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Movie Projectionists

At a Glance

  • Set up equipment to show films to audiences
  • Clean and maintain projectors or speakers
  • Usually work alone
  • May work days, evenings, or weekends
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Movie projectionists set up and operate projectors, lights, and sound equipment to show films to audiences.

Before show time, projectionists inspect the film to be sure it is in good condition. They repair it if it is damaged or find another copy. Next, they rewind the film to the beginning of the reel. They insert the film in the magazine, or top reel, of the projector. They thread the film through the projector onto the spool. They position, install, and connect microphones, amplifiers, and lights. Projectionists coordinate the timing of images on the screen with sound effects, music, and commentary. They adjust and monitor the projection light and focus, volume, and tone.

Movie projectionists often coordinate several reels of film to show them in order. In theaters, they may show ads and previews before starting the first reel of the feature film. They monitor the progress of the movie and change reels without interrupting the show. In movie theater complexes, projectionists may show films for several theaters at one time.

Projectionists clean and service projectors and speakers. They make minor repairs and notify managers when major repairs are necessary. Movie projectionists or other helpers keep track of film canisters. They return them to distributors or file them in the film library.

Some movie projectionists are self-employed. They show films to groups who hire them for special occasions. Some work in motion picture production and distribution companies. They show movies for producers, actors, critics, and others who attend private screenings. They may operate projectors for film editors and ratings reviewers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Hospitality and Tourism cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to movie projectionists.

Common work activities

Movie projectionists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, movie projectionists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Movie projectionists frequently:

It is important for movie projectionists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for movie projectionists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Movie projectionists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study to consider


To work as a movie projectionist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

No formal education is required for this job. However, many employers prefer that you have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Work experience

Hobbies in photography or film production provide valuable background. In some movie theaters, staff members do many jobs. Thus, you may learn about movie projection when you are not selling tickets or working as a counter attendant.

On-the-job training

Movie projectionists often learn their skills on the job. They receive training from an experienced projectionist. Training lasts just a few days.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire people who have taken some courses or have experience using sound and visual equipment. However, they do hire and train people with no experience. They look for people who are careful, dependable, and alert. Evening and weekend theater jobs are open to students. Summer jobs may be easy to get.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.

Motion picture projectionists (SOC 39-3021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $11.60 $11.75 $12.01 $12.28 $14.19
Monthly $2,010 $2,036 $2,081 $2,128 $2,459
Yearly $24,120 $24,440 $24,990 $25,530 $29,510
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $11.97 $12.12 $12.36 $12.61 $12.77
Monthly $2,074 $2,100 $2,142 $2,185 $2,213
Yearly $24,900 $25,201 $25,721 $26,242 $26,554
    Vancouver Hourly $12.15 $12.48 $13.01 $14.48 $17.77
Monthly $2,106 $2,163 $2,255 $2,509 $3,080
Yearly $25,271 $25,953 $27,069 $30,115 $36,969
United States Hourly $8.60 $9.39 $10.94 $13.54 $18.70
Monthly $1,490 $1,627 $1,896 $2,346 $3,241
Yearly $17,890 $19,530 $22,760 $28,170 $38,890

Pay varies with the experience and responsibility of the worker. It also varies with the location and type of theater or employer. Projectionists who work for major movie production companies earn more than projectionists who work in movie theaters.

Very few movie theater workers earn health and vacation benefits. Movie projectionists who work full time for film production companies may receive health, vacation, and retirement benefits. They may belong to unions and have other tasks such as film editing.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Motion Picture Projectionists (SOC 39-3021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 246 5.3% 16.1% 35
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 25 4.0% 13.4% 3
    King County 189 6.3% 19.6% 28
    Pierce County 42 4.8% 15.2% 6
United States 4,900 -12.2% 5.2% 800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is declining sharply. Movie projectors are automated which reduces the need for projectionists. Also more people watch movies at home through Internet and cable services.

Job openings will occur as people leave the occupation for other jobs.

Other resources

IATSE Local #15 (external link)
2800 First Avenue, Suite 231
Seattle, WA 98121
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts of the US, Its Territories, and Canada (external link)
207 West 25th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster