (formerly) Century theater in Evanston, which also has the specialty side called CineArts, that was easily my favorite theater for three and a half years. They played most stuff, the projection was always top notch, there's a bar with a live jazz band there, a giant wall of great (mostly) european film posters ranging from the 20s to the 80s, and it was fantastic. Then (although I didn't know it at the time) they were bought by Cinemark. Before they changed the name, I noticed a lot of changes. The formely pristine projection began being misframed (a screening of the fountain was way to high on the screen, chopping off half of actors faces), shows began being delayed (15 minutes for a screening of borat), and they started showing loud, agressive advertising for a half an hour before the scheduled time. ("First Look" or "The 20".) I'd guess that when they changed over to Cinemark, they fired all of the Century projectionists and just hired a couple of kids to oversee the 18 screens in the theater. I complained once during the fountain and it didn't get fixed, and complained afterwards and was just given a free pass and a fake apalogy. I keep seeing theaters around me change names. The crown around here has become Kerasotes, the Loews, AMC. Why are these great theater chaines, who i've loved going to over the years because of the consistency and quality of the presentations, being bought by the worst possibly theater managing companies? When I saw the Good German last december, throughout the entire film the movie "vibrated" and jumped. This is a brand new film, and supposedly up to date projectors, the first day of showing, and not only is there a problem, but because no one keeps on eye on the movie the entire time, the problems are never fixed. It's not even the money that's being wasted by paying for these shows, it's the ruining of a film. Seeing Disturbia how you described it (and how I heard numerous people describe Lost In Translation a couple of years ago), with complete mis-projection would absoultely ruin a movie for me. The reason people are flocking away from theaters? Because no one working gives a damn about the audience seeing a movie at their theater. Once they've paid, bought their giant tub of pop corn and candy, and liter of sugary pop, they're completely removed from the equation.

Nick Tinsley on Apr 12, 2007


Yes, ultimately it's the projectionist's fault. But what about that whole chain of people before him who hadn't planned on him making the most common projectionist's error there is. The people who saw the print, saw the boom mics, and decided to just stick a post-it on the film can. "Let the projectionist worry about that." No, fucktards, you don't put all your eggs in a ten-dollars-an-hour basket.

Jack on Apr 12, 2007


I realize I just wrote a shitload. Sorry about that.

Nick on Apr 12, 2007


THere are 6 dollars an hour projectionists in some places. These guys get payed more flipping burgers in McDonald's, so do you really think a guy who's dropped in to do a summer job really gives a crop about your movie? Youre 18 screen cinema probably has one or two guys up there, you think they have time to just watch your film? No, there running around putting on the other shows, hopefully OK, changing films, ratios, doing maintenance. If a cinemascope film has played before, often the racking is left in position from that film. They would have to come along right at the start of the film, or in a place where the mike was showing, in order to know how it was wrong. They're busy for the reasons above, and can't always check every show. If cinemas didn't show so many different films, understaff so much, and get actual professional instead of high school dropouts and people waiting for a server position at Dairy Queen to open up, you might have happier times. Notice how you're ticket prices are going up all the time? Well, you think the staff get a piece of that? Minimum wage, baby! Those of you who think you're getting a raw deal (and you are getting ripped off) vote with your fett and go nexflix instead. Cinemas have to learn they aren't a charity and will have to start offering a little something called value for money and a quality film going experience. Anyhow, I'll keep an eye out for Disturbia when it comes out. I bet I won't get a note, though!

Lab on Apr 14, 2007


There is no need for special notes on how to frame a film projector. there's just the right way. nearly every academy film that comes out is not cropped, there by inviting the possibility of boom mic invasion. that said, every camera operator is seeing the image through an eyepiece that not only shows the area to be cropped, but also shows a good 10% of all the area around the entire expose-able surface of the film. Camera operators (or anyone watching in video village) could easily suggest the boom be moved higher to be out of shot. And I've seen a lot of films that don't have this problem because of diligent operators and script supervisors that do not allow this sort of thing to fly. So yes... to a certain extent you can blame the film makers for assuming that some chump in the booth is going to do their job right. Don't let it happen in the first place, and there'd be one less problem in your presentation. Also, there's a big huge framing nob on every projector and you can easily reframe the film as it runs through. so your theater is full of excuses and big fat jerks too boot.

