Star Cinema History

History of Burdette Rice



Burdette Rice
Played the Last film at the Star Theatre
Played the First film at the New Star Theatre

1985 - Some people collect stamps, butterflies, rocks or even take pictures as a hobby. But how many show movies to moviegoers?
What started as an after-school job 40 years ago has developed into a hobby for Burdette Rice, now 56 (1985), of Stayton.
Burdette’s family moved to Stayton from Wisconsin in 1940 and he graduated from Stayton High School in 1947.
Burdette started working at the Star Theater at the age of 16, cleaning up after each show and cutting firewood for the furnace.
At the time the Star Theater was owned by Lawrence Spraker, also owner of the Stayton Mail. The theater was located in what is now the city hall building, said Burdette.
“We used to have shows every night.” It was enough to keep three projectionists busy, said Burdette.
The television industry hurt movie theaters. Back when Burdette first started working there was no television and the theaters were usually full, he said.
At the age of 16 Burdette was old enough to get a work permit and train as a projectionist. “Jake Schlies stayed with me for one hour and left me. It was kind of scary then, “ said Burdette.
“The old film used to burn on occasion. It was very explosive.” Once, before he started working at the theater, the film caught fire as he was watching a movie. “I could see it burn on the screen. I looked up and saw the fire in the booth,” said Burdette.
He worried about the film catching fire when he first started as projectionist. “You would just have to get the light off the film as quick as possible,” he said.
The old theater was built around 1912 and the new theater was built in 1948. Burdette showed the last movie in the old theater. The new theater opened in April of 1949. “The first show in the new theater was “When the Sun Comes Up, “ Burdette recalled.
Today the film has to be picked up in Portland. aIn the early years the film was transported to Salem by bus and picked up there.
The film is then taken upstairs to a 15x15 foot room where two large arc lamp projectors, a rewind machine and workbench await.
Burdette inspects each reel for incorrect splices and to make sure it has been rewound properly.
Once everything has been checked out the 20-minute reels are loaded into the projectors.
The old projectors will run through two feet of film every second, a rate of 24 frames per second.
A bell will sound and little lights will start to flash when it is time for the second projector to be turned on. To avoid delay between reels the film has a mark on the upper right side to signal the projectionist when it is time to start the next reel. There may be a dot or a scratch. “You never know what it might be,” said Burdette.
As one reel is showing the other has to be rewound and put back into its case and the other projector loaded. Once caught up, Burdette can either watch the movie or sit and read a magazine, he said.
“I enjoy shows. I pride myself in giving a good show on the screen,” said Burdette. The sound can’t be too loud and the picture must be sharp, he said.
Occasionally the film will get out of sequence. It’s embarrassing, so Burdette makes sure it doesn’t happen often. “All you can do is get it right the next time, “ said Burdette.
While Burdette is showing the movie his wife Barbara plays Scrabble with friends or comes to the show, said Burdette.
“Time has gone by fast. I guess that’s a sign you like what you’re doing. Projectionists usually stay projectionists,” he said.
Burdette, now a printer in Salem (1985), worked for The Stayton Mail as a linotype setter and printer for 24 years while working part-time as projectionist. He now shows only one movie a week (1985).
Showing movies is “just a way of life for me,” said Burdette.
His son, Jeff, is now (1985) helping out in the theater cleaning up.