|Inside the Roxy projection booth|
The first thing many people say when they see our projection booth is, "everything is so big." But the Roxy's booth is probably one of the smallest booths operating today.
Today's movie theatres have big spacious booths, because most of them cover multiple screens. So there's plenty of room from one projector to the next.
When the Roxy was built in 1930, there was much more concern for cramming as many seats into the building as possible, than there was for making the projection booth livable; so, the booth commands a grand total of 10 x 16 feet in the building.
In the beginning, our projection booth contained two projectors. Movies would arrive at the theatre on reels of 15 to 19 minutes each, and in the old days, the projectionist would run the first reel on one machine, then make a "changeover" to switch to the second reel on the other machine. Done properly, a changeover was seamless and unnoticable to the audience. On many nights, there would be two projectionists: One for each projector. (Usually, one of these people was getting paid...the other one was just hanging out because there was nothing else in town to do, and why not see the movie...again?)
In the Roxy booth, the more experienced projectionist operated machine #2 (the left machine). Despite its secondary number, the #2 machine was always the first one to be started. The projectionist had to fire up the lamp, start the film rolling, dim the houselights, kill the pre-show music, put the picture on the screen, and open the stage curtain. It was done by pushing various buttons, flipping switches, pulling levers, turning knobs and praying everything worked properly. It was all done manually, and all in the space of seven or eight seconds.
These days, the changeover is less common. The majority of projection booths now use a platter system to transport the film. With the platter system, the film reels are spliced together and wound onto a horizontal disc. This way, the film is threaded one time, and runs continuously through one projector. After the film has ended its run, the reels are separated again, and the film is sent back to the depot to be shipped on to its next engagement.
We installed our platter system in 1980, along with a complete new projection system. We replaced our 1930-vintage sound system with a solid-state system that had no tubes to burn out. Our single speaker behind the screen was a classic: An Altec Voice of the Theatre, model A5, weighing something like 250 pounds.
Our stereo sound system was installed in 1992, and our DTS Digital Sound system came along in 1995. We took a further step forward in sound technology by "bi-amping" our speakers (meaning each woofer and tweeter has its own amplifier power source) and we converted our sound to Dolby Digital, the leading name in cinema sound.
In June of 2010, we made the biggest change in our projection booth in the Roxy's history: We installed digital cinema projection equipment. With the digital system, the movie is still projected onto the screen as a beam of light from the booth, but everything else is different. There is no film; the movie plays from a computer hard drive. Thus the picture is steadier and brighter, and there are no scratches or dust as can happen with film.
We also added the latest feature to hit modern cinema: Digital 3-D. Of course 3-D is nothing new; it's been around since the 1950s. But the special effects of today's movies, combined with the bright, steady digital picture, gives you a truly thrilling 3-D experience.
This collection of pictures shows you what few people ever get to see: The inside of the Roxy projection booth, past and present.