bruce on Apr 14, 2007


As I said, the problem can be sorted if a) it's noticed at a time where the problem is evident as close to the start of the film as possible or b) customer's complain early on or c) there aren't six other screens all on at the same time that demand the level orf attention at a specific time that just isn't possible or d) the booth isn't manned by big fat or smal thin jerks on minimum wage who don't really give a crap what you're cinema going experience is like because they know no one will work for what they do or will do an even crappier job than them. BTW, I watched season 1 of 24 last week, and there's the most gasp inducing goof ever, a shot of Jack as he takes the woman hostage and a camera shot of the cameraman filing Jack for all of about, um, 7 seconds. How this slipped through I don't know. Framing wouldn't have helped!!! Also, the framing "nob" doesn't help if a big fat jerk has already screwed with the framing and moved it too high. You can go the other way, but it's very noticeable on screen that something is wrong, and you will see another frame on screen at the same time.

lab on Apr 14, 2007


I saw Disturbia last night and the exact same thing happened here in Phoenix happened as described in the article above. So if this problem is happening everywhere, the theaters either need to train their projectionists on how to format movies that come in this format, or Hollywood needs to stop sending them this way.

Richie in Phoenix on Apr 14, 2007


Well, it seems we're down to two options, either a) you guys were unlucky and had crap, sleepy, underpaid projectionists who don't give a damn, and just want to get back to their lonely suicidal thoughts on the bad path their career and life has taken or b) the film was printed by a nut, and the whole film has been printed too high, meaning that this film will have to be manually framed to make it show properly. If this is the problem, it might not be widely known. You can still blame the projectionist here, but all his other flat films were probably OK, so he wouldn't suspect this was bad (I assume it's flat (rectangle) because scope (letterbox) if only a little out with framing can start to show the next frame, making the problem much more obvious and whinge worthy. I hope those of you that were bugged by and noticed this problem got a comp and an apology...

Lab on Apr 14, 2007


Lab, I admire your considerations for blaming the filmmaker, and sure I agree that they should film it without framing the booms and everything (as most do), but I think the blame comes down more to the projectionist. This is a documented thing. Thankfully I checked the screening at my own local cineplex on Friday and it looked great, well framed, but I can only guess that your point a) above is all too common in this world of theaters. My friend is a fantasic projectionist, he's dedicated the craft and was the highest paid at a theater for a while running the $1 mil IMAX projectors... but now he can't even get a job as a projectionist. They're all hiring off-the-street underpaid kids. They should put more concern into it and maybe people will start coming more often. Just look at the Arclight, they've got it down and they're one of the most succesful and well known theaters in Hollywood!

Alex Billington on Apr 14, 2007


Alex, there is a constant battle in the UK (and maybe the US) between management / head office and projectionists. The management are happy to agree that the projectionist is the backbone of the cinema, it's why people come, it's what the cinema does, and if the projectionist messes up, it has a catastrophic effect on 400 x $10 seats that a manager forgetting to order some more small coffee cups, or some 16 year old forgetting to pick up a cup can't have, but are happy to pay the projectionists $6 an hour (yep, I wasn't kidding, they had me single manning a 12 screen on that, the fifth most profitable site in the country a few years ago). Then they seem surprised when films get scratched, because someone wanted to rush back to their Gameboy (I'm staying in period here!) or get put on late because they were busy talking to their girlfriend, or get put on in the wrong ratio because the minimum wage summer job guy is hungover and tired. Be flexible, they say, put us on 3am closes, have us in at 9am two days later, and then wonder why mistakes get made. Concentration can't lapse as a projectionist, 'cos that how $3000 of print gets wrecked, or $400 worth of comps get given out, 'cos the lacing up wasn't checked. Some companies are better than others, but the pay is certainly not good enough to make it at attractive, lucrative, long lasting career, especially considering the antisocial hours. I have a lot of sympathy for your friend, you can be a projectionist anywhere in the world, but the skills aren't transferable, 'cos the job ain't like nothing else of earth. If he leaves, chances are he'll be stuck on low pay again, have to claw his way up, taking a job from someone who's probably not gonna leave anyway 'cos he can't get a job doing anything else. The longer you do the job, the more unlikely it is you'll be able to do anything else...except be a film director. It would be interesting if you could talk to a projectionist at the Arclight, and see if they might want to be part of an article taking through what they do, how they're set up, and why it works. Gosh, I've done a lot of writing tonight! This is in danger of becoming my blog!

