At Slate, Grady Hendrix writes about how the switch from carbon arc light sources to longer lasting xenon bulbs and the arrival of platters changed the job of a projectionist, and how digital projection will likely end it once and for all. He talks to projectionist of 30 years Joe Rivierzo, who obviously has some great stories:
“Digital will eliminate us completely,” Rivierzo says. “All you have to do is load it and play it, and a lot of this stuff can be done off-site. We have theaters now running with 35 percent of the house digital. Once they go over 51 percent running digital, and they run it that way for 90 consecutive days, they can eliminate the presence of a projectionist. Our only saving grace is they can’t manufacture these digital machines fast enough.”
“We had a guy call the other day looking for extra work because his daughter was diagnosed with M.S.,” Rivierzo says. “He had left and opened a plumbing business and he just wanted to pick up a couple of shifts somewhere. And I said, ‘Joe, there are no shifts somewhere,’ and he couldn’t believe it. Years ago, you could do that. A guy could come in the office and say, ‘I just bought a house, and I need to get the down payment together, so can you give me a couple of days in some porno house?’ And there were porno houses everywhere. We don’t do that anymore.”
Filmmaker David Lowery reminisces about his own time in the field at his blog, and about finding a man apparently asleep in a theater seat after the credits had rolled:
I don’t remember how they figured out that he was dead, and I don’t remember if they canceled the next show or not, but by the end of the night the theater was back up and running with an ‘Out Of Order’ cover placed over the seat the deceased had occupied. The film he’d shaken off during? Spice World. Which, if my memory serves correct, wasn’t as bad a way to go as one might think.