It's a "reel" good time at the Zinema 2

By Abigail Schoenecker It’s a slow Monday night at the Zinema 2 on Superior Street. Tim Gregorich, 25, walks up the steps to the booth to change the reel for the next movie showing, which is “The Runaways” at 9:15 p.m.

He lifts up the giant reel and brings it over to the projector where he hoists it above his head and places it on the machine. No small feat as the round reel weighs a good 20 pounds. Even though it turns out that no one shows up for that particular movie, it’s just another night for Gregorich.

The Zinema 2, which usually shows independent films that are not as well known around the area, opened in September of last year. Gregorich started in October and is now used to the hum of the projector and the heat that the machine emits.

“It’s always like 80 degrees in here. Kind of annoying,” he says as he touches the projector to emphasize his point.

The loud whir of the machine is from a small part of the projector that stops each frame in an extremely fast time. If not for that part, which stops 24 frames a second, the film would all run together and our brains wouldn’t be able to process what we were seeing. Instead of seeing a picture, we would see one long blur. Thank goodness for that small part.

"I have a fondness for films that are so bad they’re good."

Even though he hasn’t worked at the theatre very long, the tasks he has to do start up a new movie have become second nature to him.

“You do it 30 times, 40 times, it makes sense,” he said. “It’s in your brain stump.”

As he tries to explain all the parts and exactly what happens with each one to me, I stand there befuddled and in awe that this all comes so easily to him. It’s now to the point where it’s tedious repetition.

The film for each movie that the theater receives comes in six or so little reels and they transfer them over to two big reels that go into the projector. There are two screens at the Zinema. One of them has the traditional projector, which stands the reel vertically. The other has what is called a platter system, which places the reels horizontally. This method is much more efficient since two entire movies can be placed on it at once. (How does a movie projector work?)

After changing over the reel in anticipation of new customers, Gregorich goes back to his post behind the counter. Soon, a man and a woman that are together approach him. She orders water, which comes in a stemless wine glass, and he gets a chocolate oatmeal bar. They don’t get movie tickets but take their treats upstairs. Besides them, another guy comes in and buys a snack, and a couple comes in and gets the works--movie tickets, beer, and popcorn. Overall, it’s a pretty slow night at our local independent movie theater.

What may account for the lack of moviegoers, besides it being a Monday night on the last week of school, is the fact that Duluth’s Homegrown has just started. Gregorich anticipates more college kids will show up this summer.

“We’re a movie theater where you can drink,” he said with a hint of disbelief as to why more people don’t catch a movie where they can also grab a pint or a glass of wine.

On a typical night, Gregorich has 25 to 30 minutes of a rush and then two hours to hang out. In those two hours, he may listen to a playlist he has brought to work which has Modest Mouse, Flaming Lips, along with other artists that don’t swear in their songs to make it family friendly.

Before playing his music at the Zinema, Gregorich had a run of odd jobs. He graduated from Lake Superior College in 2005 with a degree in computer networking but has never found anything that he really wants to do.  He has dabbled in a little bit of everything.

“I made toothpicks for a year,” he said, giving me one example of the mass amounts of quirky jobs he’s had.

Although he’s had many different occupations, he still seems right at home behind the counter and in the booth of the Zinema.

“I have a fondness for films that are so bad they’re good,” he said. “I love films.” View Larger Map

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