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TOPIC: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability

Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 14:32 #22344

  • jukingeo
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Hello,

I am in the midst of purchasing a theatre and they have fairly vintage gear in the booth. I know the theatre was built in the early 40's and the projectors are Simplex's with Benkart Carbon Arcs. The carbon arcs are powered by a dynamo (motor-generator set up). All of this equipment is original upon initial installation. I am curious if this stuff breaks...can it be easily fixed? I sure do not want to replace this equipment in the event of failure. The stuff is built like a tank and it's existance in the theatre and the fact that it is operational is very appealing to me. I would like this equipment to stay in prime running condition. The picture quality is beautiful as well.

Any pointers and tips would be helpful.

Thank You,
JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 15:21 #22345

  • Mike
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# 1 I would have it all looked at by a pro.

#2 I would consider losing the carbon arcs and replacing with elec bulbs.

# 3 old is fine but condition is eveything.

Is there a platter system?

Michael Hurley
Impresario
Michael Hurley
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 15:44 #22346

  • John Pytlak
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I agree with Mike that the best place to start is to have your service engineer look at the condition of the equipment.

For sure, a modern theatre installation will use xenon lamps and platters. Even in a single screen situation, it frees up the projectionist for other responsibilities (But don't make the mistake of not having a skilled projectionist, as least as your "chief" operator).

Go with reel-to-reel with changeovers (two projectors) if you will only have a few showings of each film. But otherwise, platters are the way to go today.

Also, any modern film (in the last 15 years) has digital sound, and audiences have come to expect a good sound system that takes advantage of the modern sound technology on every print.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 15:51 #22347

  • jukingeo
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Hello Mike

#1) I guess I could find out who they have servicing it now. It all looks very well maintained. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary (no duct tape or rubber bands holding things together and no wire messes).

#2) I though of that, but halogens are very yellowish and many prefer the pure white emission of a carbon arc. BUT I would be interested in a gas-arc lamp retrofit...if possible. I use these kind of lamps in theatrical lighting and they are very white, they last a long time too because they have no filaments. But no halogens for me. I would think that with such a high output needed that the bulbs wouldn't last long and are expensive to replace. Anyway, the theatre has a reputation for it's carbon arc system. So in one aspect, I am hesitant to mess with a good thing.

#3) It is in really good shape. The owners are very anal and everything is clean in the theatre and the projection booth is no exception. I was amazed at the condition the projectors are in for their age. So we do have an A+ for condition. Even the dynamo looks to be in good shape. When they shut the system down, I heard the dynamo motor power down and the bearings are so good it took over 2 mins for the motor to finally stop (yeah, I actually timed it).

But the question remains...what if something does break? Are these Simplex projectors so common that parts are still easy to find for them? I am not 100% sure...but I think they are model E-7's.

Platter system? Naw...this is a vintage theater...all original! REELS ONLY Yeah Baby!

In fact this building is so original...I could charge admission for tours of the place!

I watched the projectionist run the system one night and it looks like a fun system. I really don't want to change it. I guess I am old fashioned in that manner. I love old equipment. And in this case it performs well.

JG

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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 16:13 #22348

  • jukingeo
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Hello John

The theater has the original equipment...all of it. There is no platter. It is a dual projector reel to reel change system as per it's original installation.

The good thing is that even though I am buying the building...the employees can stay if they want
. So I would most definately keep the projectionist on.

The theatre currently doesn't have many film showings...none on the weekdays in fact. They only operate on the weekends and usually only once or twice. But I might change that. Still, I like the traditional reel system. As I mentioned to Mike above, I would love to do tours of this building because much of it is original and in good shape. So that is why I was concerned about keeping the original equipment running.

As for the sound...the cameras do have a Dolby Digital retrofit and there is a 5.1 decoder on the system. But outside that the rest of the sound system I am going to replace. Overall the sound isn't that great.

But the picture quality is fantastic. Sure as heck beats out the Cinemas here in NY that is for sure. The carbon are is just SO white and the colors are so crisp. I really would be messing with a good thing in more ways than one if I altered this system. I watched the projectionist closely as he worked and I was having a BALL just watching him. I definately would love to learn the process from him when I take the building over...that is for sure.

