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TOPIC: Marquees

Marquees 02 Nov 2001 14:47 #19800

  • san
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Anyone want to clue me in as to why some of the marquees on the old theatres were so ornate and the ones we see now are so nondescript, austere looking?
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Re: Marquees 02 Nov 2001 15:36 #19801

  • John Pytlak
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Cost, both to build and maintain, is one reason. And some building codes and zoning regulations restrict the size and design of signage.

But many modern theatre designs do feature lots of external lighting treatments, with spotlights and flashy neon. Cinemark and Edwards come to mind.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
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John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
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Eastman Kodak Company
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Re: Marquees 02 Nov 2001 21:59 #19802

  • Ken Layton
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Sign codes in some jurisdictions can be VERY restrictive. Here in Olympia, Washington the current sign codes are very tough. For instance: no flashing lights, no chasing lights, no spinning objects, signs may only project no more than 6 inches from the surface of the building, and size of sign is governed by the square footage of the building (example: a 30,000 square foot building may only have a sign that's 6 foot by 6 foot in size). Seems like the city only wants you to have a small painted plywood sign with a floodlight shining on it.

Now the situation is much different 30 miles south of me in Centralia and Chehalis, Washington. Their sign codes let you do ANYTHING with your sign---the bigger and flashier, the better!

To sum it up it varies from town to town, but it seems like if you can throw a bunch of money under the table, then you can get a nice sign erected.
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Re: Marquees 02 Nov 2001 23:39 #19803

  • RoxyVaudeville
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John and Ken pretty well summed up what the situation is today.

But why were the marquees on the old theatres so large and ornate in the first place? And why all the chasing and flashing lights? It's the old "moth attracted to the flame" circumstance. Those moving and flashing lights attracted a lot of attention. In downtown areas where there was a lot of competition from other signs, theatres needed to stand out from the others.

The early nickelodeons used stud lighting over most of the exterior of the building to garner attention. Those early film houses didn't have caponies over the sidewalk, but rather large arches in the facade with an ornate box office setting in the center. The recessed entryway where the box office sat, formed a kind of outside lobby where advertising through posters and various signs were used to lure the potential patron inside. The stud lighting on the front brought the building to the passerbys attention, then the ornate boxoffice in the brightly lit outside lobby and the posters surrounding it caught their curiosity and enticed them to enter. As the theatres prospered and grew larger, as their audiences increased, they needed to provide more protection for the ever growing number of people lining up to buy tickets. By the late teens and early twenties movie theatres began to borrow the sidewalk canopy from the legitimate theatres, but went a step futher by adding lights and changeable letter boards to them.

Throughtout the twenties, as theatres strived to outdo one another, there marquees and the lights on them continued to accelerate in size, ornateness and color with more and more animation of all kinds. The Paradise theatre in Chicago was probably the ulimate extreme in size and splendor.

The depression of the thirties brought an end to those extravagant marquees, but still many large and brilliant marguees were built on theatres well into the fifties. Television and the shift of theatres away from downtown and Main street and into new shopping centers and malls took away the importance of the marquee as an attention getter. The sales job went to roadside free standing signs that now advertise 15 or 20 movies to motorists that drive by at speeds that never allow them to read even half of the titles.

Even small town theatres often had elaborate marquees. If you want to see one example of one of those still in existence, look at the one on my theatre by going to our website @ www.roxytheaternorthampton.com and clicking on the photo page.

[This message has been edited by RoxyVaudeville (edited November 03, 2001).]
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Re: Marquees 03 Nov 2001 10:58 #19804

  • Ken Layton
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How right you are Roxy. On the theaters that still have "projecting marquees", have you noticed how you can see and read them clearly from far away down the street? They were designed to be flashy and eye catching but also informative so that you could quickly and easily read what was playing at the theater without actually being in front of the theater. Often these signs used 12" and larger letters on the copyboard portion.
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