To be a itinerant projectionist, several skills are needed: knowing how to buy films and operating and maintaining one’s own projector, screen and light source (gas or electric). Before films were shown in movie theatres, projectionists travelled to villages, towns, fairs and open-air exhibitions. Like a circus or band on a cross-country tour, some projectionists travelled by car, others by horse and carriage. Some travelled by train and settled in amusement parks for the summer, such as Montreal’s Sohmer Park, where Léo-Ernest Ouimet got his start. Projectionists were responsible for advertising the shows and lecturing during the film if needed. They were busiest during the summer months and followed a circuit that would often bring them to the same cities once or twice a year. In this way, itinerant cinema left its mark on the first fifteen years of cinema.
With the growth of movie theatres , itinerant cinema began its decline. Itinerant projectionists struggled to attract audiences in cities with movie theatres. Remote towns, with fewer entertainment venues, became their preferred place of business. Locals gladly accommodated passing films in their church hall, hotel or community centre. Everyone appreciated these occasional visits, which could just as easily bring a comedy, educational film or a Ford promotional travelogue. Screenings usually consisted of short or medium-length films. Itinerant projectionists left few traces of their work, since they were rarely able to advertise their shows. Only a few are known; these include, in the Montreal region, Wilfrid Picard, and in Estrie, William Shaw. Some American itinerant projectionists also included Quebec in their circuit.