Indieplex Welcomes Peter J. Knight as an occasional contributor to our site. His first article is entitled “The Art of the Projectionist.” If there are some of you out there who don’t know what a projectionist is, since it’s a nearly extinct cinema job, I think Peter has done a wonderful job of giving some historical perspective on the true nature of the projectionist’s contribution to every film we see, and how this job is now often in the hands of those with no training or interest in putting on a great show for us.
One anecdote that I’d like to pass on to our readers is an experience that I had more than 30 years ago, when attending a film screening at one of the old “grind houses” (second run, continuous performance from morning ’til 2AM) cinemas on 42nd Street in New York. They were playing a couple of dopey films (okay, we’ll be kind and call them guilty pleasure films) that I wanted to see. I remember that one of them was in CinemaScope and filled the giant screen in perfect focus. When I looked at the distance to the projection booth and the steep angle, I asked myself how could the whole picture be in focus? Being a curious sort of guy, I went to the manager and asked if I could speak to the projectionist. In a flash, he was down in the lobby. I guess he didn’t get too many people asking to talk to him, and welcomed a reprieve from the loneliness of being up in that dingy room for 12 hours a day. He asked me what I wanted and I just asked him, “How is it possible for the whole picture to be in focus with that steep angle? I can understand part of it being in focus, but not all.” He just laughed and told me, “Well, it’s nothing I’m doing.” I was aghast. “How is it possible?” He laughed some more and revealed his secret. “It’s the lens. It was made specifically for this theater, taking into consideration the distance and angle. Wish I could take credit for it, but I certainly take pride in knowing that things were done right in my booth. Makes my job a lot easier, and keeps the customers happy.”
Welcome aboard, Peter.
Indieplex Online Magazine