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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Money Talks the Language of Stupidity even with 70mm.... (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Money Talks the Language of Stupidity even with 70mm....
David Miller
Film Handler

Posts: 18
From: Kent, WA, USA
Registered: Apr 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 05:37 AM      Profile for David Miller   Email David Miller   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Typically I do not rant and very rarely complain about anything that has to do with theater operations here at the Cinerama. I can usually put up with the mountain of red tape and corporate politics it takes to get anything done here. And it is twice as much as usual because GC runs the theater, but a private party owns the theater. But this is the last straw!!!!

With special thanks to Gordon McLeod, I managed to track down a set of 70mm "Indian Jones Trilogy" prints in Canada. Except for a little fading on "Raiders" these prints look and sound brand new. If anyone keeps track they are all over ten years old. This little endeavour started out as three weekends of midnight movies on Friday and Saturday nights, it has turned into a three week run. And quite a bit of money has been put into shipping the prints here and a bunch of extra advertising.

I have a union contract for a guaranteed 32 hours/week, the rest of the time the managers run the booth during their shifts. The managers do an excellent job at threading up and pushing the start button, but for the most part this is the end of their knowledge. The head manager who has been here for close to a year just found out last week what the two boxes on the wall of the office were for. They are the remote boxes for the projectors and the CP500. Perhaps, this is a separate training issue on my part, but that is beside the point I am about to make. So of course, knowing that the managers have never run 70mm before and I am only one person I called on another trusted projectionist to come help me run the booth. Earlier this week I found out that General Cinemas is only going to allow one week of a fulltime projectionist on duty. During this one week we are supposed to train the managers on how to run 70mm.

Yeah right. Sure. No problem. Just two weeks ago we had a week long run of "The Matrix" and it left with scratches in it because one of the managers threaded the platter wrong, pushed the start button, and came back two hours later to thread up for the next show. This is not to talk down the managers abilities to do their jobs, because that rarely happens. However, about 5% of their job is to run the booth. The other 95% of their job is to keep the downstairs up and running. The projection booth is the last thing on their mind.

Scratching a 35mm print of "The Matrix" is one thing, but damaging a 70mm print of Indiana Jones is a whole new ball game. Especially, when I spent a half an hour on the phone with the guy at the Paramount Film office in Toronto discussing the apalling treatment of 70mm prints in general. Then, I gave the guy my word that we would be careful with the prints and he would get them back in the condition that he sent them to us. With two midnight screenings of each print this was no problem.

If General Cinemas wanted to commit to a week long run of each print then they should have figured on spending the money to atleast have a fulltime projectionist for the three weeks. I don't know maybe I am just out of touch with the whole budgetting process and shouldn't even be worried. But it seems like a lot of preparation and money has already went into this and then to skimp on show quality is a little backwards. The managers can get away with pushing the start button and running back downstairs in a world where replacement reels are readily available, but doing this when there are some very rare 70mm prints being run is definitely not alright in my book. Plus the whole process of running 70mm and mag sound takes a little more babysitting, especially when we are expecting a huge turn out for this.

Although I doubt there is any solution to this problem because I have no say in the matter, I felt I at least needed to post this ridiculous situation here for everyone to be aware of. Oddly enough even the managers here at the Cinerama were shocked when they heard the news of this. Since my reputation and the Cinerama's relationship with Paramount is at stake I will probably end up coming in to work for free on my off hours because I am not letting anything happen to those prints, at least not while they are here at my theater.

David Miller
Projectionist, Seattle Cinerama

John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 06:58 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 

Your dedication to "Doing Film Right" is wonderful. You are very correct that the scarcity of good 70mm prints today DEMANDS that only people SKILLED and EXPERIENCED in running 70mm should be allowed to handle the film. Is this something that Steven Geiger (GCC Booth Manager) or Tim Reed could support you on as your try to convince GCC management of the need to "bend the rules" for this special engagement?

