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TOPIC: A Question About Lighting

A Question About Lighting 12 Jul 2005 12:14 #28891

  • poppajoe
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I've been to many theatres in my time and have noticed that they all seem to have their own lobby lighting level. Some theatres are very dark with soft lighting while other are brightly lighted. Is there any reason for this or is it just a matter of taste?
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Re: A Question About Lighting 12 Jul 2005 14:28 #28892

  • revrobor
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It's a matter of taste (unless the lobby is so poorly constructed that lobby lights spill into the auditorium). The last theatre I worked (a Regal 10-screen) had a bright lobby. I've also seen a theatre with a very dark lobby but I knew it was because that lobby needed to be redecorated and the owner didn't want the public to easily see all the work that needed to be done. Most lobbies I've been involved with were bright.

Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re: A Question About Lighting 13 Jul 2005 11:02 #28893

  • jimor
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In the case of multiplexes, I think it is up to the chain's designer as to what he wants to focus the public's attention upon, and that is usually the concession counter(s), naturally. The patron has already bought the ticket, so only enough light to identify the auditorium playing his selection is highlighted on a sign, the rest of the areas are lighted only as minimally as they can to satisfy the building inspector. The whole idea is to save on electrical costs.

With a single screen well maintained, such as RoxyVaudeville's, I am sure that the artistic play of light and shadow is of as much concern as highlighting the concessions. Movie palaces had their lighting designed for the sheer sake of beauty, since there were (gasp!) no concession stands in the 20s when they opened. Theme decors also prescribed much of the lighting to augment the effect of the decor, so lighting was part of the decor.

It is a mixed blessing today to have enough light to see in a typical multiplex, where the food stains on walls and floors can outnumber the decorations, if any. I prefer a medium light level since that helps acclimate my eyes to the difference in light levels between the dark auditoriums and the sunlight outdoors.
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: A Question About Lighting 14 Jul 2005 21:28 #28894

  • jacker5
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You want somewere in the middle not to bright yet not to dark, you want a warm inviting feeling!
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Re: A Question About Lighting 20 Jul 2005 10:35 #28895

  • Mill
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Light bulbs burn out. If it doesn't NEED to be a special light, make it a simple bulb. Something that can easily be purhcased locally - no special orders. Try to keep as many fixtures the same as possible, so you don't have to order 10 different types of lamps.

Get fixtures that are easy to change and place them in locations that are easy to change. Make it simple, so that the ushers (not known for being the brightest) can figure our how to change it themselves.

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Re: A Question About Lighting 20 Jul 2005 12:43 #28896

  • rodeojack
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The dim bulbs who built the indoor I recently had, designed the lobby so that the ceiling was as high as the auditoriums. You had to bring in (rent) a scissor lift to change them. Needless to say, it took more than one bulb going out to start that process... and it meant pretty much changing out the whole ceiling.

Ummmm.... don't do that!


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Re: A Question About Lighting 20 Jul 2005 16:09 #28897

  • Mike Spaeth
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Or buy an A-frame ladder. Or trade passes with the lift rental people.
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Re: A Question About Lighting 21 Jul 2005 04:16 #28898

  • Big Guy
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My theater has a 32 foot high ceiling with lighting in it. We also have a coffee house that has a wall separating it from the main lobby, but no ceiling. Makes getting the scissor lift in position to change lights an absolute joy! We usually wait until 4 or 5 lights go out, then rent the lift and change all of the lights at once. There are about 25 all together! Last time, we couldn't get a lift in town because they were all out on long term rentals due to major construction projects (a new wing on the hospital and a new outdoor mall being built at the same time). We had to rent one from a company in California, and it wasn't cheap to transport! We change auditorium lights (flood style) with a pole and suction cup, but the lobby lights are compact flourescent that snap into place, so we have no option but to climb up and change them. One of many terrible design ideas that make me wish for 10 minutes in a locked room with the designer of this building.
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Re: A Question About Lighting 21 Jul 2005 06:42 #28899

