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How to Thread a Bell & Howell Projector

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Threading any Bell and Howell projector is a simple and easy task. It doesn’t matter whether the projector is 8mm or 16mm, manual or automatic threading, the principals are the same. The objective is to thread the film in the projector so that it flows smoothly throughout the entire length of the film without any interruptions. (The most common interruption is that the loop in the film is lost causing the film to skip in the sprockets.) Once you’ve learned how to properly thread the film in the projector you will enjoy many uninterrupted hours of pleasurable film viewing.

The Setup

Plug in the projector but don't turn it on yet. Swing out the reel arms of your projector. In some older vintage models the reel arms are stationary. Depending on the projector's design, horizontal or vertical, the reel containing the film will either be in the front or on the top of the projector.

Snap the film reel and take-up reel into place. The reels will be rotating in a clockwise direction. This means that, as you look at the reel containing the film, the film will hang out of the right side of the reel. 8mm film has sprocket perforations on only one edge of the film so the 8mm projector has teeth on only one side of the sprockets. This will enable you to be sure that the film is loaded correctly. 16mm film has perforations on both edges of the film and sprockets with teeth on each edge. To avoid any threading confusion, remember that the reels move clockwise, therefore the film will always feed out of the right side of the reel as you look at it housed on the projector arm.

Flip the direction lever to "Forward." For manual threading, unroll about two feet of film to thread through the projector.

Manual Threading

Open the first thread sprocket by pushing down on its metal housing. Fit the film perforations over the sprockets and close the housing. Leave no slack between the reel and the first sprocket.

Open the lens gate. Leave about an inch of slack in the film by forming a loop in it before it rests over the lamp opening. Close the lens gate. Leave another inch of slack in the film by forming another loop in the film before feeding it into the second sprocket.

Open the second sprocket by pulling up on its metal housing. Fit the film perforations over the sprockets and close the housing.

Thread the film into the slot in the take-up reel. You should have enough length of film leader to do this. If you need more leader, turn on the projector's motor to let out more. Turn off the motor and finish threading the film into the take-up reel. The projector is now threaded.

Turn on the motor and lamp switches to watch the film.

Automatic Threading

The setup is the same as the manual setup. Rather than manually threading the projector, simply flip the direction lever to "Forward" and the control switch to "Motor."

Press down the upper loop former and slip the film into the threading slot. The film is threaded automatically.

The film should automatically be taken up by the take-up reel. If this does not happen, turn the lamp and motor off and thread the film manually into the take-up reel.


  • Never turn off the motor while leaving the lamp on. The heat from the lamp will burn the film in the lens gate. Always turn off the lamp before turning off the motor.
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