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Author Topic: concessions
David T. James
Film Handler

Posts: 4
From: N.Conway NH, USA
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-27-1999 04:22 PM      Profile for David T. James   Email David T. James   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I was just wonderign how many people here started in the concessions area of the business and worked their way up to projectionist...I hope to be a projectionist someday. That's why I'm on here, to learn new things.

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Ed Johnson
Film Handler

Posts: 24
From: Lancaster, MA/Appleton, WI
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-28-1999 12:42 AM      Profile for Ed Johnson   Email Ed Johnson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I started at the mega-plex where a work a little over a year ago as an average popcorn jockey and have managed to succesfully work my way up to our projection booth.

While I'm afraid many people on the forum seem to look down on anyone that has anything to do with popcorn, our theater regularly promotes from within. For whatever reason, we've had much better luck with training employees who have shown good habits "downstairs" than with hiring projections who know nothing but the booth. Maybe it only works that way at my theater, but it worked for me.

[This message has been edited by Ed Johnson (edited 07-28-1999).]

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Christopher Seo
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 530
From: Los Angeles, CA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-28-1999 12:59 AM      Profile for Christopher Seo   Email Christopher Seo   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I recently got hired straight to the booth... my first job actually. I work for a chain that has promoted the downstairs people in the past, and we don't suffer for it, really. However, there is a certain other chain that has more the mentality of what the folks here despise: when it was afraid the projectionists there might turn union, it ABOLISHED the job of projectionist altogether and so the people who run projectors also work the floor in between startups. Even someone who was trying couldn't possibly do a good job.

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Aaron Mehocic
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 804
From: New Castle, PA, USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-28-1999 02:56 PM      Profile for Aaron Mehocic   Email Aaron Mehocic   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I started as an usher in January, 1991. Our manager at that time was old-school. Guys worked the floor and girls served popcorn--NO EXCEPTIONS. That all changed with his retirement in April, 1993. Between these two dates, I was trained to run projectors simply because I was an usher. The other usher who was up in the booth was just graduating high school and wanted to have more fun than work. I was in the 10th grade and was always available. At this time we were a three screen theater and the owner did not feel we needed a full time projectionist. When I was not in the booth, I was picking up garbage with the other usher.

After I graduated high school, I was promoted to assistant manager under a new careless regime. I HATED IT. In October, 1996, we began to expand into seven screens under yet another manager, and a projectionist would now be needed. Another kid and myself were up for the position, but I let him take it since the pay was not going to be as good as I expected. A few months later, the manger was fired and I was offered his job. I refused on the grounds that I would have to quit college at the Senior level. The projectionist applied for it and was accepted. I was then promoted to head projectionist at that time with a rate increase.

This increase is still short of what other projectionist make, but operating is a job that I love doing and would never trade it for a day picking garbage or speaking to irate customers! I do occasionally teach high school and a geography course with a local community college, but I prefer being a projectionist.

Never think you know everything in the booth and always be willing to learn. Stay with this forum and operate with common sense and you will do great!

[This message has been edited by Aaron Mehocic (edited 07-28-1999).]

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Erika Hellgren
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 168
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-29-1999 03:33 PM      Profile for Erika Hellgren   Email Erika Hellgren   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In 1992 a 12 plex opened in my neighborhood and I applied as an usher (I was 16 at the time) with the very purpose of being promoted to projectionist one day. It had been my childhood dream. The theatre was a few blocks down the street from our world headquarters, so everything had to be perfect, so we had former union projectionists in the booth, and I was told I had to be at least 18 before I could even be considered. So I worked downstairs for a few years doing box office, concessions and usher. Finally, in early 1995 there was a projectionist position open, and my constant nagging paid off. Hell, they probably couldn't stand my severe profectionism about details downstairs and were happy to put me somewhere where my anal retentive behaivor would do some good. I had very good training as far as threading, but rather inadaquate training as far as build-up, tear-down and trailer changes (no disrespect to those two guys, one of which is on this forum), but I was able to put two and two together and figure things out. That was the last time that theatre had an easy time training someone from downstairs. Personally, I think we can't make generalizations about how well a kid from downstairs will do in the booth. To be a good projectionist, you must have the right mind for it. Some people do and some people don't, and from my experience, those people who do are rare, but that's just my experience.

