How to Thread an 8mm Movie Projector

Updated April 17, 2017

You've found a box of 8mm home movies and equipment from the 1960s in a dark corner of your mother's basement. You rush upstairs and plug in the projector. It starts to hum and seems like it might work. But before you can watch any of those dusty gems, you have to figure out how to thread the film through the projector. Compared with watching movies on DVD or on the Web, projector threading feels intimidating. But with a little patience and this tutorial, you'll soon be watching those home movies.

Remove the movie from its canister and slide the reel onto the feed reel slot, above the lens of the projector. Press the reel toward the projector body until it clicks into a locked position.

Press down the upper loop former lever, usually located above and to the left of the projector lens. Place the leader--the tongue of film that protrudes from the film on the reel--into the threading slot. Slide the leader forward until it touches the initial guide roller.

Put the lamp switch in the "off" position and start the projector motor. The sprockets will begin to turn and pull the end of the film across the lens and through a series of gears until it emerges from an opening below the lens. Keep the motor running until about two feet of 8mm film have run through this opening.

Stop the projector motor and let go of the upper loop former lever.

Pick up the loose end of the film and pull it across the bottoms of the last exposed guide roller sprockets, making sure that the sprockets engage the holes on the film.

Straighten any twists in the film, then take the end of the leader and slip it into the locking slot on the take-up reel. Wind the take-up reel clockwise to tighten it the film. Now you can switch on the lamp, restart the motor and watch the movie.


Remember that 8mm projectors are vintage, out-of-production equipment. Your projector might have sat for years before you found it, and it might not work properly. If you can't seem to thread your projector properly, the equipment might be damaged. If you run into repeated jams and mishaps, take the projector to a camera shop for inspection and service.


Always inspect the leader on 8mm film before attempting to thread it through a projector. If the leader has creases or broken sprocket holes, it can fold on itself and jam the projector. If the end of the leader is damaged, snip it off with a pair of scissors or a built-in film trimmer.

Things You'll Need

  • 8mm movie
  • 8mm projector
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About the Author

Tim Hesse has been writing professionally since 2000. He has written and edited for a variety of print and online publications, including Tech Tips, FOXSports and Automated Homefinder. Hesse enjoys covering music, film, the open-source movement, education and the arts. He studied cinema and television production at the University of Southern California.