|Why you should see The Last Projectionist in UK cinemas this weekend|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 22 June 2012 13:59|
Stand in a multiplex on a busy Friday night and listen carefully. Every now and then an alarm goes off. It’s not a fire alarm; it’s too quiet. It’s the sound of screens warning the projectionist that something needs to be sorted. In the cinema I used to work in, it bleeped a lot.
But these days, there are fewer projectionists around to answer that call. As cinemas go digital and cut down running costs, they fire half the projectionists and operate the thing from the manager's office instead. Play, pause, on, off. That's pretty much all the skill it requires.
Things still go wrong, though. We've all seen films displayed in the wrong aspect ratio. Some of us have been treated to 3D movies (incorrectly calibrated) that go green, pink and wibbly. Wibbly's a technical term. Once, because of problems with a digital projector, I had to sit through the opening 20 minutes of The Last Airbender TWICE. NO ONE should have to suffer that.
A day in the life of a projectionist
The projectionists that are lucky enough to still be in employment are busy running technical errands around the building, changing lightbulbs, etc. In a 15-screen multiplex spanning three floors, that's a lot of lightbulbs. So when something does go wrong, even if it only requires a touch of a button, there's often no one there to sort it out. Have you ever left a screen to tell a member of staff something's wrong with the projection? It takes 10 minutes to get the projectionist to the projector in the first place.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a pro-digital guy - as you know, if you read this thing in the Guardian, this bit at Little White Lies, or my general ramblings on the subject - but even if you don't romanticise the sexiness of celluloid, it's sad to be losing a trained profession that makes sure cinemas run smoothly. I spent many months pushing for an article to be published exposing the firing of projectionists and threats of union strikes, but to no avail.
That's why The Last Projectionist is such an interesting documentary to me. Directed by Tom Lawes, it charts the history of Birmingham's The Electric (the oldest working cinema in the UK - and one of my favourite places to watch a film) and shows the rise of digital projection in the face of 35mm.
Ironically, the film wouldn't have been possible without digital. Indeed, thanks to the lower production and distribution costs, it's great to see Lawes' film get a theatrical run across the UK after impressing us last year at the Cambridge Film Festival - the documentary is an absolute must for all cinephiles.
Read on for a list of cinemas where The Last Projectionist is showing in the UK and when. If you still need convincing, here's our original The Last Projectionist review - and our interview with director Tom Lawes.
The Last Projectionist - UK cinema showtimes
Alhambra Keswick, Cumbria, 22nd June
Barn Cinema, Dartington, 16th July
Chorley Little Theatre, Dates TBC
Cinema City Norwich PictureHouse, 22nd-28th June
City Screen Picturehouse, York, 8th & 12th July
Electric Cinema, Birmingham, 22nd-5th June. Q&A 23rd June
Forest Arts Centre, Hampshire, 11th September with Q&A
Hackney Picturehouse, 29th June-5th July
Harbor Lights Picturehouse, Southhampton, Dates TBC
Hebdon Bridge Picture House, West Yorkshire, 16th July with Q&A
Hyde Park Picturehouse, Leeds. 12th July with Q&A
Ipswich Film Theatre, Dates TBC
IVEAGH Movie Studios Banbridge, N.Ireland, 28th June
Kendal Brewery Arts Centre, Cumbria, 6th-8th July
Leiston Film Theatre, Suffolk, 1 st-4th July. Q&A 4th July
Light Cinema, Wirral, 25th-28th June
Light House, Wolverhampton, 17th-19th July. Q&A 18th July
Little Theatre Cinema Bath Picturehouse, 22nd-28th June
MAC, Birmingham, 22nd-23rd July
Phoenix Picture House, Oxford, 29th-5th June
Plaza Community Cinema, Liverpool, Dates TBC
Reading Film Theatre,Dates TBC
The Phoenix, Finchley, 28th June
The Poly, Falmouth, 3rd-4th September
Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, 11th July with Q&A
Plaza, Stockport, 13th July
Glasgow Film Theatre, 9th&10th. Q&A 9th July
Chichester Cinema at New Park, 4th-6th July