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Art Seen: Keeping 70 mm film alive

Enter the world of Aaron Ridenour, the man who has been breathing life into Seattle’s vintage film screenings for 20 years.

Seattle Cinerama lead projectionist Aaron Ridenour works in the projection booth, switching between two 70 mm projection units during a festival in 2019 celebrating the vintage form of film screening. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Up until Cinerama announced earlier this month that it would be closing for renovations, Aaron Ridenour spent many of his workdays at the Belltown movie theater, overseeing screenings of 70 millimeter film prints. 

 

While the Cinerama closure resulted in layoffs of much of the staff, Ridenour is on the payroll of IATSE Local 15, a local projectionist union that helps him get a variety of work around the city and region. The future of his work with Cinerama depends upon the programming when the theater reopens, but he does have other work. Over the past six years, for instance, Ridenour has spent his summers lending his artful abilities to the Sundance Institute, at Sundance Resort in Park City, Utah.

"Unfortunately, there's not a lot of work to sustain a lot of the people who have been doing this job for a very long time," Ridenour says of his industry. "There are a lot of people out there who can run 70 millimeter film but have retired or found other work." 

But Ridenour has kept with it, working on and off for almost 20 years at Cinerama, threading projectors with classic 70 mm films and conducting the delicate dance between celluloid and audience. In the past decade, most theaters have switched to an entirely digital, often automated style of film projection. Meanwhile, Ridenour revels in the hidden beauty in the analog.

 

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