A projectionist is a person who operates a movie projector. In the strict sense of the term, this means any film projector and therefore could include someone who operates the projector in a show. In common usage, the term is generally understood to describe a paid employee of a movie theater. They are also known as "operators".
A projectionist in a modern theater in North America or Europe will typically carry out some or all of the following duties.
- Receiving film prints delivered from the distributor and completing the shipping formalities.
- Examining prints on a workbench to determine the image, sound format and other information needed to screen them correctly.
- Examining prints to check for physical damage that could prevent the print from being screened without a breakdown, e.g. edge damage, split or strained perforations, and defective splices. If there is a significant amount of dirt or scratching on the print, the projectionist may determine that it is of unacceptably low quality for presentation and return it to the distributor for a replacement.
- "Making up" the reels of a release print onto a long-play platter or tower device, complete with the supporting material in the screening program, e.g. advertisements, trailers, and animated company logos or announcement snipes, for example asking members of the audience to switch off their mobile phones.
- If the print is to be shown on a two-projector system, ensuring that the leaders and tails of each reel are spliced to the picture footage correctly and that the visual changeover cues are present.
- Programming automation systems to perform presentation functions. This can sometimes take the form of placing self-adhesive cues on the film print in the desired location (e.g. when you want the house lights to be dimmed), which are then detected by an optical reader in the projector's film path.
- Cleaning the surfaces in the projector's film path that comes into contact with or proximity to the film surface.
- "Lacing up" the film through the projector and film path to and from any long play device.
- Carrying out presentation operations manually if an automation system is not in use.
- "Taking down" the reels of a print and supporting program after the final screening, and spooling them back into 2,000-foot lengths.
- Dispatching film prints for return to the distributor, or sometimes a "crossover" direct to another theater, and completing the shipping formalities.
Maintenance and repair
- Replacement of xenon arc bulbs at the end of their service life, and completing the shipping formalities for their return to the vendor for safe disposal.
- Periodic adjustment of lamphouse reflectors to ensure even and optimum illumination.
- Depending on the type of projector in use, maintenance of the mechanism, e.g. periodic draining and replacement of oil in the intermittent mechanism, and/or replacement of drive belts.
- Periodic replacement of other life-limited parts of projection booth equipment, e.g. pressure plates and runners.
- Periodic adjustment of the A-chain of the optical sound system, in order to ensure optimum focus and alignment.
- Periodic adjustment of the motor control systems in a long-play device, in order to ensure optimum feed and take-up.
- The regular projection of technical test films, e.g. the SMPTE's RP-40 and Dolby's "Jiffy" films, to evaluate the image and sound quality in the theater.