[This message has been edited by Erika Hellgren (edited 07-29-1999).]

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7907
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-29-1999 04:28 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Erika is right on the mark about the importance of training and having the right mindset. Personally, I was hired initially after a local theatre changed management and all the old employees (including the projectionist for the last 18 years!) moved on to greener pastures. I stopped by one night soon after it re-opened to chat with the manager and make a few suggestions about films to book; as we were chatting, his projectionist came downstairs in a panic because the sound had dropped out. I volunteered to go up to the booth and try to figure out what was wrong, and ended up teaching their guy how to replace an exciter bulb. A few days later, they hired me as their head projectionist. My only previous experience was with 16mm at home and for my college film series. Fortunately, I had spent enough time over the last few years hanging around various projection booths and learning what I could from other operators (ranging from old-time union guys to popcorn-popper types).
Although I no longer work regularly in a theatre (I've graduated from college and am now a computer geek), I try to fill in at various places occasionally and still collect film (16mm and 35mm) for home use. I think that just having seen the inside of so many different types of booths (ranging from the latest automation equipment and digital sound to old drive-in booths with monster carbon-arc lamps) was good training, and helped to give me an appreciation of both the old and the new equipment, as well as the film medium itself.

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George Roher
Master Film Handler

Posts: 266
From: Washington DC
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-29-1999 11:37 PM      Profile for George Roher   Email George Roher   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't personally have anything against people who work the floor. I have done every job in theatres myself. And people from the floor can become good projectionists. That's assuming three things:

1. They are trained properly.
2. They stay in the booth and only do that one job.
3. They have a manageable number of screens to handle and have enough down time to service and clean equipment.

The problem is when people agree to take on multiple jobs for no extra money or agree to run a million screens for pocket change. Too many people want to be projectionists mainly because they think they will get paid to sit around all day, play video games, watch tv, talk on the phone, and be "superior" to those still downstairs. Then they don't stick with it very long, after they realize what the job really is. And the theatre must train someone new again. In other cases, just as a new operator is starting to get good, he/she is getting too old to work for minimum wage and must change jobs. So some theatres constantly have operators who are in that "grey area", who are still working the bugs out. And the presentation suffers greatly.

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Thomas Ferreira
Film Handler

Posts: 23
From: Claremont, NH
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 08:07 AM      Profile for Thomas Ferreira   Author's Homepage   Email Thomas Ferreira   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
First thing I'd like to say is that if the original poster of this thread works hard and shows some initiative to the manager of the theatre, perhaps he will someday be allowed to train on the projectors. It can't hurt to ask to watch an experienced projectionist every once in a while. But one thing for sure, you have to want to do it. It's the projectionists who don't care about their job who trash prints. If you want to run the machines just so you don't have to serve popcorn to the rabble, that's the wrong reason. Just remember, when you're a projectionist, you're not just being watched by your bosses, but your work is being held up to inspection by thousands of customers a week, and they're the toughest critics of all.
As for myself, I started out working with my ex-wife at a drive in concession stand back in 1984. In 1987, we moved to New Hampshire, and the same company had the concession at the indoor theaters in the town we were moving to. On the advice of the DM, I spoke to the manager of the theater, who needed a projectionist, so technically that was my first job in the business. Eventually, I became an assistant manager/operator(I did have a six month stint as a manager with General Cinema. That was a disaster.) A little over a year ago, a management position opened up at another theater, and the rest is history. I still do all the make ups and break downs myself, and I run the machines as often as possible, to insure a good presentation. I can honestly say that we've never trashed a print since I've been there.
So, David, if you work hard as a concessionaire and usher, there is room for advancement.

