The Los Angeles Theatre pages: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | entrance | grand lobby | main floor inner lobby | lobby - 1st balcony level | basement - intermediate lounge | basement - main lounge | ladies room and nursery | men's room | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | stage | booth | retail and support spaces |
The booth of the new theatre was profiled in "Los Angeles Theatre's Remarkable Equipment," an article by E.W. Anderson in the April 1931 issue of "The Loudspeaker." It's on Internet Archive.
A large mystery is the question of how the two world-class physicists got involved in the design process for the periscope. Dr. Francis G. Pease was in charge of instrument design at the Mount Wilson Observatory and Dr. Albert A. Michelson was a Nobel physicist known for his work on measuring the speed of light. Both men knew Albert Einstein. Michelson had built a mile-long tunnel for an experiment by Einstein.
Einstein attended the theatre's opening and was photographed at the event with Charlie Chaplin. Evidently they were friends. The story is that Chaplin had put money into the theatre project to assist the completion. It's unknown who had the original idea for the periscope system and whether or not it was Einstein who suggested Pease and Michelson for the project. In addition to the screen in the lounge, the periscope system was originally planned with a screen outside on the south side of the theatre entrance, a screen in the nursery adjacent to the ladies lounge in the basement, and multiple screens in the music room, a facility in the basement that was deleted from the project during construction.
A photo of the booth dimmerboard from the cover of the June 1931 issue of "The Loudspeaker." E.W. Anderson's article in the issue, "Introduction of Vacuum Tubes To Theatre Lighting Control," was part two of his coverage of the Los Angeles. This time he discussed the electronic dimmer system. Many thanks to Bob Foreman for finding the articles on Internet Archive. For a vast treasure trove of early tech data visit Bob's Vintage Theatre Catalogs site.
Further down on this page about the booth are recent photos of the booth's board and dimmer rack. On the page about the stage there are photos of the stage half of the system and, at the bottom of the page, more details about how the system functioned. Also see a short February 1931 L.A. Times article located by Anthony Caldwell about a group of engineers touring the theatre to explore its wonders
The auditorium from the booth. The action on stage was the Lucent Dossier Experience, performing during the 2nd "Night On Broadway." Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for his 2016 photo. Keep up with his recent explorations: on Facebook | HunterKerhart.com | on Flickr
A door at the top of the balcony leads to this hall and the stairs up to the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Peeking into the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A storage area up at the landing. The door straight ahead goes into the attic above the grand lobby ceiling. The booth is behind us. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Robert Simonton notes: "This room was originally a lounge and locker room for the projectionists. A shower room is on the right. Those are some of the amplifier cabinets from the 1950s Simplex Cinemascope 4-channel magnetic sound system."
The vista down the length of the booth. The 3 machines are XLs with Simplex soundheads, #1 and 2 with Xenon lamps. Beyond is an arc followspot and the Brenograph. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2016
At the far left end of the booth is a doorway going out onto the roof. From there, stairs heading toward Broadway lead up to a fan room above the booth. From that fan room, one heads
east into the attic above the auditorium. To our right (out of the frame) are amp racks and more spot ports.
Projectors: Simplex XL
Soundheads: Simplex SH-1007 analog optical, Dolby Digital
Lamps: In the photos here they're Strong lamps with 6 Kw Xenon bulbs. Those lamps belong to the L.A. Conservancy. The thestre has a pair of LP Associates 4.2 Kw Xenon lamphouses. The 3rd XL (not used) still has an Ashcraft carbon arc lamp behind it.
Sound processor: Dolby CP 55
Amps: 2 TOA 900 series
Stage speakers: 3 Voice of the Theatre units. Other gear is brought in for individual screenings.
Surrounds: Altec cabinets from the 1953 Cinemascope installation.
Projection Throw: 136'
Proscenium width: 60'
Screen size: 27' x 55'
Masking: Moveable top and side masking is attached to the frame.
House light control: Either from the booth or backstage right. The original thyratron controlled saturable reactor dimmers from 1931 have been replaced by a rack of SCR dimmers, located in the room behind the booth.
Some of our information here comes from the theatre's website, LosAngelesTheatre.com. See their venue specs page as well as a 17 page downloadable tech packet in pdf format.
