In a Digital Movie World, Projectionists Still Matter
Posted on April 2, 2018 at 10:31 am
One of the great pleasures of seeing movies at the magnificent Virginia Theater each year for Ebertfest is the superb work of projectionist James Bond (yes, that is his name). These days, most movies are digitally projected and remote controlled. But for some films, projectionists still make all the difference. It was great to see Vanity Fair profile Mike Katz, one of the best, sought after by perfectionist filmmakers like P.T. Anderson and Martin Scorsese. My favorite professor in film school started as a teenage projectionist, and that led him to go back to school to study film.
For the first time in years, specialists like him have once again become a hot commodity, thanks to fussy filmmakers like Phantom Thread’s Paul Thomas Anderson and others—“Batman guy, Scorsese guy, Tarantino guy”—who want to present their new films the way they believe they deserve to be seen, on 35mm or 70mm, in a handful of big-city markets. They’re frantically seeking projectionists like Katz to get the job done, even turning to those who have retired or moved on from the profession…Katz—like those film-nerds-turned-directors who are breathing new life into his industry—is hyper-aware of the differences between a D.C.P., or digital cinema package, and a film print. (He actually installed BAM’s first two digital projectors about 12 and 8 years ago.) He credits his father and uncle Louie, both of whom worked as projectionists and were proud members of New York’s still-thriving projectionists union, with giving him vital on-the-job training; he started working for them as a “reelboy,” rethreading just-screened film prints, and handing them back to the projectionist.