Fifth Avenue – Vancouver, BC
This was the company run by Leonard Schein for many years, and it incorporated 5th Avenue Cinemas, the Ridge Theatre and the Park Theatre. These cinemas were some of the best-known independent movie houses in Vancouver for decades, until Schein sold the company to Cineplex in early 2013 (shortly after being forced to close the Ridge Theatre).
Fifth Avenue Cinemas
2110 Burrard Street
It was at this five-screen venue that the Projection Project truly began: in late 2011, Silmara and Curtis were watching an Almovadar movie from the balcony. When the credits rolled, they were happened to turn around and catch a glimpse of the film seemingly fly in from nowhere straight into the projector. They later learned this cinema used the newer platter system, in which the five or six reels that make up most features are spun together into one large continuous roll, which is then laid on a large horizontal platter. This allows the movie to be played without reel changes every 20-odd minutes, unlike the traditional system which required two projectors to alternate reels (and also required more vigilance from the projectionist).
Intrigued at the photogenic quality of this old technology, and marvelling at its longevity, Silmara knew she wanted to enter the hidden world of the projectionist booth, with her camera as her passport. Owner Leonard Schein and manager Ciarra O’Donnel were instantly open to the idea. In fact, without the generosity and enthusiasm from everyone at Festival Cinemas (including Steve Ferguson at the Ridge), the Projection Project may have never really got off the ground. Everyone at Festival Cinemas made us feel welcome and gave us tremendous access to all parts of the three theatres in the chain. Their trust was was remarkable: Silmara and Curtis were often left alone in projection booths while a movie was running, free to photograph everything they could see (while being careful not to knock anything over or interrupt the movie in any way, of course).
The timing of this initial interest in film projection was serendipitous: on our first contact with them, the staff at 5th Avenue told the couple they’d have to hurry: their 35 mm projectors were going to be replaced with digital ones within a fortnight (the Park had already converted at that point, while the Ridge would never acquire digital equipment).