Lab on Apr 14, 2007


Urk, quick additional... Surely the mics have to be a certain height, otherwise to much unwanted noise would be picked up by them if they were higher?

Lab on Apr 14, 2007


No, no, discussion is encouraged and I appreciate your input! Actually quite interesting to read... and you're idea about the Arclight, well damn, I am going to do that right away! I'll be out there in a few days and my friend works there, it'll be setup and good to go. I also got a series I'm working on about the backend of theaters, called "Inside the Theater" with photos and all.

Alex Billington on Apr 14, 2007


There's nothing more distracting than some hack projectionist not doing his job. At a Carmike theathre in the northwest corner of Arkansas, I saw the new cut of Apocalypse Now. There were only two people there that afternoon, myself and another guy who sat about 4 rows behind me. We were treated to a split screen version of the film for the first 3 & 1/2 minutes where the top of the frame was at the bottom and the bottom was at the top. We both left our seats to give management a piece of our mind and, thankfully, were rewarded with a do-over. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that a large majority of projectionists (possibly more than we are aware of) are paid poorly, trained poorly and have no real love for film. Any combination of these things, coupled by the devil-may-care attitude of most theatres to shuffle people in and out as quickly as they can probably lends itself equally to all our nightmare movie going experiences. But I have to say this. I'm an indie filmmaker myself. Writer, director and producer. Let me tell you something. Being as nit picky as I am about what I see in the frame of movies I WATCH, I am becoming 10 times more nit picky about the things in the frames that I SHOOT. And for this reason, I would not count on James Nutypants in Fukall, Texas, who's been on the job for 1 year and has a so-so record as a projectionist to follow instructions passed on by a supervisor who he problably disobeys from time to time. Screw that. I think in this case, the blame should start at the studio, work its way down to the director, down to the distributor, to the theatre manager and landing roughly on the shoulders of the moron(s) responsible for the bad showcase. I'm willing to take any criticism for my opinions, but just remember, they are opinions. I enjoyed reading everyone's take on this. More people should be as involved in the process. This lets me know I'm not alone out there when I'm faced with a shitty experience at the movies. -30-

Julian In San Antonio on Apr 14, 2007


I understand that there's only 2 projectionists working at an 18 screen movie theater, but that's the problem. Before this theater got bought they were all about customer service. They even used to have someone come in on busy nights and thank the crowd for coming and ask if anyone had any questions, if the temperature was good, all that stuff, that while obviously served there interest, was indicative about the kind of care they had for showing movies. (I guarantee they had more than 2 projectionists then.) So to see it in such rapid decline is just so damned depressing.

