Projectionist Dispatch: Why go to the movies?

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With Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and Amazon streaming old favorites as well as new releases online, giving us the option of watching movies in the comfort of our own homes at whatever time we choose, why bother going to the movies?

This is a question I hear a lot, especially when I meet new people and tell them that I work at a movie theater. Last Friday night at the panel discussion after the 7pm screening of Fruitvale Station at Images, my reasons for loving and justifying the cinema experience crystallized in my mind. As I sat in the nearly sold-out theater, listening to gasps, sobs and laughter all around me, I felt a jolt of communal energy. Experiencing this movie as a community is so much more than watching it alone on a laptop or tv. Not to mention having the opportunity to discuss the film afterwards; to hear what other people thought and exchange ideas and feelings.

For me, there is nothing like sitting in a dark theater, watching a movie on a big screen. Even if I am the only one there it’s thrilling. But I think the core of attending movies at the cinema has to do with community– whether you live in a small town and know everyone there, or in a big city sitting in the dark with a crowd of strangers. You’re all there to see The Movie, and that is what joins you.

There’s also the “Event” of going to the movies. It’s like seeing live theater or a music performance– the actors aren’t performing live, but the movie projection is “live” in a way. There’s no pausing or stopping for breaks, and there is a theatrical element to movie theater projection: the lights dim, everyone settles down, the newest trailers come on screen, and finally the main event: the Feature Presentation.

A lot of work goes into setting up the presentation of each movie. It’s very different from when we ran 35mm film (less than a year ago!), but there are still preparations to be made, and the excitement of “putting on a show.” Films are delivered on harddrives, and my first task is to “ingest” them onto the projector’s server. Next I create a playlist with trailers, ads, and the feature. Cues need to be set at specific times: lights down, sound up, lens adjustments, lights up, etc. The masking (curtains on the sides of the screen) needs to be set at the correct size. Volume levels adjusted. All to create the best possible movie-watching experience for the audience. And then there’s the non-technical stuff: popcorn, candy, drinks, tickets, friendly staff welcoming you. From the moment you enter the cinema, you are experiencing the movie.

All of this is so magical to me, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

See you at the movies,

~ Anna

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4 Responses to Projectionist Dispatch: Why go to the movies?

  1. levhardware says:

    Reblogged this on Lev Hardware.

  2. janetmcurran says:

    I actually find it hard to watch movies at home because there are so many distractions, and it is so easy to pause for any number of small things. It is by far a better experience to watch movies at the cinema.

  3. Pingback: Which Calvin & Hobbes Character Are You | Bringing the best news to the People

  4. Pingback: Projectionist Dispatch: The Indie Cinema Experience | Images Cinema Blog

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