By: Fintan Ryan (Carlow) Title: Doing a Reel

I grew up in Borris Co Carlow where in the old days we had one cinema with one projector so we had the breaks for reel change.  The breaks were longer when the projectionist was a bit tipsy and sometimes we got the reels in the wrong order. Films were shown on Wednesdays and Sundays. There were three towns within easy cycling distance that had cinemas showing films more frequently: Graiguemanagh (5 miles), Goresbridge (3 miles)  and Bagnalstown 7 miles.  We had exciting times riding home from these in the darkness with inadequate or no lighting on our bikes.

I went to school in Roscrea (Cistercians) where the almost simultaneous showing of the same film took place. When I was in UCD (1959 – 63) there were 77 cinemas in the city and suburbs. I often went to two films in the same day but once made 4, Grafton Cartoon in the morning, Jane Eyre in Capitol early afternoon, Sink the Bismarck in the Ambassador late afternoon and The Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the evening in Newman House (86).

In my boarding school days I used to operate the school projector.  Some films came on big reels about the diameter of a bicycle wheel, but most were on reels about 12 inches in diameter. It took about 4 or 5 of the smaller reels to take the contents of a film and with only one projector there were regular breaks.

My best memories were of collecting the first reel from a hall about a mile away and starting it on the college projector, up on the bike to collect the next reel and so on.  That way we got two showings about 30 minutes apart in timing from the one rental of a film.  Did not appreciate that there might be some financial gains from this arrangement!

We had a cinema in my home village of Borris Co Carlow and I’m afraid occasionally the projectionist was a bit under the weather and allowed the movie to get a bit out of sync and show the top half of the picture on the bottom of the screen and the bottom half on the top with the division between frames in the middle. When this happened everyone in the cinema shouted: “The Rack, The Rack” waking our projectionist to sort the problem.

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