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Eastman Kodak Company
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7419
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: 716-477-5325 Cell: 716-781-4036 Fax: 716-722-7243
Web site:

Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9470
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-15-2001 08:41 AM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
THose 70mm prints of raider better not get trashed as we have them booked here in the spring

Darryl Spicer
Film God

Posts: 3250
From: Lexington, KY, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 09:38 AM      Profile for Darryl Spicer     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
when we used to run 70MM prints here in town unfortunatly years ago, it was policy that we were to sit with the projector the entire run of the show. The people who have provided the prints should demand that only a fully trained experienced projectionist may be allowed to run these prints and must stay in the booth while the film is running. These prints are going to be very sensitive do to their age. one wrong move could be disaster for sprocket holes and scratching. Even destroying the magnetic soundtracks is possable if not done correctly.

Dick Vaughan
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1032
From: Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 10:03 AM      Profile for Dick Vaughan   Author's Homepage   Email Dick Vaughan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In the UK last year a so called "chief technician" who said he had 70mm experience wrecked a brand new print when he laced it up round the optical soundhead

Never take anything for granted and never let anyone except someone who has demonstrated that they can actually can do the job and ,most importantly, is competent to react quickly to any problem anywhere near the dwindling supply of good quality 70mm prints.

We always have a fully trained projectionist in the booth at all times when 70mm is running. Not to do so should be considered criminally negligent.

Brad Miller

Posts: 17695
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 02-15-2001 10:55 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
That's pathetic. At least you can take comfort in knowing that Paramount reads this forum and if those prints get damaged GC can expect to be paying replacement value of well over $10,000 per print, which they would so rightfully deserve.

By the way, there is only one other 70mm print of Raiders in circulation, and it is damaged beyond belief. If something happens to that one...that's the end of it.

John Walsh
Film God

Posts: 2490
From: Connecticut, USA, Earth, Milky Way
Registered: Oct 1999

 - posted 02-15-2001 11:08 AM      Profile for John Walsh   Email John Walsh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, it's sad... too many people think that 70mm is just like 35mm- only bigger.

Ranting is very much justified in this case(I think, anyway.) It's typical that one of the workers cares more about the prints than the upper managment. And it's common for upper managment types to "forget" that untrained people are being made to work the booth, and blame the operators for any screw-ups.

I purposely disconnected the start button at a theater I worked at for the exact reason Dave described. It is not needed at theaters with only a few screens, and in fact causes more trouble than it's worth. I suggest you cut the wire to the start button.. the shit you might get for that will be less than for trashing a 70mm print.

No wonder no one wants 70mm prints....

It sucks you have to go in on your days off, but it is the right thing to do (for yourself, not for them.)

Christopher Seo
Jedi Master Film Handler

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

 - posted 02-15-2001 01:33 PM      Profile for Christopher Seo   Email Christopher Seo   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would quietly appeal to Paramount on this one. Even if going in on your time off can resolve this particular situation, GC is effectively saying that they don't care what happens to expensive, historical, one-of-a-kind 70mm prints after the first week and Paramount (and any other studio with people who care) should know this. Additionally, is there any possible way to get the ownership of the theatre (Paul Allen, right?) to pressure GC? Doesn't he care if his theatre puts on a crappy show and damages film?

Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 16269
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-15-2001 04:33 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The real pisser is that if they do get trashed they will not get restruck.
The best thing you could do would be to sabotage the 70mm end of the booth so they can't run them at all. Ya can't train a manager to run 70mm. Been there, tried doing that, didn't work out. Actually, come to think of it, the Union operators in this location could barely deal with 70mm either but they finally got an operator in that could. When the union went bye-bye there they quit running 70mm at all. Personally, thats the best thing you could do at the Cinerama. Trashing thise prints out would only bring an absolute end to 70mm even faster.
Personally I don't know why PAul Allen got General Enema in there in the first place???
Here's a guy that can do what he wants to and then he gets the worst chain in to run his place??

Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7130
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 05:27 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I hit my head against a similar brick wall last week. With 'Shadow of the Vampire' about to be released, we've had lots of enquiries about a screening of the original 'Nosferatu'. They were duly passed on to the rep programmer at head office.

