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Photographer Joseph O. Holmes, a chronicler of people and their work spaces, turned his attention in late 2011 to the film projection booth, capturing projectionists in their domains at movie theaters in and around New York City. More than 30 of his photographs from this series will be presented by Museum of the Moving Image in the exhibition The Booth: The Last Days of Film Projection, in the Museum lobby. These photos shine a light on what is quickly becoming a lost art form; they reveal the intricate beauty of the projectors and related ephemera such as canisters, reels, and the medium — celluloid itself — scattered across the often cramped booths. Usually anonymous and unseen, the skilled technicians who operate these increasingly rare machines are present in many of the images; their personalities evident in the handwritten notes, personal photographs, and posters that cover any available wall space.
“At a time when the projection of celluloid film and the craft of the film projectionist are quickly vanishing, Joseph Holmes’s intimate portraits preserve a visual record of the people who devote their lives to the craft. The photographs also preserve the unique working environment of the booth, with all its gadgets and machinery,” said Chief Curator David Schwartz.
The exhibition will be celebrated at an opening event on Friday, October 4, at 6:30 p.m. with a special screening of the 1924 Buster Keaton film Sherlock, Jr., in which the silent comic plays a projectionist who conjures himself into a movie, presented with live piano accompaniment. Holmes will also debut "Projection: Eighty-five Years of the Projection Booth in Movies," a twelve-minute supercut of clips from 45 movies that take place in projection booths, from Sherlock, Jr. to Inglourious Basterds. This event in the Museum’s Redstone Theater will also serve as a tribute to the Museum’s late chief projectionist, Richard C. Aidala, who died on August 20, 2013. Attendees will also have an opportunity to preview the exhibition.
“Richie Aidala was at the Museum since its opening in 1988, and was widely regarded as a master of his craft,” said Schwartz. “He had many other skills; he could repair a Thomas Edison Kinetoscope, and then fix a 1980s video arcade game. In the galleries and especially in the theater, he always put on a great show, and he will be missed by the Museum staff, by our members and visitors, and by many filmmakers and artists who relied on him to present their work properly.”
Tickets for the October 4 program are $12 public / $9 seniors and students / $6 children 3–12 and free for Museum members and invited guests. Museum members may reserve tickets in advance; tickets for the public will be available on the day of the event on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out about membership and to join, visit movingimage.us/support/membership or call 718 777 6877.
The photographs featured in The Booth were taken in 2012 and 2013. In addition to the projection booth and projectionists at Museum of the Moving Image, the exhibition includes photos taken by Holmes at nearly 20 movie theaters in New York City, Long Island, Upstate New York, and surrounding states. Among them are the booths at Anthology Film Archives and Film Forum; as well as nearby specialized theaters such as the Cinema Arts Centre (Huntington, NY), The Avon Theater (Stamford, Connecticut), and The Bombay Cinema (Flushing, Queens); commercial theaters including the Cobble Hill Cinema (Brooklyn) and the Chelsea Clearview; and also drive-in theaters in New York and Pennsylvania.
A catalog for The Booth: The Last Days of Film Projection will be available for purchase in the Museum Store.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, at the end of 2012, 84% of commercial theater screens in the United States were set for digital projection. The number of analog screens (or those using celluloid film projection) dropped by more than 50% from a year ago to 6,387 screens. Most major movie studios will be distributing new releases only in digital format beginning this winter. Only archival prints of studio films will soon be available in 35mm.
Venue Description: Museum of the Moving Image advances the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media. In its expanded and renovated facilities - acclaimed for both its accessibility and bold design - the Museum presents exhibitions; screenings of significant works; discussion programs featuring actors, directors, craftspeople, and business leaders; and education programs which serve more than 50,000 students each year. The Museum also houses a significant collection of moving-image artifacts.