Amidst the dark shadows and glowing digital instruments of the projection booth, Taylor Spagnuolo is a bit paranoid, but for good reason.
The Grand Ledge junior has only been working at Celebration Cinema for seven months, but his minute attention to detail has already found a home.
Recently promoted, he was set to the task of monitoring theaters for proper sound and image, surrounded with the hum of 11 digital projectors.
“The job of projectionist is about being accountable and fixing problems,” Spagnuolo said. “You’ve got to be really paranoid. That’s why they picked me.”
Along with several Central Michigan University students, Spagnuolo was able to find employment at Celebration Cinema’s Pickard Street location. He was delighted at seeing his fellow students already working there.
“They’re really good about scheduling weekends,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s really flexible for college. And I love working with other students. It’s not an unknown environment.”
Since the theater converted its projectors to digital in 2007, Spagnuolo’s job has gotten easier, he said. He is now able to perform other tasks, such as cleaning and customer service. Before the theater went digital, movies were played on 35 millimeter film and required constant attention.
“Being digital, a lot of problems are solved with the click of a button and a lot of panic,” he said. “But it’s a pretty easy job. There’s a lot more to worry about with analogue. I couldn’t imagine running that gig.”
Beneath the booth, on the first floor of the theater, several CMU students are hard at work maintaining the movie-going operations on the ground floor.
“We do try to hire a mix of students that come and go and locals who stay here,” General Manager Chris Couling said. “It’s good to have diversity and students are a perfect fit for our business. They need cash.”
Couling said students are more willing to work weekends and holidays, and many are willing to work part-time.
He estimated about 25 staffers are on rotation at Celebration, about 80 percent of those being students.
He said students can work anywhere from 15 to 40 hours a week, depending on their schedules and need. Starting pay, he said, is minimum wage.
“When they need time off for class or football games, we’re able to grant that easily,” Couling said. “Running a business takes more than a general manager. College students bring a youthful vibe to our building. It feels more lively. We want it to be fun to go watch a movie.”
Brianna Myers, a 21-year-old Grayling graduate in integrated personal relations, finished her studies in May and said working at the theater helped her learn to prioritize before stepping out into a professional career.
“Working helps you adjust to the real world,” she said. “It’s nice to get out and meet people and multitask. You’re not going to be studying your whole life. More CMU students should come. It’s just a matter of time management.”
Getting employee passes to screenings, Myers said, is the main perk of working at a movie theater.
“Free movies are great for buffs,” she said. “Netflix and I are BFFs, so it’s been great to see new movies.”