The Last Projectionist
In 1909 the Electric Cinema in Birmingham opened. Through the decades, wars, eras and films, the Electric took on different titles and roles within the film exhibition world, finally now remaining the longest running cinema in the UK. THE LAST PROJECTIONIST is in essence the story of this cinema. But to celebrate the life of the cinema comes with it the inevitable question of its future, and director (and owner of the Electric) Tom Lawes successfully opens this further, delving into cinema exhibition as a whole in the digital world in which we now live.
The film uses a staggering variety of footage, including interviews with patrons of the cinema from as early as 1917, to tours of the building with former owners, and footage of the cinema in its various heydays. Perhaps the most interesting aspect, though, is a discussion between a number of the longest-serving projectionists in the country – put together to reminisce about the former days of cinema, and air their views on the current state and the future of the medium. Running parallel with the history of the Electric, this discussion adds a personal element to what it once meant to run a film through the now-declining 35mm projector, and indeed to experience cinema as it was through most of the twentieth century. The result of this discussion is more hopeful than you might expect; the projectionists agreeing that while we are entering a new era, digital is just another phase of cinema exhibition and its development should not be hindered simply due to sentimentality.
For any film fan or historian, this film is a document worth its weight in gold, especially as told through the eyes of a cherished landmark of British cinema. Within this, running through the film like a role of 35mm film in a projector, is the obvious love that Tom Lawes feels for the Electric and for cinema as a whole, giving the film its heart. Not to be missed, and truly a treasured part of any film festival.
For more information about The Electric cinema, visit the www.theelectric.co.uk.
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