Projectionist Strike of 1914

The projectionist strike of 1914 is one of the earliest examples of film workers organizing in New Orleans. Few details are known about its origins or outcomes, but accounts of its unfolding offer insight into the shifting cultural landscape of the early film economy.

Projectionists played a key role in early movie theaters. They operated all the equipment in the projection booth and were responsible for the handling of large reels of film.

Letters from New Orleans to the film magazine Moving Picture World give conflicting accounts of the strike's activities. Some writers claimed that strikers had thrown stink bombs into crowded theaters (including facilities owned by local film magnates Josiah Pearce and Herman Fichtenberg) during Saturday night showing. At least two people were arrested for disturbing the peace related to these incidents. Others disavowed any striker involvement in the stink bomb attacks, claiming that theater owners were inciting unrest by refusing to sit down and negotiate with the strikers on civil terms.

Although the union representing projectionists and other film workers, IATSE Local 478, was not incorporated in New Orleans until 1986, the strike illustrates that concern over workers' rights in the movie industry was an issue in the city even in the early days of Hollywood South.