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TOPIC: Questions About Stage Curtains.

Questions About Stage Curtains. 17 Nov 2005 09:56 #28971

  • take2
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I'm looking for a new set of stage curtains and was wondering if they sell them in fire retardent meterial. If they don't is there a way you can treat them so they will be so or at least slow down the fire if there should be a fire in the theater.
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Re: Questions About Stage Curtains. 17 Nov 2005 11:01 #28972

  • jimor
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Virtually all theatre curtains sold are fireproofed (flameproofed) to some extent, and laws in almost all jurisdictions require them to have a dated label certifying the method used and the name of the company doing the flameproofing. There are no materials that by their nature are intrinsicly fireproof, with the exception of a type of metal mesh that a certain company promotes. Fibreglass is not readily flamable, but with enough heat, it too will burn or melt. If a curtain's vendor does not prominently mention fireproofing/flameproofing, then look closely at their literature for a statement regarding such; if none is found, you may be dealing with a fast-buck artist who flouts the law. While it is unlikely that today's building inspectors will know much about flameproof draperies (as compared to the day of the movie palaces with their huge, carefully flameproofed draperies) it is possible to get a denial of operation permit or a forced closure as a public hazard if one is found to have draperies not fireproofed according to local regulations which sometimes have statue authority. Get written requirements from your local Chief of Building Inspection!

IF you have any of the old scenic studios in your area, such as Tiffin in Tiffin, Ohio, they will know how to flameproof and often have the tanks necessary to soak the fabrics if spraying is not allowed in your area. I believe that it is the California Fire Marshall's technique and subsequent test that is most often specified by the locals. Your insurance carrier *should* know about these requirements, but nowadays it is often some girly who only shuffles papers and collects premiums, so don't rely completely upon what your agent might say. Your local fire dept. HQ should be happy to help you do your homework on this!

Lastly, be aware that while there are often "bargains" to be had in used drapery sets, they are not bargains if one cannot realistically flameproof them. Most fabrics as they get older are less and less capable of being treated without coming apart or being drastically changed in appearance. It is always best to get new draperies that HAVE ALREADY BEEN flameproofed; in that way you will be seeing the final appearance when you go to inspect them.

Try to see them under lighting something like what is in your place. If you use footlights, then try to wash them light from the bottom up. Pile fabrics especially change appearance depending upon light angle versus angle of sight of the audience, so that piles such as velour, velvet, and even velveteen will appear much darker high on the stage as opposed to right in front of the footlights.

If you choose a patterned fabric with such as a metallic thread, then know that many flameproofing chemicals will work on such as cotton, but NOT on plastic-based metallics (a plastic strand coated with aluminum, coated with a dye). Thus a curtain can be sold as "Flameproof" meaning that the cotton ground was flameproofed in vat, long before the metallic fibers were added, and these will likely NOT be flameproofed according to the law. THus, if you buy such a fabric now, it *may* meet current flameproofing laws, but will you be able to have the thousands of dollars of curtains/draperies cleaned and fireproofed again in ten years?? (all fireproofing/flameproofing chemicals deteriorate over time and must be redone). Best Wishes on what can be the most beautiful additions to your cinema/theatre, but they can also be the most problematic. Do your 'Due Dilligence' homework ahead of buying!
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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