Friday, February 15, 2019

How to Light the Picture Theatre -- February 15, 2019

Moving Picture World, 15-February-1919


Progressive Managers Realize the Importance of the Proper Illumination of Their Houses

TO THE picture theatre proprietor contemplating- the renovation of his house and also the prospective theatre owner planning the equipment of a new building the following extract from the bulletin 43409 of the Edison Lamp Works of General Electric Company will prove of interest and value:

Aside from the fact that in many localities adequate lighting is required by law, it has the advantages of making the theatre more attractive, reduces the liability of panic in the case of fire, eliminates the gloom which is attendant with a darkened room, and, lastly, these qualities will be features that increase the attendance, which, of course, is the end to which the management strives.

It is not the peculiar construction of these buildings that makes the problem of illumination somewhat difficult, but rather the exacting conditions and requirements. While the pictures are being shown on the screen the illumination must be such as not to interfere with the vision of the spectator, neither should it destroy the contrast brightness of the screen itself. It is a foregone conclusion that there should be some illumination in the theatre while the pictures are being shown so as to facilitate the continuous entrance and exit of patrons. Then, too, there is the psychological effect on the patrons to be considered. Rarely, if ever, would persons prefer to view an entertainment in total darkness, and the public would much rather attend a theatre which presents a bright, cheerful appearance than to spend several hours in a room which is dark and gloomy. Therefore, the ultimate outcome from a well illuminated theatre, other things being equal, would mean increased patronage with a corresponding increase in revenue.

Another very important argument in favor of provision being made for good lighting is its necessity in times of panic, which are apt to occur at the least expected moment.

Fires, smoke, explosions, etc., are factors that may cause an audience to become panic stricken and unmanageable. At such times, if the auditorium can be flooded with light, an audience can see for themselves their proximity to danger, which usually means that calmness is immediately restored, thereby eliminating the liability of accidents.

Type of Unit.

The two types of fixtures which are most satisfactory for moving picture theatre lighting are the totally indirect and the semi-indirect, as with these systems the light is soft and well diffused. Any degree of even illumination can be obtained, there are no glaring light sources visible to the spectators, and by illuminating the ceiling and side walls the decorative features of the room are well shown.

Both the totally indirect and semi-indirect fixtures are made to accommodate one or more lamps, so that with proper sizes of lamps and wiring the desirable intensities of illumination may be obtained.

If side wall brackets are used the reflectors should be of opalescent diffusing glass, either white or tinted, of sufficient density to render the light source unobjectionable.


It is quite desirable that provision be made so that, at least, two different intensities of illumination may be obtained; a low intensity for the period during which the pictures are being shown and a higher intensity for use during interims and in case of emergency. One quite common method is to install two or more lamps in each fixture wired on two separate circuits. In this way one circuit only need be used when a low intensity of illumination is desired, and when more light is necessary the second circuit may be turned on. The intensity for either period may easily be governed by installing the proper size of lamp on each circuit.

For the low intensity lamps should be chosen of such a size that 0.1 to 0.2 watts per square foot of floor space are provided; for the high intensity about 0.5 watt per sq. ft. will be satisfactory.

Another method in common use is the employment of dimmers. This consists of resistance connected in the circuit by which the voltage on the lamps may be reduced, which in turn will lower the intensity of illumination. Any degree of illumination from darkness to the maximum may be obtained by such an arrangement.

The front portion of the house will usually receive sufficient reflected light from the screen, consequently lighting fixtures near the screen need not be wired for dim lighting, as they will be lighted only when bright illumination is desired.

With the narrow theatre where the ceiling is low, it is often desirable to locate the lighting units in two rows, rather than in one row down the center, or use bracket fixtures of the indirect type, in order to keep all lighting units out of the angle of projection of the picture.

Special Features.

Colored or tinted lamps are used to considerable extent in motion picture lighting. These have a number of distinct advantages, among them their novelty and decorativeness. Large totally indirect bowls with several mirror reflectors can be installed with different colored lamps on different circuits. The lighting can be switched from one circuit to another as deemed advisable. Some theatres have found that green lamps furnish suitable low general illumination, which does not interfere with the projection of the picture.

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