As theater projectionists, Teddy Greaves and Marty Knopf have seen their fair share of drama â€” and not always on the big screen.
In September 1988, Mr. Greaves was running â€œNightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Masterâ€ at the Loews Paradise Quad Theater in the Bronx, when an unexpected horror scene flashed before his eyes. Looking through the small window of his dimly lighted booth that night, Mr. Greaves watched as police officers approached a man in the balcony who was wanted on a murder charge.
The man, when told that he was under arrest, jumped from his seat, gun in hand, and fired toward three officers. That shot missed, but one officer returned fire, striking the man in the head. He died at a nearby hospital.
â€œThere was blood splattered everywhere and people screaming,â€ Mr. Greaves, 75, who now works at the Paris Theater on West 58th Street off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, recalled as he stood over a giant reel of film spinning on a huge plate during the playing of â€œLa Vie en Rose.â€ â€œI was never so scared at the movies in all my life.â€
Mr. Knopf, 59, who also works mostly at the Paris these days, still gets chills recalling the time he was nearly eaten alive at a theater in Times Square by an audience watching a bad print of â€œNight of the Living Dead.â€
â€œThere was a George Romero fan club in the house,â€ said Mr. Knopf, referring to the director of the horror movie. â€œWhen the film started breaking up, they began chanting: â€˜Eat the projectionist! Eat the projectionist!â€™ â€
Mr. Greaves, a widower who lives in the Bronx, has worked in dozens of theaters in the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan for about 37 years. Mr. Knopf, a bachelor and Manhattan resident, has been at it for about 23 years. They agreed that the trick of their trade is to never become a part of the show they are showing.
â€œIf someone is talking about the projectionist during a movie, thatâ€™s usually not a good thing,â€ Mr. Greaves said. â€œWe had a guy here one night who didnâ€™t like the movie, so he turns around and throws a rock at our window. Now if you donâ€™t like the quality of the film, thatâ€™s one thing. But if you donâ€™t like the film itself, donâ€™t blame us.â€
The two men, who have seen actors like Kirk Douglas, Al Pacino and Christopher Reeve in the audience, have watched thousands of movies, many more than once. Mr. Greaves said he has seen â€œStar Warsâ€ 112 times.
Mr. Greaves includes â€œCasablancaâ€ and â€œShaneâ€ among his favorites, and said that he could never get as excited about any movie as a Bronx audience once did during Bruce Leeâ€™s â€œEnter the Dragon.â€