The Projected Pictures Trust
A Visit to the archive in Halifax, UK
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Thomas Hauerslev||Date: 21.01.2019|
|Thomas Hauerslev, Bill Lawrence and Dion Hanson between a pair of curry-colored Gaumont-Kalee machines on 12 January 2019.|
What is "The Projected Pictures Trust" really? The PPT was started in November 1978 by a group of people with a passion for film projection. The PPT is organized all over the United Kingdom with six regional coordinators who take care of the cinema heritage. The president of the Trust is none other than Sir Sydney Samuelson, who started his projectionist career as a rewind-boy at the Luxor Lancing in September 1939. The PPT have around 100 members mostly in the UK, with some overseas members too. In 2001, in70mm.com contributor and PPT North West Regional Coordinator Mike Taylor wrote this text about the "The Projected Pictures Trust", titled "The PPT Looking after cinemas heritage":
In the 1970s more and more 'Picture Palaces' were being boarded-up, turned into bingo halls, split into multi- screens or razed to the ground for "redevelopment". More and more projection box equipment was being thrown into skips or sold for scrap. It was these developments that led, in November 1979, to the formation of the Projected Picture Trust. The initiative began with Charles Beddow, then the British Film Institute's Technical Officer. He had become acutely aware of the situation when setting up the BFI's network of film centres. What he saw on his travels convinced him that unless something was done, much of the nation's rich cinema heritage would be lost forever.
As a projectionist myself, I was always intrigued by the PPT, and their efforts of collecting vintage projection equipment, however, I never managed to visit or see the PPT collection and exhibition at Bletchley Park near London (where the Enigma code was deciphered during WW2). In 2014-15 the PPT moved out of Bletchley Park, and into G-Mill of Dean Clough, in Halifax in West Yorkshire. This was my opportunity to see the collection and catch up with PPT Technical Advisor Dion Hanson, and PPT North East Regional Coordinator Bill Lawrence who lives in Halifax. Unlike the location in London, the current PPT collection is not a museum and open to the public. The Dean Clough buildings are among the largest factory buildings in the world, and were used for the wool industry in Yorkshire during the "good old days". The carpet factory in Dean Clough closed in 1983. Since then, the factory building complex has been listed, and today hundreds of small business, restaurants and offices have moved in instead.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Go to the gallery: The Projected Pictures Trust, Halifax
Go to the gallery: Odeon Halifax (1938-1975) as Mecca Bingo Club
The PPT Looking after cinemas heritage
Join The Projected Picture Trust!
70mm Film Projectors
1930's Large Format Equipment at the USC Archive
The Cinema Museum, London
Sir Sydney Samuelson
The Projected Picture Trust
Dean Clough Mills,
|What is the purpose of the PPT?|
The Projected Picture Trust aims to Educate, Preserve and Restore cinema equipment. The Trust also has one of the largest technical archives of its type anywhere which is available to members (by appointment). The Trust has locations throughout the United Kingdom with local co-ordinators for members to get involved. It is the intention of the PPT to expand this side of our work in that, based on the principal, more educational visits will be promoted. [from the PPT web site]
Behind a heavy iron door in the basement of Dean Clough, a huge room opened up in front of me. What a sight. Long lines of old projectors, one after another. What seemed to be an almost endless row of machines turned out to be only a small part of the collection. I'd estimate that at least 50 machines, with lamp houses and spool boxes were stored in this room - maybe even more. Each machine was placed on its own separate EUR pallet to make moving relatively easy.
• Go to the gallery: The Projected Pictures Trust, Halifax
Just imagine, this basement room which used to be storage for carpets 100 years ago, was now a projector paradise with dozens of vintage 35mm projectors. Many of which I had never seen. To the right, six Kalee machines, to the left some Kinoton and Philips machines, behind them projectors from Westrex, Zeiss Ikon, Century, Bauer and Cinemaccanica all in different colors like green, gray, black, and yellow. All of them with a history from British cinemas, and saved from the scrap yard when cinemas were closed over the years. Old projectors, and not-so old projectors. Even some hand cranked machines with front shutters among them. Very old black-painted projectors with their flickering lights which once entertained millions of people in the local cinemas.
It is believed this is the largest collection of projection equipment in England. It is generally not open to the public, but on rare occasions the doors are in fact opened for the public to see the collection and reminisce about..... - perhaps better days? It was nice to see the Gaumont Kalee machines. They were manufactured locally in Leeds many years ago. Never ran one myself, but I've seen them in pictures from Danish cinemas.
|A Westrex 70mm projector produced in England.|
Bill and I walked along the passageway through the machines, turned left, and left again until we met Dion who was working in the "office". A room hidden away behind the projectors. In the middle of the room two tables and chairs around them. Alongside the rear wall, two old computers with Windows Xp, and a printer. Next to the PC, 5-6 filing cabinets with what seemed like endless folders and documents about projectors. Manuals, adverts, brochures and flyers. Everything "in progress" to be catalogued, filed and recorded by PPT Archivist and Librarian Tom Harris. The PPT also have a large collection of trade magazines, which are also stored here. Unlike Bletchley Park where rain came through the roof, the Dean Clough facility is very dry, and instead of water, dust is a problem.
