I take it you’ve had to upgrade technologies and pick them up as you went along, as the projection technologies advanced and whatnot?
Yeah. Funny you should say that, this came up quite recently. There was a person who spoke to me and I was quite annoyed. He more-or-less implied that I was an old fogey living in the past, and the technology of the cinema had moved on. I really rounded on him; I said, “What do you mean, living in the past? If you study my career and my CV, you’ll see that throughout my career I have stayed at the front of cinema technology.” And he didn’t know what to say.
That’s ridiculous. You can run these things, they can’t.
Well, it won’t be around long because it’s all going to be electronic shortly.
Where can you see things going? You think the future is digital or what?
The future is digital, yeah. The studios are looking to cut costs of making films and one of the big costs of course is all the prints. When you consider how many film prints are made to supply the world it’s colossal, and the costs of making these prints. Whereas if they could beam them in…that’s gonna be a helluva lot cheaper. But the loss of work…I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but digital will definitely take over. If you don’t believe that you’re like Canute holding back the ocean. But the jobs it’s gonna cost in the film labs, etc…but on the other hand, I think to myself, “Is Kodak going to let this happen?” But I also think, “What would be better than digital?” And I come back to that same answer, 70mm film.
Bring back the spectacle.
No, not the spectacle, I think 70mm will re-enter the cinema in normal multiplexes under normal screens of say 30ft wide. And a 70mm image on a 30ft wide screen has got to be seen to be believed. And it’ll be comparatively cheap, because the drawback with the 70mm was not that the film was twice as wide and cost more, it was the expense of laying down the six soundtracks on it, magnetic sound, it was expensive to put the magnetic sound and record it onto the film and so on. They don’t do that now, they’ve got digital, on a wee tiny disc. The cinemas went full circle in sound from sound on disc to sound on disc.
What’s your favorite cinema you’ve worked in over the years and for what reason?
The Coliseum in Glasgow has a special place in my heart because it was a special presentation…we’re back to Cinerama, “How The West Was Won” to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” One, we were looked upon as the elite, and we were picked from different cinemas to go to the Coliseum, although I didn’t realize it at the time. And I dunno why they picked me, but they did. And the one thing I admired about the Americans, who owned Cinerama, was it was the one time in my career that I was treated as one of the technicians. The cumbersome way they had to photograph Cinerama in three strips and separate sound…it was a rigorous discipline getting it right. Cinerama looked upon the projection of this system as a rigorous discipline and you had to get it right. They expected an absolute high standard of presentation. But my hat off to the Americans, they made sure they paid you for it. When we were selected for the Coliseum, we did not know at the time that the Americans would be paying us an extra wage. They got us in there because they knew we wanted to do it, not because of the money. They didn’t tell us about that until after we were there and we got half a week’s pay on top of our wages.
They expected the best and they got it. Throughout the approximate three-strip Cinerama run, I think we only had three breakdowns and on these three occasions it wasn’t the projectionist’s fault – it was the equipment. But we managed to tie it up with string and continue.
How many projectionists were there?
Ten. There were five on at each show, there were four running the machines and one floating.
How many shows did you have a day?
Two. It was actually a good job, because it was only matinees on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was great. Didn’t start until eight at night and then you went home at 10:30. And we were getting one-and-a-half week’s pay.
The story continues in part nine of MAX GIBSON: THE MAN BEHIND THE MAGIC>>>
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