Steve Livernash (1941-2019) was among the last of the old-school Boston movie projectionists, having started his career in Boston in 1974 after working 16mm for the NYU Cinema Studies department. A lifetime Arlington, Massachusetts resident, Livernash saw the Boston film scene through the rise of multiplexes, the replacement of reels with platters, the coming of home video, the 2001 crushing of the local projectionist’s union, and the death knell that was digital projection. He spent a large portion of his career as the head projectionist of the Harvard Film Archive.
Born on June 20, 1941, he grew up in Concord and was educated in the Concord public schools. He graduated from Swarthmore College, studied economics and business at the University of Chicago, and received a masters degree in cinema studies from New York University. His connection to Harvard was initially established by his father, Edward Robert Livernash, who had a distinguished career at the Harvard Business School. After completing his studies at NYU, he returned to Cambridge in 1973. He sought a position with the Boston projectionists union and was hired. His first job took him into Boston's Combat Zone. "I was hired to work from midnight to 5 a.m., four nights a week, at a pay of $4.75 an hour," he said in a profile published in the Harvard University Gazette in 2001.
His career as a projectionist took him to just about every movie theater in the Boston area. "I'd do a drive-in in the summer months, and then I'd do Harvard in the spring and fall, and I'd take a vacation in January," he told the Gazette. Steve retired from the Harvard Film Archive in 2009.
About the Collection
Steve Livernash's collection was donated to the HFA in 2019. It consists of three boxes of ephemera related to Boston area movie theaters, including program calendars and documents relating to film projection in each cinema such as union contracts, licenses, and projectionist-written operating notes covering the period from about 1965-1980. Also included are a set of non-theatrical film catalogs from the 1960s and 1970s.
A complete inventory can be found in the collection finding aid: Steve Livernash collection of Boston-area movie theater ephemera and film catalogs.
In addition, a comprehensive oral history was recorded with Steve in 2019 and can be made available for research purposes.