Vinnie Jefchak was taught by his father how to load a film projector at 19. After that, he was trained by seasoned professionals as a projectionist, working in movie theaters for over 30 years. It was a decent way to make a living as some of those men who taught him were earning about $45,000 a year in post-World War II Chicago, the equivalent of making $300,000 today. With the switch to digital projection, the art of the projectionist is on its way out.
I am not opposed to change. Technology these days basically makes us all pupils of planned obsolescence and as a blogger, I obviously cannot be bitter towards all that the digital world has brought us. In fact, as someone who learned filmmaking using celluloid film and now practices computer graphics, I welcome the change. What I would like to emphasize are people like Vinnie Jefchak, people whose livelihoods come from performing jobs that are often ignored, unrecognized, or unappreciated. Maybe one of those people is you.
This article in LA Weekly is what prompted these thoughts. Every medium evolves, so we do need to learn to embrace the changes that come with it. Film is no different – it has survived the advent of sound, color, and television, to name a few. Unfortunately, there are still casualties. In this case, the art of film projection is being lost to the requirement that movie theaters convert their projection equipment to digital. This saves studios millions of dollars on distribution. The article does a better job of parsing out the details, but, to summarize, the ones who suffer are the small theaters who cannot afford to convert to digital and the ones who simply do not want to. I agree that there is a special magic to watching a film being projected through film, not a digital conversion. And many older and classic films have not and may never be converted to digital, which is often a small theater’s specialty.
Is it time to say goodbye to this part of cinema history? Maybe there is a way to do both, but with studios always looking out for the bottom line, we cannot depend on them to do it. And let’s try to remember all the different roles that people play to make this world go round, not just in film but in every industry.
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