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Union May Act Against Local Cinema

Projectionists Irate About Non-Union Theater

By Andrew Multer

The re-opening of the Central Square Cinema under new management may precipitate a conflict between the owners and unionized projectionists, a union spokesman said yesterday.

John Newby, assistant steward for local 182 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Motion Picture Machine Operators, said yesterday that the union's actions will depend on "the way things work out" with the Brattle Theater Company, which recently bought the Central Square Cinema.

After a two-week closing, the new owners re-opened the theater yesterday with non-union projectionists. The old management hired union workers.

"As far as we view it, we're set. It's pretty much up to the union. Anyway, a union projectionist can always work in another union cinema, according to seniority. They're not like the farmworkers or anything," Dave Lobell, manager of the Central Square Cinema, said yesterday.

Newby estimated that 60 per cent of Boston area cinemas are currently unionized. In Harvard Square, the Harvard Square Theater, the Galleria Cinema, and the Brattle Theater are not unionized, while the Orson Wells Cinema is.

About a dozen members of local 182 protested outside the Harvard Square Theater last July because the theater hired non-Union projectionists.

Newby expected the management to lock him out of the Central Square theater yesterday, as the owners of the Harvard Square Theater did last July, but instead no action was taken and Newby sat in the projection booth, watching a non-union projectionist at work.

"Any of the guys we have working can join the union, but they don't want to. The crux of the matter is that any of our guys are as good as any of theirs," Lobell said.

The previous owners of the Central Square Cinema had a chain of theaters and therefore found it advantageous to have the union to keep the projectionists under a centralized control, but the Brattle Cinema Company has only two theaters and thus has no need for the union, Lobell said.

He added that the Brattle Cinema once had Union proejctionists, but the management had trouble with employees "showing up to work drunk." Newby said the Brattle has not employed union members in 25 years.

"We've got working-class people trying to make a decent living and it's damn hard," Newby, who is currently unemployed, said, gesturing towards the non-union projectionist turning on the first reel of Fellini's "8 1/2."

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