Projectionists at an Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn, known for its unique movie-watching experience with food and drinks, have filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Review Board. Shortly after the petition was filed, Alamo sent an internal email announcing plans to eliminate the projectionist position and replace it with a broader role called “technical engineer.” Alamo claims that the decision to cut projectionists was made prior to the unionization petition, but the entertainment industry union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 306, speculates that the company may have been aware of the unionization efforts.
The new role of technical engineers will encompass the responsibilities of projectionists, as well as include tasks like equipment maintenance and testing new projection technology. While Alamo invited current projectionists to apply for the technical engineer position, those not rehired will lose their jobs. Concerns have been raised about the potential decline in presentation quality if projectionists are not staffed full-time. Workers fear that staff may be asked to fix presentation issues after they have already gone wrong. Alamo maintains that the decision to eliminate projectionists was driven by changes in the industry and advancements in technology, and not influenced by labor organizers. Indeed, Alamo is hardly the only exhibitor that has either eliminated projectionists from their payroll or delegated the position’s tasks to other staff members.
The current move to eliminate projectionists follows a trend of unionization efforts within the Alamo Drafthouse chain. Workers at the company’s flagship location in Austin successfully voted to unionize in February 2022 under the International Workers of the World union. Their demands included better wages, benefits, and improved COVID-19 protections. Another Alamo location in San Francisco also filed a petition to unionize in late October 2022. The unionization drive in Brooklyn aims to represent all Alamo theaters in the greater New York City metropolitan area.