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The Unknown Projectionist Reveals All The Unknown Projectionist Reveals All

The Unknown Projectionist

But the conversation I recently had with one of Los Angeles’ working projectionists might change the purists’ minds. According to him, as the quality of the average home theater has improved, the quality of commercial cinema has declined. The pressures of an oversaturated market and an increasingly segmented audience have given birth to multi-screened monsters, where the emphasis is not on quality but on squeezing ever-greater amounts of popcorn down customers’ throats.

Are we biased? Perhaps. But consider that our Unknown Projectionist (whose wishes to preserve his employment by remaining anonymous) has worked in both neighborhood theaters and in one of L.A.’s most famous movie houses. Also note that a former New York City projectionist we consulted confirmed all of the Unknown Projectionist’s statements.

BRENT BUTTERWORTH: Is there a training or certification program for projectionists?

THE UNKNOWN PROJECTIONIST: Not like there used to be. Years ago, theater chains had national training centers where they put projectionists through an intensive program. Now they don’t have that. Most projectionists have no experience or background in the subject. Theater managers pick them off the floor staff or concessions, and the facility engineer or the other projectionists train them. They do expect you to pass a fairly rudimentary certification exam on projector operation and maintenance, and in certain cities, such as New York, projectionists have to be licensed.

There is an upper echelon of projectionists, the “union 150s.” It means you are the best; you know every facet of projection work. To become a 150, you need at least six years of experience, and you have to be recommended by a 150. Those are the guys they bring in for premieres and industry screenings.

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