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Libby Philpot, one of the supervisors of the RAF Lakenheath movie theater, feeds a film through a projector before a recent showing.
Libby Philpot, one of the supervisors of the RAF Lakenheath movie theater, feeds a film through a projector before a recent showing. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Libby Philpot likes to watch action and drama films. Ironically, she misses some of these films because she’s busy doing her job at the RAF Lakenheath movie theater. As one of the supervisors at the theater, the duties of the 38-year-old from Oak Harbor, Wash., can include stepping in to run the theater’s two projectors.

What’s the best thing about the job?

There’s a huge variety, and you never get bored. I love projecting. Most people don’t know that there’s so much involved in it.

Is watching movies for free one of the perks?

No. We don’t get to watch them for free.

What if you’re in the projection room?

You are able to watch some, but between reloading and rewinding, you miss quite a bit.

Do you ever bring popcorn in the projection room?

Not too close to the films. [Laughing].

So, is being a projectionist more than just loading film and pressing “play”?

There’s way, way more. You have to know the key marks, which tell us when it’s time to switch reels and help make a smooth transition. Sometimes reels come in without key marks, so you have to inspect the film beforehand. You also have to do routine maintenance on the projectors to make sure they keep running properly.

What’s the worst mechanical problem that you’ve come across?

I’ve had a reel fall off. I had to stop the movie and turn the lights back on, so that people weren’t sitting in the dark.

I also had one film that started burning. I’m not sure what caused it, but I had to cut four frames out and nobody noticed. You don’t want it to happen, but it is fixable.

How many reels are there in an hour-and-a-half movie?

About five or six reels. For “Harry Porter” and “King Kong,” it was about eight or nine reels.

How many movies a week does this movie theater usually show?

Each week, we get at least one new movie and two or three regular films, which are films that have been out for about a month.

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