JG

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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 16 May 2006 22:41 #22349

  • Ken Layton
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The Simplex E-7 has plenty of parts available for it. It's a great projector and it puts out the steadiest picture out of any projector ever made. Just keep it oiled and regularly maintained and it'll outlast everyone on this message forum.
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 07:01 #22350

  • jukingeo
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Hello Ken

I am not 100% sure on the model number...but the theatre was built in the very early 40's and I AM sure the projectors are Simplex's with Benkart Carbon Arcs. Running through the line of Simplex machines...the E-7 is the highest candidate that was put in the theatre. As you stated the picture quality is fantastic...a pleasure to watch a movie from. Much much much better than the multiplexes I am used to going to. As for oiling, when I visited the theatre, that was one of the first things I noticed, there were ample tools and materials for lubrication located near the projectors. In fact an oil can was right on one machine and no, there was no dust on the oil can. Given that and my visual inspection, I can say the machines are well cared for. Granted I am no expert, but this pattern did follow suit with the whole theatre. It is in excellent shape for it's age. Opinion: Many people here BSB suggest upgrading to bulbs for projection. Now from what I seen...the carbon arc produces much whiter light than a halogen bulb. So I would need a better solution if I were to replace the carbon arcs. As far as I can see the only viable solution is to use a gas discharge lamp...the kind use in moving mirror theatre lights. Has any company became smart enough to offer a projector upgrade like this instead of the dull lifeless halogen upgrades?

JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 11:00 #22351

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I had someone take another look at the projectors again and he is 90% sure that the projectors are E-7s with Brenkert Enarc carbon arcs. I believe the dynamo is also furnished by Brenkert, still not sure there though.

I have seen other pictures of E-7's and it looks very much like that is the model. So it appears that E-7's they are.

I must say as is, these E-7's are really nice looking machines. They very much personify what a motion picture projector looks like in the minds of Americans. So in that aspect, I would keep them as is.

I seen a picture of an E-7 that was converted to platter and changed to halogen as well---hideous. No thanx...I am going to keep the reels and arcs
.

JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 12:54 #22352

I haven't heard of halogen bulbs in projectors.. all I know of is xenon lamphouses, and I know that xenon bulbs put out a crisp cool white light.

While LTI lamps are far down the list of quality lamps (I hear Chrisite are the best), here's their website with quality specifications: http://www.ltilamps.com/tech_specs_x.htm

And here's a picture of a Christie xenon bulb:


[This message has been edited by Andrew McCrea (edited May 17, 2006).]
Since 1987
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 13:41 #22353

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Hello Andrew

Yeah, that's it. That's very similar to the lamps I used in stage lighting. No filament. They last a long time too. This is what I would believe would come close to a carbon arc. I used them in platemakers as well in print shops.

Ever drop one of these?

I think I would still used the arcs. I guess if I were to operate a full schedule like the way mulitplexes do...then this would be the way to go.

JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 20:03 #22354

  • revrobor
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There should be a metal plate on the projector that will tell you exactly what model it is. The E-7s came out in '39 and were built until the XLs came out in '49. I agree that, in good repair, they will put out a great picture. Don't be too quick to get rid of the carbon arcs though. While, in the long run, xenons will be cheaper I'm numbered among those who believe arcs put out a better picture. Xenons were made for theatres that employ automation and as few projectionists as possible. But since you are going to employ a projectionist and use the changeover system go with the arcs. Besides, if you ever plan on running classic films you'll need the changeover system as the distributors will not allow you to build the classics on a platter.

Bob Allen
The Old Showman

[This message has been edited by revrobor (edited May 17, 2006).]
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 17 May 2006 23:39 #22355

  • jukingeo
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Hello revrobor

I do fully intend to keep the arc system. I would only replace it if I had to. I would think though that the xenon transformer set up would burn out way before the dynamo would give me any trouble.

The building is so original I intend to do guided tours of the place.

The funny thing is that before I looked at the theatre, I really didn't even consider to continue running films. I just wanted to use the place for live acts...but after I saw those projectors and all the vintage gear. I made the decision right there on the spot that I not only continue films, but also keep ALL the original equipment. Just seeing the equipment in action made me see the light (pun intended). Oh I am definately going to keep the arc system, you are not the first to tell me it is the best in terms of picture quality. However, you are the second person that mentioned the fact that some film rental companies don't like the platter systems. I just think the original projection system is so awesome that I really wouldn't change a thing on it. It is like you are interacting with the past. It is an experience as this is THE way it was done back in the day.

JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 20 May 2006 00:57 #22356

  • rodeojack
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If the booth has had no upgrades, keep in mind that most films you might book that were made post-"Star Wars 77/78" will have a sound format that your equipment will not reproduce properly. You'll also need the new red-reader upgrade to play a lot of the current prints being made.
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 20 May 2006 10:57 #22357

  • jukingeo
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Hello RODEOJACK

The Theatre is open and it does run current movies, so the audio must have been upgraded. It has a Dolby decoder on it as well. So the sound is one of the few things that are not original. The sound also leaves much to be desired and I would replace the system. But the picture quality is great and needs nothing there.

JG
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Re: Old 35 mm movie gear--servicability 22 May 2006 13:33 #22358

  • John Pytlak
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With Warner Bros. recent announcement of conversion to cyan dye analog tracks in mid-June, red LED readers are needed on every screen theatre playing "mainstream" product, since all the big distributors have converted.
http://www.dyetracks.org

Playing a cyan dye track on a "white light" reader will be unacceptably noisy.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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