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Cinema projectionist

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Cinema projectionists operate the equipment that shows films in cinemas.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £12,000 to £22,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 30 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements, but you’ll need to be at least 18, because of film classification laws.
It will help if you have:

  • IT skills
  • technical skills in electrics, electronics, cameras or sound equipment a keen interest and knowledge of UK, US and world cinema
You could join a film club to develop your knowledge of film formats and projection equipment, or do another job in a cinema and work your way up.

Creative Skillset has information on how to become a projectionist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • practical skills
  • the ability to carry out routine jobs quickly
  • good attention to detail
  • organisational and time-keeping skills

3. What you'll do

In an older cinema, you may run several mechanical projectors at once in different rooms.

In modern cinemas the work is less physical with digital projection systems instead of mechanical projectors and film reels.

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • receiving and checking film reels
  • loading the films onto the projector in the right order
  • making sure the film runs smoothly through the projector
  • checking that sound is operating properly
  • joining (‘splicing’) lengths of film together if they break
  • storing the films safely
  • sending on the reels to other cinemas
  • looking after the projection equipment and organising services
  • being responsible for heating, lighting, ventilation and alarm systems in the cinema 
For digital screening, you’ll need to co-ordinate online delivery of the films with the distributor and manage the security systems to allow the films to be screened.

4. Salary

Starter: £12,000 to £17,000

Experienced: up to £22,000 (head projectionist)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

In most jobs you’ll start work in the afternoon and continue until around midnight. Many cinemas operate a shift system, including weekends.

You’ll work in a windowless, air-conditioned operating booth or projection box. You’ll usually work alone during screenings.

Working with traditional film projectors can be quite physical, as you’ll need to lift and carry heavy film reels. In some cinemas you may have to climb ladders to take care of the screen and curtains.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a head projectionist or move into management.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018