Looking toward the front wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The lamp on machine #3, an Ashcraft Core-Light carbon arc. Thanks to Floyd B. Bariscale for his 2009 photo. Check out his Big Orange Landmarks blog and his Los Angeles Theatre article. Also see his 93 item Los Angeles Theatre album on Flickr.
A look at machine #3 and inside the Ashcraft lamp. It's a rotating positive lamp with water cooling. On top of the Simplex XL projector that's an Ampex head for 4 channel mag and a Dolby Digital soundhead. Thanks to Mike Hume for his 2017 photo. More of his fine work can be seen in his Los Angeles Theatre album on Flickr. Even better, head to the Los Angeles Theatre page of his Historic Theatre Photography website. He has many booth photos as well as fine views of other areas of the theatre.
A fine view out the far right port by Dusti Cunningham. It's a photo that once appeared on the L.A. Conservancy Facebook page.
Machine #2, here seen with an Ampex mag head and a Dolby Digital head atop the XL. That red LED glow is coming from the Dolby head. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
Another look at machine #2. Photo: Mike Hume - 2015
Another view of machine #2 from a bit farther forward. Thanks to Magnetic Lobster for the 2010 photo appearing on Flickr.
A peek out the port at the #2 machine. Photo: Magnetic Lobster - Flickr - 2010
A closer look at the control panel at machine #2. Photo: Mike Hume - 2015
A followspot at one of the ports to the left of machine #1. Photo: Mike Hume - 2015
A look across the front of the followspot to the Brenograph beyond. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
A look across the front of the followspot to the Brenograph beyond. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
The control panel at the spot port to the left of machine #1. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The Brenograph on the far left side of the booth. "Projects Everything But the Picture" their ads used to say. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
A look inside the top lamp. Photo: Mike Hume - 2015
Mike has a short demonstration of the wonders of the Brenograph featuring veteran projectionist Tom Ruff on YouTube. For more information see a page about the Brenograph from the Embassy Theatre in Ft. Wayne. Also on their site is a terrific 64 page pdf of a booklet about the equipment.
A peek in at the arc in the upper Brenograph lamphouse. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
A view from the booth. The film on the screen is "Romeo and Juliet." The house lights are on as the theatre was getting set up for the evening's sold out showing sponsored by the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and Cinespia. Projection wizard Tom Ruff and his team added Dolby Digital soundheads and a 3 channel plus surrounds speaker system to ensure an optimum presentation. Photo: Bill Counter - February 9, 2013
Another look down with the screen only partially flown in. Note the speaker onstage -- it'll be a mono film. Thanks to Don Solosan for his 2009 photo taken for the LAHTF.
A look back from the doorway to the roof at the left end of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A view over to the sound rack where the crew is readying the system brought in for the LAHTF / Cinespia screening of "Romeo+Juliet." Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The booth back wall. The booth entrance door is at the far left. The doorway at the right goes to a rewind and storage room behind the booth. Behind that is the electric room with motor-generator sets, ballast resistors and dimmers. On the right of the photo is a bit of the DC control switchboard. Out of the frame farther to the right is the remote control board for the stage and house dimmer racks. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The film storage bins on the back wall. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for her 2009 photo. It's one of 72 great views of the theatre in her Los Angeles Theatre set on Flickr
In the rewind room behind the booth. On the shelf are the two LP Associates lamphouses owned by the theatre. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The back corner of the booth. We're over on the south end of the booth (left side if we were facing the stage). At left, the DC switchboard. At right is the remote control board for the dimmers. The door to the roof is just out of the frame to the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A closer look at the DC switchboard. The motor-generator set is behind this in the electric room. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The left end of the lighting board on the south wall of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A detail of the 1931 Westinghouse control board for the auditorium lighting. Originally twin thyratron tubes controlled saturable reactor dimmers. Radio City Music Hall got a similar system. The five small sliders for each dimmer allowed for five presets. The larger fader below each group of five was for manual control. The wheel was the fader for moving from preset to preset. To the left of the wheel is a color master. See the stage page for more details about how the system functioned. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The motor-generator set and a surplus dimmer rack in the south end of the electric room behind the booth. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2009
