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The one that started it all. Really it did!

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  • The one that started it all. Really it did!

    (This is not a review of a movie. Rather, a story about a movie deep in my heart. Therefore, I am posting in this area instead of movie reviews.)

    It was June of 1978. I was living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was also days away from high school graduation. Since April on weekends I had been training at a theater to be a projectionist. By the end of May I was on my way running the old carbon arc projectors three stories up above main street. Although I was still a trainee, it was time for me to take over the booth as I felt good enough to do it.

    About three weeks later, the manager called me with a problem. There was a new movie opening up expected to do very well and he didn’t have a projectionist would I like to do it. I said I would but it was high school graduation. He said never mind and I will see you on your next scheduled night. This really killed me. The chance to start my career and get paid for it, and I have to go to school one last important time.

    Well I sat down with Mom and Dad and talked it out. After a few minutes, my Dad looked at me and said what did I want to do. I said work and get paid. He said then do it. I called the manager and said I would take the shift, and the next week I went into the office and received my diploma.

    The movie was the smash hit GREASE. We had lines out the door and around the block for several very busy nights. The theater was an old movie palace, complete with a balcony. The booth was about 8 steps above the balcony level, and it seemed like one of those Navy ship stairways: Very steep and very narrow. The projection room was big enough for two operators. A third person in the booth and it was hard to move around.

    Well there I was on opening week, four days and several flawless shows. Being a rookie projectionist, this movie had a changeover between the end of reel five starting reel six. That’s where it is the end of the dance competition (blue moon) and the start of the drive in at night.

    This particular changeover always use to throw a curve at me, as it went from Cinemascope to a flat image being projected on to a drive in screen. I always jumped the gun and looked to make sure I had the scope lens in the machine, which of course everything was fine.

    Grease will forever hold a very special place in my heart for my love of film projection. Not only was it the very first movie I ever projected in a public theater booth all by myself with no teacher there to guide me – but just a few years later I would pick it from a list of super 8 features off of a JEF Films sales list. And when I picked my Marketing Films release on four super 8 reels magnetic sound flat, I held in my hands the very first feature length movie that began what is now a collection of titles topping 300+.

    And finally, on Sunday night, January 24th 2021, I picked GREASE and showed it on my current screen here in Florida. I held back from running it for so long because I wanted my new theater room to be as equipped as possible to show this great movie.

    I must say last night, after the last 2 years of running over 200 other titles, and I have had some really great nights in this movie room since then, the screening I had last night was perhaps the best one yet.

    Maybe because all the previous times I screened this movie as with the others, I had been in my parents basement. And I was blessed and lucky enough to have been in the basement with the hobby.

    There’s something about a basement that is stuffy, cob webby, along with all the other things within your peripheral vision that makes it difficult to screen a movie in the dark. Not to mention how a basement is climate controlled usually by whatever climate is outside at the given time of year. Spring and fall are ok, winters are cold, and summers are very humid.

    And now with a room in the house dedicated to movies, and climate controlled by an HVAC unit – it seems like every time I watch a movie that I have already seen in the basement – seeing it again in the regular room is like seeing it for the first time.

    Not until last night have I ever felt so good watching a movie in my home, given all that I have written above. It was truly one of the very best nights in my cinema room.

    I closed the evening with a double feature, after a short intermission I ran off the thriller drama TREAD SOFTLY STRANGER with the very stunning Diana Dors.

    Thank you for reading this if you have come this far.

    Happy collecting everyone!

    Chip Gelmini
    Florida USA

  • #2
    That's a wonderful, heartfelt story Chip. Your passion really oozes through it. Thank you for sharing.


    • #3
      What a great story Chip, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it all! 🙂


      • #4
        I should have mentioned my career lasted through February of 2012. With all the technology during the time it actually ended just as it began: at one of the last theaters on Cape Cod still running 2000' reels although the carbons had been converted to bulb. And this specific job ended because the digital conversion was going to get done 🙁


        • #5
          Thank You that You share these touching memories with us, Chip


          • #6
            That really was a wonderful story, Chip. I might have shared it before, but when my family was in the air Force, my dad moonlighted as the base projectionist, and I would hang out there with him, peering out of the projection booth, to that screen below, and I felt privileged to be there, just watching those reels spin.
            Last edited by Osi Osgood; January 25, 2021, 03:27 PM.


            • #7
              What a great memory Chip - nicely written as well.


              • #8
                Nice Chip. Its life stories like this that make the forum such a special place


                • #9
                  I'll take a bow on center stage and see myself out......


                  • #10
                    Great story from Chip, and I have to agree with him about Grease. I have the Derann Scope print of this feature and it is really superb quality, one of the best scope prints on super 8. The film itself is always a joy to project , with a fun story and great musical numbers ( even better in re-recorded stereo) and a timeless nostalgia for people who were fortunate enough to be teenagers in the 50"s. The fact that it is now a truly iconic film makes having a super 8 print even more special.
                    One film I will never part with.


                    • #11
                      At this time I would like to say thanks to all who have commented.

                      I'm doing fine and staying healthy. Thank goodness we have this hobby in time of need..... and I appreciate those who wrote above.

                      Kind regards