Do you know when the word “projectionist” came into general favour? Wikipedia uses the term for the role as it evolved with the development of technical and safety-related skills in the decade from 1905 on through to the last century’s end. However, in so doing the writers of the page appear to accommodate present-day usage.
In the period 1927-33, although American trade papers occasionally mentioned “projectionists”, they showed a marked preference, to judge by the frequency of use, for writing about “operators” and “booth men”. Comparably, during the same period in the UK , the Electrical Trade Union established a Cinema Operators’ Section which, under that name, started an energetic recruitment drive to increase membership in 1929. Notwithstanding that, the term projectionist appears to have entered wider currency in Britain after the introduction of recorded sound with the increasing complexity and responsibility of the role.
When British cinema employees hired to screen films set about enhancing their status in 1930, they deployed the word that conveyed to them the dignity of their work and formed the Guild of British Kinema Projectionists. Its aims (as The Bioscope reported in November of that year) included improving their professional qualifications and standing – ambitions which, coupled with its promise of 100% efficiency and service, certainly gratified the organisation that represented their employers, the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association.