A closer look at the DC end of the MG set for the arc lamps. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2009
Ballast resistors for the arc lamps. The switches allow for cutting out various segments of the resistor, thus changing the voltage at the lamp. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2009
Another look into the southeast corner of the electric room behind the booth. The original rack of saturable reactor dimmers is behind us. The Strand Century dimmer rack at left sits at the south end of the original rack and is used instead of the 1931 dimmers. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The Strand SCR dimmer rack. At left are some control relays associated with the original dimmer system -- the rest of the 1931 rack is out of the frame to the left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
We're behind the dimmer rack looking south at the controls for the smaller DC motor-generators used to supply the control current for the original dimmer system. Behind this control board that's another view of the larger MG set for the arc lamps. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A look north behind the dimmer rack at the motor-generator sets for the dimmer system. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Behind the dimmer rack for a look at the saturable reactor dimmers. They're basically large choke coils with enough reactance to dim out the lights in their normal condition. When DC is applied to a second winding, the reactance is minimized and the lights come up. The thyratron tubes in the control circuits regulate the amount of DC current that flows, and this the brightness of the load. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Looking down the front of the thyratron dimmer rack. There's a similar rack in the basement for stage lights. Originally all dimmers could be controlled from either the stage or the booth. Closest to us is the rack of newer SCR dimmers. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
A closer look down the dimmer rack. The item sitting in one of the control trays is a Strand SCR dimmer pack. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Some of the trays at the north end of the dimmer rack. The empty tray in front of each dimmer once had plug-in control modules with twin thyratron tubes and associated electronics. Those components have vanished. Perhaps they went to Radio City Music Hall to keep their system functioning? Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2009
A closer look at one of the dimmer trays. At the bottom is the receptacle for the plug on the now-missing control unit. Fuses associated with each dimmer are for the control circuit and branch circuits on the load side. Many of the dimmers have multiple fuses as some are large capacity units that fed several branch circuits. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
Looking northwest in the fan room above the booth. To get here you go out the door on the south end of the booth, up a flight of stairs and in a door at the landing. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The window in the photo is facing north. Turn around to your right and head toward Broadway and there's a door to get out onto the roof area above the lobby. Or hop over that concrete beam and go through the door just left of the ladder and you're in the attic space above the auditorium.
Another fan room view. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The wide angle view in from the door after coming dwn from the fan room. Left to right it's the Brenograph, a follow spot, and the three projectors. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017. Thanks, Mike!
Heading back down. We're at the bottom of the stairs below the booth looking out into the auditorium. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013
The booth in the movies:
Robert Stack and his men in the booth at the Los Angeles in Steven Spielberg's "1941" (Universal, 1979). At right are the projectors. On the left we get a view of the 1931 dimmer board.
Stack on the phone at one of the ports in "1941." See the Theatres in Movies post for a shot of him watching cartoons in the empty auditorium. He knows all the lines.
Brad Pitt is at a rewind bench placed near the south wall of the booth in David Fincher's "Fight Club" (20th Century Fox, 1999).
In "Fight Club" Edward Norton is telling us that Pitt (doing a changeover behind) doesn't like his "shit job" as a projectionist so he amuses himself by splicing frames of porno into the family films he's showing. See the Theatres In Movies post for two more booth images as well as shots on 8th St. with views of the Tower and Olympic theatres.
Thanks to Los Angeles Theatre projectionist Mark Wojan for pointing out where this scene in "Fight Club" was filmed. The scene also appears in "Projection: 85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies," a delightful 12 minute compilation by Joseph Holmes that's on Vimeo.
In "Nancy Drew" (Warner Bros., 2007), Nancy (Emma Roberts) wakes up in the booth on a pile of marquee letters after a kidnapping. She finds herself locked in so looks for an escape route.
Opening a porthole in "Nancy Drew." Fortunately there's some scaffolding set up in the balcony for her to crawl onto. The film, directed by Andrew Fleming, also stars Tate Donovan and Max Thieriot. See the Theatres in Movies post for another booth view plus five of Roberts out in the auditorium on scaffolding.
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