What is a Projectionist?

A projectionist brings a film to a live audience. They are the individuals responsible for a superb viewing experience at the cinema, drive-in theatre, film festival, corporate seminar, or school function. There are still projectionist jobs, but they are often for historical theaters or organizations, and old-school drive-in theaters.

What does a Projectionist do?

Projectionists are responsible for 35mm film prints for featured films at the theatre. Once a film print is delivered, projectionists will unspool the film and roll it onto a large plate. They will then thread the film through the movie house projector and connect it to a second reel where the 35mm print will be rolled.

A projectionist sitting in front of a film reel.

Each print usually comes with two to three separate spools that must be spliced together on a film splicer. In a single screen theatre, a projectionist works from a second-story room with a small window from which to project the film. They make certain the film is in focus and synchronized to the sound.

There are also different lenses that must be applied during a show. 3D has returned to cinemas as a popular way to show a film. A projectionist is responsible for changing the lenses at the appropriate time in order for the 3D effect to work.

There are now digital projectors that can run from a hard drive or a jump drive. Although synchronizing sound is no longer an issue, the projectionist has plenty of new challenges. The equipment is sensitive and has to be watched.

A projectionist also needs to clean, maintain, and repair all of the machines. They inspect film prints for breaks, holes, and dirt, since any of these factors can break a projector, which is a sensitive piece of equipment.

Are you suited to be a projectionist?

Projectionists have distinct personalities. They tend to be realistic individuals, which means they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty. They like tasks that are tactile, physical, athletic, or mechanical. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

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What is the workplace of a Projectionist like?

A cinema is the typical place for a projectionist to work. There are also film festivals that require a knowledgeable projectionist.

The film stock at a film festival can vary from 35mm to 16mm, 8mm, Beta, High Definition video, and digital video. Because of the fast pace and variety of styles, a projectionist needs to be able to work with all types of projectors and machines. There will undoubtedly be issues that arise, so a person well-versed in mechanics and computers will often be put to the test at a film festival.

Special events such as home shows, expos, conferences, corporate retreats, school events, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals are also places that require a projectionist. Events such as these usually have an in-house audio-visual setup.

Projectionists are also known as:
Motion Picture Projectionist Projector Booth Operator Movie Projectionist