Opposite the filing cabinets, a working table with a Dolby CP200, and several more instruments for making repairs of cinema sound equipment. Behind it, a regular workshop to repair and fix complete film projectors. One of the PPT's goals is to rent out machines - including a projectionist - for a variety of projects. Special screenings in old cinemas, or for film productions ["The King's Speech"], and before they leave Dean Clough, the machines must be prepared to full working order. The PPT have a large collection of spare parts, so it is hard to imagine something being beyond repair. If they don't have a particular part, it can be made.
After a cup of tea (Brown water for me, please, no milk or sugar) Dion gave us a presentation tour around the projectors and equipment, while sharing facts and anecdotes from his 50 years in the business. Some of the Kalee machines came out of the deLuxe laboratory in London and had been built to special specifications to run picture and sound separately. Nearly in mint condition, the paint was still the classic curry-yellow hammertone finish. Another interesting thing which was saved from deLuxe was some sort of projection printing lens. It was a special bench made of three cinema projection lenses to optically print 65mm to 35mm, according to Dion's theory. It was interesting to see two flat lenses and an anamorphic lens locked together. deLuxe in England never made 70mm prints, but maybe they made 65mm reductions to 35mm?
We passed several shelves filled with motors for different kinds of Cinemeccanica machines and 35mm spool boxes and endless rows of lamp houses in all shapes, color and sizes. Stored next to each other were two Cinemeccanica machines. A Victoria 8 and the older sibling, a Victoria X fitted with a Super Zenith 450 lamp house. There were many Victoria 8 machines in England, as they were imported as 70mm machines, to avoid tax. Only later, they were converted 35mm projection upon installation.
Around the corner, hidden behind more projectors, was a stock of projection lenses (with lots of dust), and sound readers for SDDS, Dolby Digital and DTS/DATASAT, as well as 35mm sound heads of several different brands. The lenses covered many years of history. From older CinemaScope optics made by Carl Zeiss to the latest Blue Star Isco anamorphic lenses, as well as prism anamorphic projection lenses from Kalee. One thing we didn't see were a set of reel towers or a non-rewind system. There were no Philips DP70 Todd-AO projectors in storage, however, as mentioned we did spot a Westrex 70mm projector, as well as two Cinemeccanica 70mm machines.
Once in a while, new vintage projectors are offered from collectors. In some cases they are accepted into the "family", but not always. If a projector is already represented in the collection, sometimes with several machines of the same brand and type, the offer is politely turned down.
The PPT's quarterly 40-page magazine in color called "Rewind".
The PPT also have a film collection of trailers, odd reels and full features. All of which is in progress of being catalogued. Many reels are stored in plastic cans, but they are hard to come by these days, so a more simple - and cheaper - solution has been chosen ... (unused) pizza boxes. Very suitable for 35mm film.
In this basement a small cinema has been set-up. Fully equipped with two Gaumont Kalee projectors and change over. The Screening cinema sits 8-12 people, a coffee table, and have a nice yellowish silk curtain in front of the screen.
The Trust publishes an official quarterly (spring-summer-fall-winter) for PPT members. The 40 page magazine in color is called "Rewind" and also available as a PDF for membership downloading. The quarterly is edited by Peter Allen and features articles about events where PPT participates with projectors, portraits of old cinemas, film projectors, master classes about 35mm sound heads and much more. Contributions are always welcomed from the trust's members, says the PPT web site. Each issue cost 3,5 GBP. The latest issue is #161, Winter 2018/19.
It was fun and nostalgic to see the PPT collection and I could almost sense the sound of running projectors. The smell of oil, carbon arcs and film ticking away over the sprockets again. Seeing all these aperture plates, lens holders, feed sprockets, lenses, pressure bands, lens revolvers and intermittent sprockets - all something I was very familiar with in my (few) years as a projectionist in Copenhagen (1982 - 1994) - brought back good memories. All these machines which once projected the latest films from Hollywood in black and white and Technicolor, and starring Greta Garbo, Alec Guinness, James Stewart, Laurel & Hardy, Roger Moore, Marilyn Monroe and many others across Great Britain, are now all silent. Sitting in a cold - but dry - basement in Halifax. Saved for posterity and they are all being taken care of by a group of people who simply cannot resist this voluntary work. They have done it for 40 years so far. Special thanks to Dion and Bill for their enthusiasm, I enjoyed the visit a lot.
• Go to The PPT Looking after cinemas heritage
• Go to Join The Projected Picture Trust!
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