Nick on Apr 15, 2007


Having spent almost 2 years as a movie projectionist, I can simpathize with your issues. I was one of three guys who worked full time in the projection booth doing strickly projection work. But since with each of us working 5 shifts a week we still had shifts that needed to be filled. These were filled by a rotating manager from another department, be it cash, floor or snack bar. These guys may only work one day a week in booth sometimes a week apart from each other. Top this off with only management realizing that people come the theater to watch the movie not have the popcorn and that if we screw up, people leave. If the popcorn burns, people get mad but watch the movie anyway. Then we get flak for appearing like we aren't doing anything for our shift (in a shift one guy ran 16 screens at once) and kind of operating outside the box almost. We weren't even making 10 bucks an hour, but we were working 40+ hours a week and like myself some free time thrown in there. People just don't realize how much work goes into putting your film on the screen everyday. A film shows up, you unpack it, you build it (make one big reel out of it), usually screen it (a note on this later), then show it to the public 5 times a day for 7 days a week for its life. Then you make sure the trailers are in the right order and the right ones for certain films (no R on D*sney, no kids on Grindhouse) and watch for damage, replace reels, maintain the projectors, then break them down and sent them out again. The projectionist doesn't leave at night until the last movie is over and he's cleaned everything up. The managers leave after snackbar is clean (if it is). As soon as the last customer is out the door, they follow them out. Note: Screening films before general release. Usually called dryrunning a film, but the process is become more and more thrown to the wayside in theater chains attempts to save money. They have since done away with this practice in the 2 years since I stopped being a projectionist, and low and behold the first week they did, they ran Apocalypto in the reel order 1 3 2 4 5 6. Obviously people were confused and angry. And its not simple to fix something like that. You need to take off reels 4 5 6 and then rearrange 3 and 2 and then put 4 5 6 back on. This can take at least 30 minutes if you aren't trying to do other things in the booth at the same time. And at 40 minutes between shows this can become a problem, especially if you are one of those rotating managers and you can't find a real projectionist to come in on his day off to fix the problem. Dry running a film checks for defects in the print, that you can contact the distributor for replacement reels and to check to make sure that the movie plays correctly on the screen. Hence your problem stemmed from the film not being dry run before it was shown to you. Thus the patron gets angry and we have blogs like this yelling at projectionist who anymore at limited by the system. Trusting your build skills is only useful until you screw up and a movie has to be refunded. 300-800 seats by $8.50-$10.50 is a lot of dough to throw away because you want to save the $10 to keep projection hours down. I don't speak for union projectionists here of course because I'm not one, but they do exist and since theaters are going to training managers from snackbar and floor to do projection, the union guys don't like us much. They think we are a bunch of hacks since we do multiple jobs and don't give the job the work it deserves, but just letting you all know, there are at least three of us who took it all very seriously and have a great respect for the work you all do. In case you were wondering, I worked for a Century which was bought by Cinemark, who disbanded the dry run.

Brian on Apr 16, 2007


Good post Brian! Those union guys are mad becuase they can't get better hours / pay for the job because they numbers aren't enough for them to demand it, mainly because people don't join the union for whatever reason. For the price of a couple of beers a month, in aid of a career that you might be doing longer than you thought you would, seems a good deal, especially if the numbers are there to make a difference. As regards dry running, often there isn't enough time, as well. At my cinema we have dry running, but only if someone wants to see it, and it doesn't come down too late. Since projectionists don't come in until half an hour before the films start (to save on hours / pay) there is no chance for projectionists to watch squat. Non trained personnel often miss things too. There is a nice example from last month, a film was previewed twice, watched by a few hundred people ( including trained projection staff) and has reels 2 and 3 swapped. Oops. Lucky it was a fractured narrative...and only one person complained (the first person to notice, a customer!) My POV on films going wrong if they aren't dry run / previewed is to simply blame being rushed, being tired, and additionally, the fact that management weren't willing to stay on 20 minutes to have it checked, the distributor / courier for delivering on crossover late (or often, used to be half an hour before the first film on a Friday - an impossible task), or head office for cutting projectionist hours or not wanting to pay staff minimum freakin' wage for watching it. Julian - your three reasons for poor projection are correct, and they are all interlinked. Poorly paid projecionists are often trained by other poorly paid and poorly trained (and often inexperienced with stunningly high turnover due to suicide, deportation, prison and opening at Dairy Queen) projectionists and have no real love for film because of the pay, and the fact they got the job 'cos no one else wanted to give up their Saturday night alone and in the dark. The good news, is in the future, digital projection will probably mean you won't have to worry about bad projection risking lousing up your magnus opus, just that the manager will slot in the wrong hard drive or Blu-Ray/HD-DVD in the rack in their office. There will be redundant lamphouses, allowing another to take over when one fails because of a bad bulb, but since the projectors will all have their xenons changed every four months by a visiting technician who does 15 sites, I'm sure the savings will be passed on to your potential customers, getting more of them in. Nick - sounds like a great place...before it got bought. The thinking is, if something gums up, give them comps, and they'll come back. And people do, to use up the comp, and that time hopefully, the law of averages means nothing will go wrong (much). Those 2 guys working 18 screens have their work cut out, with maintenenence, film make up, breakdown, trailers, ads etc. etc.

