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TOPIC: Help With Identifying Equipment

Help With Identifying Equipment 18 Nov 2004 12:06 #9342

  • motts
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Hello. I'm not much of a film buff, but I'd like some more information on some equipment I've recently found in a theater of an old asylum. Any interesting info would be great!
http://www.opacity.us/image1225.htm

The first photo is a projection lamp, click the next button to see two Simplex XL projectors with Peerless Magnarc lamphouses... how did these work? What are those sticks for? How old might these be?

Just curious, thanks!

-motts
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 18 Nov 2004 12:47 #9343

  • jimor
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Well, Motts, what you ask for is almost a crash course in projection, and if you survey the Archive of the BOOTH forum you will find a lot more information. Or, you can go to the site: www.film-tech.com for extensive information, and maybe even some turtorial books.

But for now, I will let you know that those "sticks" are carbon rods sometimes clad in copper, that were mounted inside the lamphouse clamps under voltage to be struck together in a skilled way and then quickly separated to draw an arc of light between them. This is how they got the intense light to cast so far away upon the screen years ago. Nowadays, most all projection is done by means of special Xenon bulbs that produce a bright but inferior light. If you want the experts here to give more details, I suggest you post in the BOOTH forum. Best Wishes. Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 18 Nov 2004 13:58 #9344

  • outaframe
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What you found here is a batch of damned good equipment... The Simplex XL heads could be any age from 1941 thru the mid-1960's, and were state of the art during that period (still are excellent stuff, and in use world-wide)... The Peerless Magnarcs originally debued in 1936, but these appear to be later models because of the chrome trim and tutone color scheme: a guess would be somewhere in the early 1950's... Peerless lamps used Suprex (copper jacketed) carbons as the light source, and collected the light in a high efficiency 14" concave reflector... The light was formed into a cone which was adjusted to just fill the aperture of the film head... The negative carbon was at the rear, the positive at the front, and a high amperage (up to 85 amps), low voltage DC current was fed between the carbons which produced a high intensity ball of white fire (luminous flux) in the gap between the carbons... The carbons burned away, just like an arc welder burns carbons to weld steel, and the gap was maintained by an automatic carbon feeding system... These were amoungst the very best of the carbon arc lamps on the market, and some are still in use, but carbons have become very difficult to find, since the advent of xenon projection lamps, starting in the late 1960's... Hope this general information is enough to answer your questions...
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 18 Nov 2004 19:15 #9345

  • Ken Layton
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Oh my God! It's like I'm in a time warp. What happened to this building? Did everyone simply walk away from it (abandonded)? What a neat theater.

Strong Trouper carbon arc followspot light. Still a popular spotlight for stage work and very common. Some have been converted to xenon. In production from 1939 thru 1979. Parts are still available as are the carbons for it.

In the projection booth there are visible these:
2 Simplex XL projector heads (very popular with tons of parts available). This is probably the most popular projector ever made. It first appeared in 1949 and is still in production (with some improvements/paint color changes) as the Simplex 35.

2 Simplex XL soundheads (very popular with tons of parts and stereo/digital sound upgrades available). It appears these are still equipped with phototubes and built-in preamp.

2 Simplex heavy duty pedestal bases.

2 Peerless Magnarc carbon arc lamphouses (very popular, some parts available). Carbons are available from www.cinemacarbons.com

Rewind bench with a Golde motorized film rewinder attached.

Looks like birds have gotten into the booth since it looks like bird crap all over the lamphouses and exhaust ductwork.

Screens on stage look like they are in ok shape.

Where's the sound equipment????? Where's the motor-generator (or rectifier) for the carbon arc lamphouses? Where's the projection lenses?
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 19 Nov 2004 12:23 #9346

  • motts
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Hey, thanks for the useful info!

Yeah the place used to be a state asyulm, and they were funded very well. After the deinstitutionalization process in the 70's and 80's, many state hospitals closed down or downsized because of declining patient population. This one became a private organization, and boarded up about 50 buildings (about half the campus), including this theater. Patients are allowed to walk the grounds nowadays, so getting inside is extremely difficult, and that is the reason this equipment is still intact and not smashed or looted.

The only sound equipment I saw was an old compressor/limiter for the PA on stage, perhaps they are using the original stuff for a theater that is still in use.

Someone told me the lenses are worth the most money, and that the hospital almost definately took them out.

I don't remember seeing generators, is it possible they ran off the general power lines, or do they need a special voltage?

Thanks for the description of the formation of the light, it was very interesting!

I have been in a few abandoned theaters, if anyone would like to see just some general pics, but no equipment:

The Pines Hotel Theater - a few pics here http://www.opacity.us/image77.htm

Northampton State Hospital - a nice carved wood mezzanine http://www.opacity.us/image688.htm

Philadelphia State Hospital - an enourmous theater http://www.opacity.us/image594.htm

-motts
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 19 Nov 2004 13:28 #9347

  • outaframe
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Woops!... My Bad, Ken is correct that the XL heads were introduced in 1949: it was the Simplex E-7 head (previous model) that arrived in 1941... But I'd still guess this package was installed in the mid-1950's...

As for the DC current used by the Peerless lamps, it would have to be converted from AC by either a motor/generator setup, or more likely, by a single, or pair of rectifiers... If I am correct in the age estimate of this stuff, I'd bet on a pair of rectifiers...

As to value, the Simplex XL film heads and the matching sound heads are by far the most valuable parts in the system... Depending on when the lenses were removed (and likely sold) they would have been most valuable before the late 1970's, when lens makers started using new computer designs which improved lenses significantly... The very best lenses dating back to the mid-1950's are only moderately valuable today because of the new lens designs in use now...

The sound system that was originally installed would be of interest only to a collector, now, because of the many changes and advances in theater sound since those days...

All-in-all the booth is still a wonderful find, and well worth removing and putting back in service with the latest retrofits...

[This message has been edited by outaframe (edited November 19, 2004).]
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 19 Nov 2004 14:32 #9348

  • John Pytlak
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A member of Film-Tech just got some really nice vintage equipment from the theatre in the long-closed Rochester Psychiatric Center this summer. It was listed on e-Bay. He made quite a bit selling the vacuum tube sound system, allowing him to buy additional equipment and spare parts.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 19 Nov 2004 22:04 #9349

  • MovieGuy
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The pictures were giving me the creeps. It was like seeing Session 9 again!
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Re: Help With Identifying Equipment 19 Nov 2004 23:17 #9350

  • outaframe
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Yes, other than the equipment photos, the rest are really spooky... Some reminded me of "Frances" while others are reminiscent of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."... It's amazing how alike all the state mental faclities were, no matter the state, and how badly mental patients were treated, not all that long ago... It all seems almost medieval, by today's standards!...
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