ARTHUR Davie has retired after 50 years as a cinema projectionist.
ARTHUR Davie has retired after 50 years as a cinema projectionist.

50 years of being kept in the dark

IT'S been a big year for movie men - Bill Collins made the TV Hall of Fame, John Michael Howson got a Queen's Birthday gong and Coolangatta's Arthur Davie retired.

Arthur Davie? We've all sat in the dark with Arthur Davie - you see, you may not know his name, but if you've been to Birch Carroll and Coyle at Coolangatta over the past decade, you've seen his work.

Mr Davie has been the projectionist and cinema technician at BCC Coolangatta since the late 1990s, and the spritely septuagenarian's movie career goes back to the 1950s.

“I use to go to the Saturday afternoon serials,” the 71-year-old from Currumbin Waters said.

“I loved the cowboy westerns - you don't see many westerns anymore.”

Even back then Mr Davie was fascinated with how the movies worked, so when he left Caulfield Technical College in Melbourne in 1954 it was hardly surprising he would find a job in the cinema.

“I was working in the news reel theatre,” he said, of his first back-of-house role.

“There were four spools and people could come in and sit through them until they had watched all four.

“They could stay all day if they wanted.”

He continued working in Melbourne cinemas for almost four decades, also running drive-ins.

“We had the drive-in at Colac (in country Victoria), it had a house on the premises.

“Our kids were young and we got permission to agist horses (for the kids to ride at pony club). We kept them in an enclosure under the screen.”

Mr Davie moved to the Gold Coast to be closer to his daughter in 1997, after Village Theatres in Victoria started training candy bar staff to work in the projection room.

Although he is well past the usual retirement age, until now he always felt “too young” to retire.

“I've been a lifetime in the projection room, but at times it's been more a hobby than a job.”

With cinemas set to go fully digital, heading away from film and on to disc and downloads, Mr Davie finally thought now was a good time to retire.

After such a long career in the dark, did Mr Davie ever meet any movie stars?

“I once met Lee Marvin,” he laughed. “But that wasn't at the cinema, it was by chance - we were down at Port Fairy and he was there on the wharf.”

And his favourite movie?

“I like Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, but really, they all blend into one over all these years!”

Arthur will soon have enough time on his hands to take a seat at the movies without having to keep one eye on how the reel is unspooling.

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