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Meet the Brave Projectionists Behind ‘The Hateful Eight’ 70mm Roadshow

Meet the Brave Projectionists Behind 'The Hateful Eight' 70mm Roadshow

READ MORE: What It’s Like to Be a ‘Hateful Eight’ 70mm Projectionist (With Quentin Tarantino Watching)

Before delving into the Sisyphean task of putting together the 100 theater roadshow and some of the problems with individual 70mm screenings you’ve been reading about, it’s important to first remember that while the ability to shoot on film might have recently come back from near death, the battle between digital and film projection has been over for awhile now. Even at the prestigious, filmmaker-friendly New York Film Festival — whose state of the art facilities are the rare venues still capable of screening 35mm — movies that were shot on celluloid, like "Carol," "Bridge of Spies" and "Listen Up Philip," have screened digitally (DCP).  Recently, only "Inherent Vice" screened there in 35mm and that was big deal.  

So the idea of a three-hour 70mm film, shot in Ultra Panavision — a format for which hasn’t been used since 1964 and has an unruly 2.76:1 aspect ratio — screening four to five times a day in 100 different commercial theaters that ripped out their 35mm projectors years ago? Ridiculous. Yet that’s what Boston Light and Sound, a speciality projection and sound company, was tasked with early this year when they were approached by The Weinstein Company about "The Hateful Eight" roadshow.  

The parameters of this project are nuts," explained Matt Jones, a curator of the Moving Image at the Moving Image Archives at the UNC School of the Arts, who is currently a roadshow projectionist at the AMC Potomac Mills 18 in Virginia. "They don’t make parts anymore, there is practically no industry left for film projection. So it’s a minor miracle they got it all pulled together in the first place. This is my first time working with BL&S, and I am truly astounded by their expertise and how game they are for all of it. It’s a company of techs and engineers, so it must have killed them how quickly this had to move. But between the technical feat itself, the negotiations with 100 disparate venues, and dealing with a Hollywood studio and its timetable everything, has had to pull together fast."

Added BS&L’s co-founder Chapin Cutler, "By any metric, this project should never have come off as it has."

The project began with a nationwide search for 70mm equipment that had been abandoned or destroyed. Because there were not enough working or complete projectors and backup parts, BL&S had to design and manufacture 125 different parts, including gears, shafts, sprockets and rollers. They would also have to manufacture two different anamorphic lenses that could widen the image to accommodate Ultra Panavision’s extremely wide aspect ratio, develop kits that allowed old 35mm platters to handle the extra weight of a 3-hour-and-20-minute 70mm print, and locate and refurbish DTS playback systems to properly play the film’s sound. Oh, and so as to not burden DCP theaters that ripped out their film projectors years ago, all of this would need to be designed as a plug-and-play kit that could be shipped and quickly assembled in projection booths around the country.

To give you a sense of just how vast this undertaking was, watch this three minute tour of all the once obsolete equipment that needed to be found, restored and retrofitted for the roadshow.  

The Projectionists

Possibly the hardest job in pulling off the roadshow has fallen on the projectionists. To man 100 booths, BL&S scoured the country for the best possible candidates, reaching out to film festivals and cinema archives, training current projectionists, asking their own technicians to step into the position when necessary, and pulling celluloid projectionists out of retirement.

The deck is stacked against these technicians right from the get go, with a majority getting their assignments late in December and given at most a day at their roadshow theater to prepare. 

"The technician assigned to the venues in Florida told me that when he used to work for a large theatre chain setting up projectors, they would spend a month testing and working out kinks before it was ready for showing," explained Noelle Alemán, a roadshow projectionist stationed at the Regal Kendal Village Stadium 16 in Miami.   

The reality is that, while BL&S did an amazing job building the 70mm projection system in time for the roadshow, the projectionists needed even more time to prep for the cobbled together machines. Scott DuVall, projecting "The Hateful Eight" at the AMC Southlake 24 in Morrow, Georgia, told Indiewire, "With the way some of these theaters have been outfitted and, for a lack of a better word, Frankenstein’d together, every venue is a minefield of potential issues to overcome."

"Many of these projectors are practically antiques, the platter systems were never intended to support the weight and size of 70mm," wrote Adam Witner, in an article for Indiewire about his experience projecting for the roadshow. "Dozens of tiny mechanical failures are bound to happen, and part of our job is to make sure small issues don’t propagate into catastrophes."

