The second longest run during my term, and only behind Jaws for concession stand profit. And just like that film, the projectionists learned it quite well. In my case, that fact alone saved me and another worker.
After being promoted by attrition to lead projectionist at the Huntington Park Warner Theater, following an all too short stint of a few months showing movies, I attempted to settle into a semblance of routine. The summer of 1976, though, threw that totally out of proportion with its arrival as I completed of my college spring semester. The result of which gave me more time to work.
My Wednesdays were never, ever, the same from this moment forward. Primarily because, for those of us old enough to remember, that mid-point of the week was once the traditional day when movies opened, were released into theaters, back then. And preparing for the weekly changes was what I had to learn. It came with the new lead role I’d inherit.
Here, I head-counted a half-dozen patrons enjoying the movie as it drew down to the last of its scenes. I bounded upstairs in time to execute a proper changeover. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. All was well, yes? It was…until I went down again. As was my routine to see that no exit doors were left ajar, this occurred a mere 5 minutes later.
Before I arrived, the owner realized the demographics of the area were changing during the 70s, and that more and more of his clientele were Latino patrons. He was also competing for their dollars with the two other movie theaters along the Pacific boulevard shopping strip: the California and the Park (the other, the Lyric Theatre, went after, ahem, a different market).
I was taught on what is known as a Two Reel System — the older carbon arc variety. No splicing of film together to make it one large, easy to project unit. Nope…didn’t happen. The Warner’s projection booth had three, count them three, Simplex carbon arc projectors. Museum pieces, really. Only two were used at any time. The third kept as cold backup for when one of others totally arrested on you, which could happen given the age of these antiques.
By the mid-70s, I needed a steady job to support my endeavor of higher education. Perhaps affording to have money in my pocket for dating purposes, too. Youth and hormones can be mercenary. A college education was something my mother pushed for, and I (the oldest surviving) got that obligación. Now, my younger brother (by a year and eight months) on the other hand sought work foremost.