Exploring the Box
Projection boxes are busy places, filled with a range of technologies essential to the production of a good film show. Many of these technologies relate directly to the projection of moving images and sound. However, there are inevitbaly also pieces of supplementary equipment used to endure the smooth running of the show, or uphold the law in terms of safety. The projectionist would be requeired to know how to work all of this apparatus and comply with numerous safety regulations.
This is a rare image of British cinema projection box in the silent era, showing the enclosure at the Picture House, Briggate, Leeds, which was part of the very first wave of purpose-built cinemas in the UK. The photograph was probably taken around the time that the Picture House opened on 4 April 1911.
Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd, which owned the Leeds Picture House, spent significantly more money on building its cinemas than the majority of its rivals, and this projection box would have been considered unusually spacious by the standards of the day. Most British cinemas in the 1910s were conversions of existing buildings, and many projection boxes at this time were barely large enough for two projectionists to turn around in; the intense heat from the carbon arc lamps consequently made them extremely uncomfortable work spaces. A government scheme was launched in the First World War to train disabled soldiers to become projectionists, but participating labour exchanges were warned that soldiers who had been gassed and suffered from respiratory problems should never be offered jobs in cinemas with the smaller type of projection box.
This exhibit explores this photograph in detail, highlighting the key features of this genuine - if slightly unusual - 1910s projection room.