Thinking that we would certainly be showing it, I got three-bladed shutters for our screen 1 machines, cut plates to show full-gate silent with our scope backing lenses, worked out a way of offsetting them for the optical centre of the full-gate frame and added an extra intake fan to the lamphouses in order to cope with a bit of extra current (this being to compensate for the light loss from the shutters). Several hours of blood, sweat and tears later we had a perfect, 16 foot lambert, totally flicker-free picture running at 16fps.

Then I found out that programmer had not been quick enough in booking the only print that's available for general distribution over here. So I called a contact at the National Film and Television Archive and she agreed to loan us their hand-tinted print of the 1998 Munich Film Museum restoration. Normally they would never let that print go anywhere besides the National Film Theatre in London, but my contact knows that I'll look after it, and agreed to let me have it.

I rang HO again to let them know what I thought they would regard as very good news - and got brushed off with excuses about how it would be difficult to publicise the show at short notice blah blah blah. Not only would it have been a chance to have about the only screening of this tinted print outside London, but I did all the work for them, and even provided contacts for musicians to provide the soundtrack. But it seems they're just not willing to follow it up.

Oh well, back to four shows a day of 'Almost Famous'...

Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6440
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-15-2001 06:02 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Y'Know, I often get the feeling that most "managers" or "corporate types" in the exhibition business regard film (and the "product" in general) as CHATTEL... a nusiance... something to be thrown away when it no longer suits your needs.

That really PISSES ME OFF! I spend a lot of my time putting their friggin' machines back together after they are done tearing them apart (and sometimes LITERALLY tearing them apart!) only to see them tossing film on the floor as if it doesn't matter!

One of these days I'm going to loose it and go POSTAL! I swear! -- Facetious humor there

Rick Green
Film Handler

Posts: 12
From: Sacramento, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 02-15-2001 09:31 PM      Profile for Rick Green   Email Rick Green   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David, my hat's off to you! This makes me furious. Once upon a time GC wouldn't have even thought of operating like this. Now, they're just like all the other circuits, maybe even worse.
I'm a 25 year member of the union here in Sacramento, and I saw 70mm go away once UA & Century got rid of us. They flat couldn't run it. Oh, they tried- but there was quite a trail of destroyed prints. As a matter of fact, there was a near riot at a Century theater here in 1982 during a 70mm run of "E.T." Management couldn't keep it on the screen, but wouldn't give refunds either. Actually made the local papers. So this is nothing new, just very frustrating to all of us. Brad's right, Paramount will find out about this. Maybe a whopping bill for print replacement might open GC's (and others) eyes a little.

John Walsh
Film God

Posts: 2490
From: Connecticut, USA, Earth, Milky Way
Registered: Oct 1999

 - posted 02-15-2001 09:48 PM      Profile for John Walsh   Email John Walsh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The sad thing is; If a 70mm print get damaged (and the company has to pay) the management types will NOT say; "We need good operators."

They will say; "Running 70mm is not cost-effective, so let's stop."

Tim Reed
Better Projection Pays

Posts: 5244
From: Northampton, PA
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 02-15-2001 10:59 PM      Profile for Tim Reed   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have forwarded your message to Steve Geiger.

Better Projection Pays!

Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8002
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-16-2001 05:26 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The other upsetting thing here that no one else seems to have mentioned yet is that if the print gets trashed, the chances are pretty good that Paramount won't strike a replacement print and send GCC the bill, which is what they should do. They'll probably just say "sorry, no more 70mm prints" instead.

Sadly, this sounds like a lose-lose situation for someone (like Dave) who genuinely cares about both presentation quality and print condition. If he works for free, then the audiences are happy and the print stays in good shape, but the corporate types don't learn their lesson. If he lets the managers run it, the print probably gets damaged, audiences get upset when problems occur, yet Paramount probably won't strike a new print and send a bill, so the corporate people still don't learn their lesson.

I can't believe that anyone would consider allowing inexperienced operators to handle the only existing 70mm print of something. Personally, I've been pretty nervous when running 35mm prints that are either one-of-a-kind or one-of-a-handful...I never damaged one, but I certainly wouldn't consider letting one run in an unattended booth or with any type of automation.

As for film being a nuisence to managers--of course it is a nuisence, because running film isn't their job, and having to deal with film reduces their ability to interact with customers and do other tasks which are more in line with the job description of "theatre manager."

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