Alemán told Indiewire about one of her close calls: "[It was] the last 20 minutes of the [show] and the film very nearly fell off of the platter. I caught it in time, but because of how distorted it got, I had to hand-feed the film through the rollers for the last 20 minutes. Let me tell you, that was the most nerve-wracking and agonizing 20 minutes of my life."

For this article, Indiewire talked to seven different "Hateful Eight" projectionists and all of them told the same story: for every one problem that interferes with one of the roadshow screenings, there are nine near catastrophes they are able to prevent. It’s intense and grueling work.  

Roadshow projectionists screening the movie four times a day are working 16-hour shifts, while five shows a day means a 20-hour shift, all without a day off for 14 straight days. They are sleep deprived, hungry and most are stationed in a strange city away from their families for Christmas and New Years. What’s developed though is a support network amongst the projectionist, who stay in constant contact over their smart phones, lending technical and emotional support. 

"I can tell you in all of my years I’ve never worked with a more talented and dedicated group of people," wrote Cinemark Paradise 24 projectionist Jason Garnett in an email to Indiewire. "What we’re pulling off is nothing short of a miracle. It’s cinematic history and I know everyone loves being a part of it." And that’s what really binds the BL&S employees and their projectionists together more than anything: they are all cinephiles, just as passionate about film being projected as Quentin Tarantino himself. 

Wrote projectionist Matt Jones:

"I’ve seen this print 22 times so far. There is no question it’s light years better looking than the DCP. The digital files is flat, dull by comparison. And I’ve had shows that simply couldn’t have gone better, but I’ve also had to stop a few times to work on something, and I’m sure I’ve disappointed a couple audiences in the process. But what we’re doing here is allowing audiences to see what we’ve lost as a society. It’s a glimpse into how things were, and all the effort is worth it when you talk to someone who truly experienced something different than what they’ve become used to. The excitement is palpable!"

"I’m not naive enough to think we can turn the clock back on an entire industry, but it is my fervent hope that we are engaging our audiences not only with watching film, but that we are opening some eyes to how far the industry has drifted from how it began and thrived for the better part of a century, and maybe even make them consider if that has been for the better or not. We’re demonstrating that film is not dead, that there are still true believers ready to rage against the dying of the light!"

As for the problems themselves, most projectionists, with the support of BL&S’s 22 roving technicians, feel as if the worst is behind them. They also believe that the problems have been overblown: "Our failed show ratio is way below 1% when you add them all up," reports BL&S’s Chapin. "It is unfortunate that they happened. But, as with modern technology, occasional problems do occur. They can’t be avoided."

"No one has done this before, certainly to this extent, by most measures, it has been a success," he concludes. "We have learned from it, and if given the opportunity again, will certainly improve our track record. But, given the response, including audience members waving at the projectionist when they leave the theatre, I believe that Mr. Tarantino and The Weinstein Company have provided an experience many will remember for a very long time."

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Jim Laymon

I had to drive to the next town to see it when the roadshow theater I was at had a broken platter system. But it was worth it. Great show.

Abra Alahouzos

My brother Billy Alahouzos was a projectionist in Florida! So proud of him!

Tim Kingston

I miss the showmanship of the Cinema, today’s films are supermarket movies. I am retired now but I still prefer fim.

d'Rev roscoe beauregard

await to see this film as I live along the Sabine River, the historical No mans land of west louisiana, and became engaged in viewing films as a child, .. Merryville, La a 15 dirt road drive.. In SF, 69/70-75 saw every possible movie I miss in childhood, most in those glory houses designed for CINE… I was unaware of the shooting method of this film, and am more interested in seeing it more than ever… I have a number of photos from my aunt’s nephew, taken by an amateur photographer, the father to her children, late 40s.. Land Camera. the photos are as healthy now as they were then, as using the highest quality of film/development and lens gave these photos priceless quality.. Namely they have a 16 yr old Willie Nelson with them, her sister’s boy… Craig Stark is staring in this film as well, he is a face friend as well as his mother Sondra Stark.. I have seen most of Tarantino films, while I was in the SF bay area.. thanks for this critique.. hopeful to see it in Bmont Texas tomorrow ( or later today, as it is saturday )..