  • jimor
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High lobby ceilings are mostly a holdover from the days of the movie palace and the 1960s single screens, but in the day of the palaces they had the dollars and sense to put a catwalk above the ceiling to access those cove lights so out of reach. Likewise, the chandeliers were able to be lowered to the floor for relampling, etc. When years later the 'High-hat' recessed fixtures came into vogue, there were no catwalks above ceilings and it became an arm wrenching task to put an extended pole up there to twist out the bulbs. From that day on the architects just dashed off the carbon copy designs of the box-like lobbies, and just grabbed any ready-made specification of some recessed ceiling lights and threw them into the plans (after all, they were never going to replace the bulbs themselves). There, that's done. No real concern was given to lighting beyond low purchase cost and easy availability of desired lumens. By the 1970s with the energy crisis, the whole trend was 'save electricity' and with that mantra the compact fluorescent and sometimes metal halide fixtures became the way to go. The fixture cost was higher but it was amortized against the increasing cost of electricity. And the low purchase plus low electrical costs are what determine such today. Artistry has little to do with the designs by today's engineers, which is what most architects are now.

I think that if I had some of the relamping problems that some have, I would seriously consider replacing some or all of such inaccessable lights with pendant fixtures within easy ladder reach. With careful fixture selection, it should be relatively easy to relamp them, even if compact fluorescents. If one is afraid that bringing such fixtures closer to the floor will mean dark ceilings that look lost to the observer, then order or devise fixtures that have up-lights above their down-lights so as to cast upon the ceiling. Unless you have an ornamental ceiling, these need be only lower wattage types that only provide a glow up there.

For those building new or remodeling, it may pay to illuminate such high places with cold cathode neon (in white or colors), since it provides enough light to keep the ceilings 'alive' but at a low operating cost. If made by a neon artist, and NOT a sign shop, the pride of craftsmanship should cause you to get a good, 50-year-plus installation for the life of the tubing and transformers which can approach 100 years! In some cases the cost to operate such is so low that they can be left 'on' 24/7. And then there is never a bulb to replace!

If it is not desired to flood light a ceiling, investigte the use of new L.E.D. fixtures that will only ornament a ceiling, but never require replacement, and operate at very low cost with lifespans estimated at over a century --longer than the intended life of the building in today's business climate. Of course, one could still build an attic above a ceiling and design lights to be serviced from up there.
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: A Question About Lighting 22 Jul 2005 11:16 #28900

  • BurneyFalls
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The problem I have with using florescent or neon bulbs is they cannot be dimmed. They must be turned off abruptly. Am I wrong?
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Re: A Question About Lighting 22 Jul 2005 12:31 #28901

  • Big Guy
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Not anymore. Special bulbs (or special fixtures) can be installed allowing for compact fluorescent lighting to be dimmable.

GE Lighting


And according to this site : Residential Landscape Lighting Design : Neon lighting can be dimmed with special equipment.

I don't have any actual experience with any of this, but thought I would pass it along.
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Re: A Question About Lighting 22 Jul 2005 13:23 #28902

  • rodeojack
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I worked at a Seattle theatre that had neon in the auditorium alcoves. They worked very well, both for main lighting support and as colored running lights.

I don't recall that the dimmers were anything more exotic than motorized variacs.
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Re: A Question About Lighting 23 Jul 2005 14:23 #28903

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As with any permanent line voltage installation, an electrician must do the work under a permit. Many neon sign shops have in-house electricians who design the electical equipment of the fixtures/tubing to be installed, and most neon artists/craftsmen also are licensed to design and install such set ups, and it is these guys who are responsible for arranging for suitable transformers and dimmers. It is true that a Variac (a trade name for a high power rehostat) will dim neon on primaries of their transformers, but the units must be electrically 'mated' for correct voltage and current.

Do not be tempted to buy one of those cheap electronic (triac) dimmers at a hardware store; they can be used for their rated wattage upon incandescent fixtures in small rooms, but a cinema's higher power requirements and/or different types of lighting devices require the expertise of a licensed electrician or engineer. Yes, all types of lighting can now be dimmed -- with the right kinds of equipment.
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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