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David T. James
Film Handler

Posts: 4
From: N.Conway NH, USA
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 04:29 PM      Profile for David T. James   Email David T. James   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
thanks tom, that's exatly what I was talking about. What I wanted to know is how often popcorn-ers get "promoted" to be a projectionist. And, like you said, If I work hard maybe I will get into being a projectionist in a few years. I figure that maybe someday I can even run a movie theatre like some of the people on this forum, (such as yourself and others).

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David T. James
Film Handler

Posts: 4
From: N.Conway NH, USA
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 04:34 PM      Profile for David T. James   Email David T. James   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Oh, and I don't mean to disagree with you George (Ok, so I do, but, hey...) On your "rule number 2" on your reply you said that projectionists should stick that job and only do that job. I don't think that this is so. All of our projectionists work the floor when they are not running the booth and they do just as well as everyone else. I know of at least 2 at my theatre that started that way, just like Tom said that he did, started in the concessions area. And, Like he said, he continues to "run the shows" (no pun intended) even as manager. Just because you do another job as well as projectionist, does not mean that you can't still be a kick a** projectionist.

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Lance C. McFetridge
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 134
From: Penn Yan, New York
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 04:38 PM      Profile for Lance C. McFetridge   Email Lance C. McFetridge   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Oh the word "Projectionist". Have you ever heard a more romantic word than that? A word that everyone associated with a theatre, dreams of being. First off, my hat tips to each and everyone of you that post here. I learn so much, and find it all interesting. I built literally from the ground up, a three screen theatre in Upstate NY. The town is small, but on a lake and busy as heck in the summer. I never went to movies, and the town had none since 1972, so why not build a theatre. I have never had a dark screen because of film handling errors. And I am not going to allow it to happen if I can help it. Of course, I knew nothing of projection, or the movie business so I needed help. In steps Gordon Mcleod, who designed the layout of the booth, to the throw of the lens, to the sound systems. And we do OK. Of course we have no union projectionists anywhere near us, so hiring them was not an option. Gord trained me, and now I train my threaders. Best thing that happened in the booth, was hiring a young woman. She wanted to learn, had a level head on her shoulders, and now after 3 years upstairs, makes up all my films. I have my "projectionists" come to work in plenty of time to clean the machines, perform equipment checks, thread, and still step downstairs to keep an eye on things until show time. Then it's to the booth. When you are paying for everything yourself, with no big corporate guys footing the bill, you keep a tight watch on things. So the point to this? All the popcorn servers, and ushers, if you want to learn, and keep learning and want to work long hours, and can listen, then ask to watch a real projectionist. They will know if you have the aptitude for it, and I have learned that they don't mind telling you if you don't. I recently had a problem at my theatre with one of the platters, or so I thought, Thanks to Brad, and Gord, it is finally fixed. God, you have to love this business!!!! Now back to the shadows!!! and tha's ny 2 cents worth

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Stephen Jones 1
Film Handler

Posts: 62
From: Tulsa, OK, USA
Registered: Aug 1999


 - posted 08-12-1999 06:23 AM      Profile for Stephen Jones 1   Author's Homepage   Email Stephen Jones 1   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Ahhh yes. The projectionist. The guy that every lil' kid stares at through the porthole and wonders how cool of a job it must be to "watch movies all day." I'm sure everyone has had that asked to them. I myself started out in Concession, and now I'm the Booth Manager of a Theatre in Arkansas. I'm very meticulous and love hard-workers. I only wish all my projectionist, or [cough] Usher-Bs, were as detailed as I am. If there is one thing I try to teach my employees; it's that they should prepare the film as if it were a sold-out feature with all their friends in it. They should want every presentation to be flawless. So many projectionist nowadays runs so many projectors that it's hard to take special care of each one. My projectionist have to run 14 and they do a great job. I take great pride in making sure that every movie starts on time, in frame, and all light cues are correct. It's really sad to go to other theatre were the 'projectionist', aka monkeys, can bearly get the projector going. There's nothing like a perfect presentation, even if the movie does really suck.

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