Get us in your inbox

Egyptian Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Wayne Hsieh

Movie theaters are closed but American Cinematheque is taking you into the projection room

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

Right now we’re all glued to the best movies we can stream from home—but as much as we love the comfort of our couches, we’re already yearning for the dark and popcorn-dotted majesty of seeing film on the big screen.

Fortunately while L.A.’s movie houses are shut down to ensure social distancing, some of the industry’s professionals are scratching that film-lover itch with glimpses into our favorite movie theaters. In the case of American Cinematheque, the nonprofit is taking us behind the scenes and into a sacred room we can’t even visit when life is running normally: the projection booth.

The film organization behind theaters such as Hollywood’s Egyptian and Santa Monica’s Aero just released a video where chief projectionist Benjamin Tucker talks us through the projection room of the world-famous Egyptian Theatre.

“I’ve got the best job in the world,” he says, “and I tell myself every day that every single film print—whether it comes from a studio, an archive or a private collector—should be treated like the unique and rare object that it is.”

American Cinematheque’s machines are what Tucker deems “museum pieces,” with some as old as 70 years. They’re kept in top form to run the more common 35mm and 70mm films, as well as some of the rarer formats, including nitrate and 16mm reels, in some of L.A.’s most iconic movie houses.

In this new video you can check out some of the inner workings of a few of these machines, and get an idea of how they’re cleaned and maintained. 

Clutch pads? Coolant? Sound drums? Pressure o-rings? We never knew our favorite movies took so much maintenance to look so good, so we’re glad there are technicians like Tucker to keep it all running smoothly from the booth. We’ll just go ahead and leave it to the professionals, and keep our eyes on the big screen when theaters like the Egyptian and the Aero open back up when all of this is over.

Until then, here’s Benjamin Tucker with a peek into the booth:

Latest news