The attraction of old projectors never dims
Old-fashioned film projectors are very rare these days, but they have a special place for Wang Yijun, 67, of Qingdao, who still spends a lot of time with them.
Wang was a projectionist for 43 years before he retired seven years ago, and his skill with old film projectors has been recognized by the Qingdao Film Museum.
Last year it asked him to repair one of its vintage film projectors and subsequently took him on as a technician to maintain and repair other vintage projectors, and to operate those presenting movies on celluloid.
"I can repair many German film projectors, something no one else in Qingdao can do," Wang says.
"To be a projectionist you need to know a lot, including about electricity, optics and mechanics," Wang says, adding that he witnessed traditional films from when they were in their heyday until they eventually died.
He joined the Chinese Navy's cultural department when he was 17, and when he retired in 1974 from the service he became a projectionist at the renowned Red Star Movie Theater in Qingdao, remaining there until it was demolished 30 years later.
"I projected 6,450 movies a total of 38,700 times, and the length of the films I projected measures more than 116 million meters, nearly three times the circumference of the Earth," Wang says.
"When I started working for the Red Star Movie Theater it was the largest in Qingdao, in terms of number of screenings and audiences or box office revenue, as well as film distribution revenue, which the cinema pays to the producers.
"These days it's difficult to imagine that in the 1970s and 80s people might line up for ages for a film only to be told eventually that there were no more tickets".
Red Star Cinema has 1,102 seats and a 12mx5m screen that was the largest of its kind in Qingdao at the time, Wang says.
As digital cinematography became the norm in the late 1990s some of the theater's sessions attracted only 10 or 20 people and it barely broke even.
Two to three years after Wang retired in 2010, film on celluloid finally died in the market place.
"Although it was hard to master film skills and knowledge, I was always thrilled when I saw light projected on a screen and fell in love with the job."
Working with vintage film projectors gave him the greatest happiness in his life, he says.