After lucking out with an independent movie theatre in Revelstoke, I could hardly believe my eyes when I spotted another little cutie in Hope, B.C.
Alas, we arrived too late to catch the movie. But as I was snapping a few pix of the exterior, a man came out to change the “coming soon” posters (unfortunately, one of the posters was for that god-awful Snow White movie starring Julia Roberts. But this will be forgiven).
“Want to see inside the theatre?” he inquired.
I looked into his face. It wasn’t the visage of a serial killer. He wasn’t offering me any free Nibs, either. It seemed safe enough.
“Of course I do!”
So Kevin, who turned out to be the owner, let me poke around in the Hope Cinema, which has been entertaining the masses since 1945.
Without me even mentioning that I was a blogger, Kevin also offered a peek inside the projection room. This felt like a very elite thing indeed – I’ve never been up in that secret room from which the dusty light beam originates!
Turns out the Hope Cinema is ultra-retro in that it’s still using film and a 1950′s projector. For a film like John Carter, Kevin manually splices together seven reels.
Hope Cinema’s website provides an extensive history of the theatre, but my favourite parts are about the business of being a projectionist:
In order to become a projectionist, one first had to be an apprentice for 2 years and then write a series of three different two hour exams on electricity, the history of cinematography as well as 7 different kinds of projectors and sound systems.
Also, the possibility of a sudden blaze was very real:
The projectionist was always alert for the threat of fire since the nitrate film was extremely flammable and the very bright light of the projector would easily ignite it if the film became jammed. A build up of film dust could also cause a “filmgate fire”. If this happened, a lever in the projection booth would either be automatically activated or triggered by the projectionist himself. The entire projection booth was fire proof and the lever would cause the fire doors to close and shutters to come down over the projection booth windows. A lack of oxygen would stifle the fire and prevent the entire theatre from burning down. This safety system was tested regularly by the projectionists.
I can only imagine how tense it was in the projection booth in 1991 when they showed Backdraft.
If you’re in Hope, make me proud by supporting Kevin’s theatre!