Lab on Apr 16, 2007


Brian, thanks for the post, very illuminating stuff. I never did think it was the projectionists fault really, and I assume that they only had one or two guys running the entire theater. I'm wondering, since you worked for Century, what happened after it was bought? Was there a noticable different managment style, were new people brought in, fired? Nearly all of the cashiers seem to be the same as the ones before they were bought, but were the projectionists fired? Them dropping the dry-runs seems to explain quite a bit too. Lab, I was conflicted about even using the passes, but I was with a friend who was set on getting his money back somehow. They have yet to raise ticket prices at least, and luckily a Regal around me has for some reason started branching out in their selection of films (and buying some digital projectors.) Speaking of which, if any chain has improved over the years, it's Regal. In the past year or so, I haven't had anything but sterling presentation there. (They even added a student ticket price, which they never had before.)

Nick on Apr 16, 2007


Actually, I talked to the manager of the movie theatre before I even saw the movie. He said that the studio called the theatre and told them to frame the movie high because there were so many boom mics in the shots. This is something that is happening in theatres all over the country, so how can you say that it's the projectionist's fault? There were shots in which the mic was right in front of the actors' faces!

Derek Smith on Apr 17, 2007


OK, sounds like the filmmaker's fault. Although the film should have been run through and this problem noticed, and unless it was the first few performances, it should have been noticed before the Saturday or whenever Alex watched it.

Lab on Apr 17, 2007


An interesting and related rant over at AICN (linked below), brings up the talking issue, which you can't neccesarily blame theaters for, but only for allowing. The talking thing does bother me quite a bit but i'm quite timid when it comes to silencing people. I even waited about a half an hour into The Proposition to tell the two 12 year kids (with parents...at a 10pm showing...of an R-Rated, bloody, gritty australian western?) to stop talking and put their fucking cell phones away. (The last straw was hearing John Hurt refered to as a "cracked out dude.") Anyone else have audiences diminish the enjoyableness of a movie? http://www.aintitcool.com/node/32353

Nick on Apr 21, 2007


I'm very happy to stop a film to help the cause of getting the f***wads thrown out, electronically tagged in the a** so they can't come back in without tripping a sensor, or if they're especially belligerant or obstinate, using a cattle prod on their spinal cortex and taking them out the back in black bags with the rest of the garbage at the end of the night.

Lab on Apr 21, 2007


I am one of the six dollar an hour projectionists mentioned above and we did recieve notice about this in a memo.....someone is dropping the ball up to at those theaters. We've all been briefed on it since the day we got the film.

CK on Apr 25, 2007


Whats going to happen when it comes out on dvd? who will edit it then? They may aswell have just done it for the big screen.... i saw it last night, and the whole time i was waiting for a twist that it was actually just being filmed and then some freaky stuff would happen in 'real life' or something... as the film went on, i thought how pathetic it would be if that *was* what was going to happen. But it never did. It *is* Hollywood's fault for making a stupid excuse for laziness. There's just no need.

Belinda on Jul 3, 2007


by the way, i'm in Melbourne, Australia... so perhaps the memo didn't get this far! 😛

Belinda on Jul 3, 2007


This is not the filmmaker's fault at all. The reason this happens is because minimum wage projectionists NEVER make sure the film is in frame when they thread it through the machine. Instead, they thread it randomly and then use the big dumb framing knob. And if that framing knob is already maxed out in one direction (they never center it before threading), it will be impossible to get it framed right. If they had threaded the machine in frame, the picture would be right in the middle and you would never see the mic booms. Directors shoot film like this because of the problem with multiple aspect ratios and space on the film. They have an outlined box on their viewfinder to see what will be in frame, and they shoot with mic booms above that outline.

