Cineplex Odeon Corp. locked out union projectionists at its Chicago-area Plitt Theatres Inc. yesterday after Local 110 of the Motion Picture Projectionists & Video Technicians Union rejected the circuit’s final offer of $ 65 an hour.

Cineplex has sent its managers at their 49 theaters and 200 screens in the area to run projection booths.

The circuit reported no technical problems in its first day of operation without union projectionists.

Union members picketed several Cineplex venues, but the circuit added security at many of its Chicago venues yesterday morning.

Union projectionists had been working under the terms of a contract that expired Aug. 31. Talks between Cineplex and union representatives have been ongoing since Aug. 4.

The union rejected the company’s offer of a three-year contract that would lower the Chicago-area scale to a high of $ 65 an hour in the first year, $ 55 in the second and $ 45 in the third year.

Cineplex executive veepee of marketing and communications Howard Lichtman said the circuit wants “to negotiate a contract that is fair and equitable. One that is in line with contracts covering projectionists in major cities across the country and other movie theaters in the Chicago area.”

Under the expired contract, Cineplex’s projectionists earned as much as $ 112 an hour, compared to a high of $ 34.10 in New York and $ 18 in Los Angeles.

Cineplex also is seeking the right to hire and assign projectionists — previously a union prerogative. Lichtman said, “We think as employers — particularly employers paying a pretty good wage — we should have some input over who is hired, where they work, how many people work and how many hours they work. As it stands now, we have no control.”

Attempts to reach attorney Sherman Carmel, who represents the union, were unsuccessful.

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