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By Graham Rae | March 3, 2004

Projectionists. They never, ever get the respect or recognition they deserve. Think about it. How many times have you sat in a cinema and actually paid any mind at all to the person behind you running the projector? None whatsoever – unless it breaks down, that is.

The following is an interview conducted a couple of years ago, never used elsewhere, with Max Gibson, who has been in the projection business in Scotland for nearly a half-century. I asked him the questions here just before the local Falkirk cinema, the ABC, closed its doors for the last time.

Max’s flickershowing lair in the ABC was on the top floor of the old cinema, which had once been a dancehall in days gone by. I ascended the narrow winding stairwell behind him and got a glimpse into a different world. It was truly odd to see the town I had grown up in from an altogether different angle, and I stared out of a window over familiar landmarks grown suddenly alien and new and intriguing.

Falkirk is a small town with small-minded people and not a lot going on in it. Going to see a film is one of the few things to do apart from get drunk or drive endlessly in circles around the town center if you’re a boy racer wanker. Growing up, the ABC had always been an exotic hothouse of excitement and release and mystery. I remember marveling at posters for the likes of Lucio Fulci exploitation flickershows like “House by The Cemetery” and “City of The Living Dead,” heady, forbidden stuff when you’re only a preteen. And, once, something (I’ve never even heard of since – maybe I just wet-dreamed it) called “Caligula’s Hot Nights,” which never even had an image on the electric blue poster, just the name of the film and an ‘X’, that way-cool rating. Man, that was f*****g hardcore quality mayhem. No wonder the place made an impression.

Seeing the projection booth with Max and looking down into the cinemas I had (mis)spent large chunks of my youth in was an eye-opener, too. A million disparate celluloid images flashed through my mind: seeing my first AA (very roughly a PG-13) film when I was 12 or 13, “Bladerunner.” Seeing my first 18 (‘R’) when I was 15, “The Terminator.” Going to see a double bill of “Revenge of The Nerds” and “Bachelor Party” (Tom Hanks’ “lost” film from his CV these days) when I was 15 with a friend and us hunkering down because sat two rows in front of us was our music teacher from school. Seeing the Eddie Murphy film “The Golden Child” with my brother and him puking on the floor through an upset stomach; a fairly apt criticism of the film still. Opening the back door of Cinema 1 to let my brother and his friend sneak in to see “Day of The Dead.”

A million variant memories on an entertainment theme; sure every single person reading these words could provide matching ones of their own. But how many of you have ever seen the projection booth, or thought about seeing it? It just never really crosses your mind. So the next time you go to see a movie, spare a thought for the anonymous person in the room from where the golden Technicolor light is spraying the screen. Being a true projectionist is a dying dinosaur art, so let Max’s story be a wee insight into that lonely, hidden world for you…

Get the interview in part two of MAX GIBSON: THE MAN BEHIND THE MAGIC>>>

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