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Technical Information



Phillips FP20 projector


The "Cakestand"


By Nick Fyffe

The projection room at the EMD cinema was constructed in 1973 when the 2600 seat cinema - then operated by and named Granada - was tripled. Most conversions from single screen to multi screen operation at that time utilised the original 1920s or 1930s projection box at the rear of the circle to serve the newly created cinema 1 in the former circle area. The EMD was one of the few exceptions, thus the old box has been redundant for in excess of 28 years.

The EMD equipment - a lot of which replaced the 1973 line up - consisted of Phillips FP20 projectors, Phillips non-rewinds and Gretton Ward automation for all 3 screens. Dolby stereo was present in screens 1 and 2. The Phillips FP20 projector is a widely used and very reliable 35mm projector, the design of which goes back many years. A similar variation is still in production today under the Kinoton name. The former ABC and Cinecenta circuits tended to install a lot of these. The EMD only gained these in recent years under Cannon/ABC management. The automation system from Gretton Ward is electro-mechanical based. Its functions vary from starting and ending the performance to controlling the intervals and shutting the show down in the case of a breakdown. The show can be started remotely or on timers.

The non-rewind is probably the item of most interest to the outsider in this set up. This is a long play device, which is commonly known as a platter, or informally as a "cakestand" because of the appearance. With this system the film never needs rewinding: The entire programme is contained on a horizontal plate and fed from the centre, through the projector and then back on one of the other two plates. As the head (beginning) of the programme is always at the centre of the plate, rewinding is unnecessary. A normal cakestand will have 3 such plates, capable of holding approximately 24000ft of film each. Two of these are used for running the film and the third spare, which can be used to make up another programme. Another advantage of this system is that only one projector is required per screen. Films are still delivered on separate 2000ft reels and are joined together on site, which necessitates removing the leaders of intermediate reels in order to join the picture back to back. This practice is not permissible with old film prints of archive status and these therefore need to be run on two projectors, changing over from one machine to another every 20 minutes, which of course was standard practice before long play devices arrived.

It was always the intention of McGuffin to install a pair of lovingly restored vintage projectors in the original 1930s projection box at the EMD Cinema. These would have enabled the screening of archive prints, plus brought the original box back into use. The current situation regarding the EMD building has necessitated this objective being postponed. However, we are hopeful that if the building again becomes available for film shows, this project will proceed as planned. Watch this space...

(Nick Fyffe is Technical Assistant to The McGuffin Group)


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