The History of Old Film Projectors and Where To Buy One in 2024

3 March 2024 by
Anna Lam

Learn about the history and technology of old film projectors, their evolution into the 21st century, as well as where to buy and how to maintain these vintage devices. Capture provides you with the latest information for 2024.

The History of Old Film Projectors and Where to Buy One in 2024

While film projectors may not be as popular as they used to be, they are often cherished for viewing old home movies, creating retro movie theatre rooms, and watching vintage 8mm film the way it was originally intended. 

For that reason, there are still a lot of places to buy old projectors in 2024. It can be helpful to know the history of them not only because it’s interesting, but because it can help you determine what to look for in an old film projector. 

Whether you are just curious about the history projectors, want to see where your old film projector fits in historically, or want to know where you can find old projectors for sale in 2024, Capture’s archival experts compiled all the best information to help. 

Keep reading to learn about the original film projectors, how the technology has changed into the 21st century, where to buy old film projectors, and how to maintain them properly to ensure this historical movie format is preserved.

History of Old Film Projectors

You may not realise how long film projectors have been around in some form or another. In fact, humans have been projecting images using shadows and mirrors for hundreds of years. In 1515, Leonardo DaVinci even drew plans for a projector box that used light to cast images into glass slides. 

But when it comes to movie film projectors, the history begins in 1879 when British photographer Eadweard Muybridge created motion using a Zoopraxiscope. This device rapidly projected images from rotating glass discs. Then, in 1888 the first moving film was created and displayed using a machine that combines motion picture photography with projection technology.  

Eadweard Muybridge

Not long after, a familiar name enters the scene when Eastman Kodak introduced cellulite celluloid film as a commercial product in 1889. Within 2 years, it became the main way to project images. Now, if we skip ahead a few years, we start to see wide uses for old film projectors.

In the 1920s, school teachers, military officers, and lecturers started using filmstrip projectors as an accessible way to show films and educational videos. From there, the popularity only increased, and the technology advanced to the film projectors we know today.

8mm Film Projectors

In 1923, Kodak introduced 16mm film as a less expensive alternative to 35 mm film. This made it possible for amateurs to film home movies and special events without spending a fortune. The same year, Victor Animatograph Corporation started producing their own 16mm cameras and hand crank and slide projectors.

8mm film

Then, less than a decade later in 1932, Eastman Kodak company developed the 8mm film format as well as projectors like the Kodak Instamatic M67 motion picture film projector.  Joined by companies like Bell and Howell, Argus, Pathe, and Canon who released their first 8mm movie projector in 1956, the CINE 8-T.  

Later, in the 1960s, the Super 8mm film projector was introduced by Kodak and followed soon by Sankyo, Keystone, and other popular vintage movie camera brands. Some of the most popular Super 8 film projectors from this period include old vintage Chinon GL projectors, Bell and Howell Lumina, and Elmo GS and ST 1200 models.  

After the release of Super 8 projectors, dual projectors that could project both 8mm and Super 8mm film reels were introduced, including the Bolex 18-3 Dual antique film projector model. In 1973, Kodak introduced Ektasound, which was magnetic recording on the actual Super 8 film that added a soundtrack during filming as opposed to after the film was developed.

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Analogue Turns to Digital and Vintage Film Projectors

With the arrival of digital cinema projectors in the 1980s, it became much easier to use a projector screen to create a high-quality home theatre to view home movies and professional cinema projector films. Plus, modern digital options also made it easier than ever before to add animations, headings, full HD video, countdown timers, and more to home movies. Plus, you can now easily transfer and share using apps, email, and social media to play your home movies on any projector, anywhere, anytime.

Vintage Film Projectors

That’s where digitisation for old film movie projector videos became so popular and Capture is happy to preserve your most precious memories in high-quality digital format for future generations to enjoy. 

Still, there’s something nostalgic and special about using a vintage movie projector or slide projector so you can watch your old home movies and display them with a projector lens like they were originally intended.  

Where To Buy Old Film Projectors in 2024

If you want to buy an old home movie projector in 2024, you’re in luck because there’s plenty of places where you can still find retro reel-to-reel projectors. Here are a few options.

Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are probably the easiest way to buy old movie projectors. While Amazon’s selection is limited, eBay has a huge selection of 16mm, 8mm, and Super 8 mm movie projectors for sale.  Etsy is also a good place to browse old movie projectors, but it might cost you a little more. 

online marketplace

Local Antique Stores and Flea Markets: Apliu Street

apliu street

Don’t forget to check your local antique stores, flea markets, and garage sales for vintage film projectors for sale.  This can be a great way to find the most affordable projectors as well as parts like a film holder for an old projector model, replacement components, and more. Plus, you may be able to buy from the original owner who can tell you more about it! 

Film and Photography Shops

Check out film and photography shops both online and in-person. You might be surprised to find an old film projector as well as the camera to capture even more 8mm or Super 8 mm film! Plus, these places are more likely to take good care of their equipment, so you may find a vintage option that’s in pristine condition.

Film and Photography Shops

Maintenance and Repair of Old Film Projectors

If you properly maintain your old film projector, then you can keep it working in good condition for much longer. In fact, simple maintenance can keep your machine working for years or decades while neglecting basic care can run down your machine quickly. Here are some tips to maintain and repair your movie film projector so you can make sure you can keep watching your wonderful home movies.

Keep it Lubricated

Vintage film projectors should have a side door or access panel so you can get into the mechanical portions. Every 6 to 12 months depending on the usage, you should try to lubricate this area with dedicated projector oil. Not all machines need oil, but the older ones that do will have an oil well cup inside. This will not only keep your projector running smoothly, but also make sure it doesn’t damage your precious film reels. 

Use High-Quality Replacement Parts

If something goes wrong with your projector, you might be tempted to replace a broken part with the cheapest possible option. However, we recommend that you find a projector part seller or expert who will refurbish parts before selling them. That way, it protects the rest of your machine while also giving you many years of happy memories. To find parts, just Google the part you need for the type of projector you have.

Clean Often

Cleaning your old film projector can also keep it in better condition. That’s because dust and debris can scratch the lens and bulb or even scratch your film. Clean often to prevent dust build up that can clog the machine as well.

The Future of Film Projectors

While the rise of digital technology has greatly reduced the popularity of film projectors, there are still collectors and everyday people who buy and sell movie film projectors for their old home movies. While old film projectors preserve the history of film as well as your ability to view your old home videos as they were originally intended, we recommend digitising your old film to ensure it lasts forever.

Capture's Memory Specialist can turn your videotapes, photo albums, photographs, slides and digital media into high-quality digital copies so you can view it on smartphone, or computer, or even share it across the world on social media. Click here to learn more about our film digitisation services. 

*This article is brought to you by Capture HK.

Capture HK is the premier analogue media digitisation company in Hong Kong.

Capture HK's business covers photographs, photo album, slide digitisation, videotapes digitisation, including VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS-C Hi-8, Video8, Digital8, DV, DVCAM, MiniDV, DVC and digital media digitisation, including Secure Digital (SD), Smart Media (SM), MultiMediaCard (MMC) Compact Flash (CF), xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, USB Drive, CDROM, DVD.

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