Legendary Projectionist Charles Aidikoff Dies at 101

By J. Sperling Reich | December 25, 2016 8:28 pm PST
Charles Aidikoff

With the adoption of digital cinema there seems to be fewer and fewer experienced motion picture projectionists working in the industry. Sadly the world now has one less. Indeed, Charles Aidikoff was such a fixture in Hollywood that his death last week at 101 years-of-age was noted on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”.

Any film industry professional working in Los Angeles over the last 50 years undoubtedly knew or had met Aidikoff in their travels. At the very least they probably visited his 57-seat private screening room in Beverly Hills to view an upcoming release, work-in-progress, awards contender or official festival selection. Since 1966 Aidikoff owned and operated the Charles Aidikoff Screening Room, first located on Sunset Boulevard, just off the Sunset Strip and, since the early 1990s, at 150 Rodeo Drive, just south of Wilshire Boulevard.

Throughout the 1990s the Aidikoff, as it came to be known, was practically the in-house screening room at the then adjacent William Morris Agency. On any given day of the week one could find talent agents trekking across the back alley into the screening room’s back door in order to see a current or future client’s latest work. Publicists for indie films still use the screening room to show critics and journalists films in the weeks leading up to their official release.

As anyone who visited the screening room with any regularity over the years can attest, the Aidikoff has always had two constants; there was almost always a guarantee you’d see Charles Aidikoff sitting just outside the projection booth and there would always be bowls full of licorice, chocolate and other candy. Aidikoff was well known for not allowing popcorn in his screening room but provided candy instead. Many a starving Los Angeles film critic has been kept alive (if not awake) through the years thanks to the miniature Snickers bars they grabbed on the way into an evening screening, usually done with a stealth swiftness lest the publicist in charge caught them partaking in the candy which surely had been placed at the entrance of the theatre for guests of much greater importance.

Charles Aidikoff with Sidney Poitier
Charles Aidikoff with actor Sidney Poitier in an undated photograph. (Photo Courtesy of the Aidikoff Screening Room)

In fact, pictures of Aidikoff embracing the many notable stars, filmmakers, heads of studios and heads of state that made their way through the doors of the Aidikoff were hung in the hallway just outside the screening room. He was so beloved by those he served that Aidikoff was the only projectionist voted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Aidikoff first picked up the trade from his father Max, who started projecting silent films on Coney Island in the early 1900s. The family now has four generations of projectionists with Aidikoff’s son Greg working alongside Aidikoff for short time before being joined by his grandson Josh.

Aidikoff loved his job so much that even after selling the business to an outside group in 2010, he still came to work everyday. At least he did until the Aidikoff closed in July of 2015 due to a lease dispute. The day the screening room closed, Aidikoff posted a picture of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his Twitter account with the message, “I’ll be back”. He was 100-years-old at the time.

The Screening Services Group took over the space shortly after and has since renamed it the Rodeo Screening Room.

J. Sperling Reich