William Girdler


"Roadshow projectionists screening the movie four times a day are working 16-hour shifts, while five shows a day means a 20-hour shift, all without a day off for 14 straight days. They are sleep deprived, hungry and most ares stationed in a strange city away from their filmailes for Christmas and New Years."

The projectionists running the 70mm roadshow are making $800 a day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Year’s Day which is double-time. $1600 a day.

Which is all very fine and dandy, if you got a projectionist worth that pay. But in some markets, you get projectionists brought out of retirement who have either forgotten everything about what they used to do, were never very good to begin with or incapable of listening or taking direction from the non-union projectionists working at theaters nowadays, which is almost all of them. (Just because they’re non-union doesn’t mean they don’t know and love their equipment, FYI.)

Which is what happened in our market. Screening after screening of mistakes. The theatre refunding sometimes up to half of the audience. It would be one thing if it were one, or even two screenings with mistakes, but when you’re looking at an entire weekend of refunds, you’ve got a bad apple.

And does the audience blame the projectionist brought in for this roadshow? No. They blame the theatre, they blame the current projectionist.

John Maddening

It’s not the "failed show" that’s the problem. It’s that there is an emulsion scratch on the right side of the print for about 1/5-1/4 of the film. Or that the lower fifth of the frame was never in focus. Or that they didn’t have lower masking that could raise that high. Or that the projector wasn’t properly bolted to the floor, so the film had that slight "jiggle" indicative of theaters that don’t really care about their presentation.

The simple fact is, in many cities there are permanent 70mm houses with expert projectionists and non-cobbled-together projectors that the film could have played on instead. There are two such theaters in the Twin Cities alone (the Heights Theater and Willow Creek), but they chose to bring a portable projector to a mall theater.

Timothy L. Baker

Running 70mm (and IMAX) were the times I most loved my job as a projectionist for 42 years until DCP took all that away. I loved running on 20 minute reels and felt automation took a lot of the showmanship out of the industry. Working on this project would have been a dream come true again. THERE IS NOTHING THAT LOOKS AS GOOD AS CELLULOID!

Damion L Smith

To all who put in the excessively hard work in making this Roadshow 70mm dream work I commend you. I’m in pre-production. For my next film Atone. And after watching the beauty of film and it’s organic nature. I am going to make the call to shoot on film. It’ll be 16mm 3. Perf most likely (I’m not in the 70mm ballpark yet). But I think I’ll use this UCLA film school kodak discount and take a chance. Thank you for the motivation Mr. Tarantino and crew!

Art Erickson

I was nwver certified, but I learned how amd ran the projectors in a tiny village on Vancouver Island’s West Coast years ago and I’m in awe.

Roy H. Wagner ASC

I was a roadshow projectionist in most of the Hollywood grand theaters in the change over carbon arc era. I would have loved to participate in this if I’d been asked. I’m a director of photography now and have been so for over 40 years. I’ve never seen so many concerned audiences. If digital projection expectations were the same as those for film what a better world it would be. There is nothing better than a film presentation where an overture is played, auditorium lights dimmed while stage lighting glitters the proscenium drape. As the overture builds to the end the proscenium drake opens as the stage lights fade. As the last strands of overture ends the lights are down, the proscenium drape is virtually ole. And the first image opens on a. Opening title drape. I’ve heard many audiences applaud a beautifully presented opening. The old legacy was that the show started as you stepped through the theater doors. Where do you ever see that anymore? Fire departments got rid of most stage drapery. Of course management didn’t fight. It was a huge savings in fabric, rigging and motors. It use to be a beautiful experience.


Great article! I’m seeing the roadshow at the Music Box in Chicago tomorrow. Props to these fine people!

Sally Strasser, Pittsburgh Waterfront

QT and BLSI gave me a wonderful Christmas present–getting to run film again, and with a film shot in in exquisite way. My projector setup worked really well, and the print is beautiful and pristine. After 35 years I’m not retired yet…or ready to! I feel privileged and am enjoying every minute of it!

William Matthews

There are many qualified operators, like myself, at the ready to assist your Roadshows. Many of my projectionist brothers are already aiding BL&S in varied locations. If more of us were recruited, there would have been less print damage. I understand these prints are quite pricey.

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