Aaron on Sep 22, 2007


When I first moved here the kids being taught projection at the theatres we took over from Regal/UA didn't even know what framing was or how to thread the movie in frame. They were just taught that once the film started they were to move the picture up or down (with the framing knob) until the black line was gone. There was no working masking and the films all started with the dowser open and ended by tailing out. Did the audiences complain? No.

Depressed on Dec 9, 2007


Im a projectionist in the UK and im finding it quite offencive that your labeling projectionists as fat and lazy. While some may be, we are all certainly not. In our cinema we have all been very well trained and have never had any occurences of films being made up in the wrong order as we check the reel number on the head/tail of the actuall print as well as on the box makng sure the reference frames match up if it's a used print. Racking in a film is extreamly easy to do while lacing it up and is always done at this point in our cinemas. The film is checked at the start (when the ads start) and at the beggining of the feature for any mistakes in all ten of our screens even tho theire is only one projectionist on duty. Doing all this as well as the normal day to day tasks such as making up/ breaking down, maintanance and cleaning keeps us very busy. So if you think projectionists that actually do theire jobs are lazy why dont you go and give it a try!

Lucian on Jan 25, 2008


I'm a projectionist in MA, working for 9.25 an hour and do not have any of the problems mentioned above. I agree with Lucian that although some may be fat or lazy or both not all are. First off, being in a projection booth for 10 hours a day certainly has an effect on you which will lead to some problems. At my place, supervisors and managers are the only ones allowed to do projection, we have a semi-full time projectionist who is the only one to build and break down movies (haven't seen one built wrong yet), and always run the movie the night before it shows customers or not. When a customer complains, the supervisor on for that shift either calls upstairs or runs up and checks themselves. Every time I thread a projector I reset the framing. Occasionally, a framing bulb will go which is basically a light that shines through the film to allow you to see the image. Every projector starts with the dowser (allows the projector lamp to shine on the film) open but changeover, basically a secondary smaller dowser, closed. Once started, I check to ensure the sound has changed from house sound to whats on the film, focus, framing and make sure the lights go down. Basically, it all comes down to the theater itself and how they enforce what the projectionist do. Putting the blame on the projectionist is sometimes acceptable but not in all cases. Any questions or concerns, just let me know.

Kenny on Feb 24, 2008


After reading the poor projector quality rant, I would like to add that the managers at my theater order the replacement parts for the projectors, the general manager changes the xenon lights himself, change fix the digital reader on the projectors and takes an interest in whether the showing of the movie is going smoothly. So like I said, it all depends on the theater, and what they consider manager material and how much power they decide to give those managers.

Kenny on Feb 24, 2008


Yeah, but the Mayan still has the best popcorn on the planet!!!

Tim Dunbar on Apr 23, 2008


In another lifetime I was a theater manager, and we had union projectionists. The union was all but impossible to get into, and word was they were all were mafia-connected (we actually had Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo's nephew working at our theater). And they were WAY overpaid -- these guys cleared about $1500 a week, back in the '80s. I know because I handed out the checks. The company I worked for (no longer in existence) tried to bust the union more than once but was never successful. I honestly don't know if the union situation is the same today, but if so I can definitely understand theaters opting to go with lower-paid, non-union projectionists. However, the flip-side is that the union workers actually did a damn good job. I don't ever recall any framing issues or out-of-order reels. Shows began on time, in focus, and at proper volume levels. So, I think the error of the theaters is in going too far trying to save money. In my opinion a projectionist's job is too important for minimum wage. They should be well-trained and paid a decent living wage, even if they're not union.

Wheelz on Apr 23, 2008


I work as a minimum wage projectionist at a Cinemark in Houston. Lucky for the people who goes to my theaters while I'm on duty, because I am real obsessive about the picture, focus, framing and sound getting as close to perfection as possible. I always fix my partner's movies even if they are a little off. The bad news is I'll probably not be working there long term because the pay is so bad. Then again the good news is, our theater will be converting to all digital projectors in the summer(no more picture problems, although the sound could still be a problem because some of the projectionists I work with like to crank it up too high).

john g on Jun 1, 2010

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