85 Years & Counting













The Harbor Theatre runs a two projector, manually operated, carbon arc projection system. Our rebuilt Super Simplex projector heads were last manufactured in 1932- think about the number of hours this equipment has been in operation!  It shows what good design and maintenance can achieve! The carbon-arc lamps we use to produce screen light are considered obsolete, but produce the purest, whitest light you can get- better in some ways than today’s standard movie light source, xenon lamps, which are known to have “hot spots” on-screen, and sometimes flicker. We’re stubbornly “holding out” and planning to continue to run carbon arc lamps until we are forced to convert to digital cinema when 35mm film is no longer available (predicted within the next five years)- or when we can no longer procure projection arc carbon (currently only manufactured in India, using equipment probably formally owned and used by Union Carbide to manufacture arc carbon in Danbury Ct.).  Of course our SMART sound system is four channel “solid state” stereo-surround. Sound standards have come a long way since 1932 and we’ve upgraded to keep up with the times!

The beauty of a two projector system is that we can run archival prints: unlike multiplex automation, which requires cutting and splicing all film reels together, we run the film on separate 2000′ reels: approximately 5 reels make up an hour and forty minute show. The film runs through the projector at 24 frames per second, 90 feet per minute, 2000 feet every 20 minutes. As the ‘on-screen’ projector runs low on film, a “reel-end alarm” rings, warning the projectionist. The projectionist “strikes” (lights) the second arc lamp, loaded with sufficient carbon to run the next film reel in the feature, and allows the lamp to warm up for a few minutes. 10 1/2 feet before the picture ends, a small, circular “motor cue” appears on-screen for 1/6th of a second in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  That’s when the projectionist starts the second projector and waits for the “change-over cue”, which appears 1  1/2 feet before the film ends. The projectionist then operates a changeover foot pedal which changes the picture from one machine to the other. Then the sound is switched to the ‘on-screen’ machine.  The projectionist also operates the remote-controlled golden “traveler” curtain, in front of the movie screen.  This curtain was formally installed in The Dover Theatre, in Dover Plains, New York.  The projectionist also operates the remote-controlled masking curtains, which change the width of the screen.  The Harbor Theatre can run wide-screen Cinemascope (11 1/2 feet high x 26 feet wide), “Flat” movies which are 11 1/2 feet x 18.5 feet, and our screen ads or DVDs which run 11 1/2 feet by 15 feet. The “sound screen” is a custom cut, sewn and streched, highly reflective vinyl with hundreds on tiny holes per square inch. The audience can’t see the holes, but they are there to let the sound thru- the theatre’s  three “front” speakers are mounted behind the screen, six feet in the air, facing mid-auditorium.


After over 100 years, the 35mm film era is about to come to an end. The majority of movie theatres in Maine have already converted to digital presentation (D-Cinema).  

The Harbor Theatre converted to Digital Cinema in April 2013.