Monday, January 31, 2011

In-House Hi-jinx

Let me tell you the last two weeks working on the sets of Cinderella were CRAZY!  With all that work we still managed to have a little fun, right there in the theater.
 (Wichita Theater circa 1908)
You see the Wichita Theater was built in 1908 as the Wichita Falls Opera house and at the time was the largest preforming arts center in all of Texas.  In fact when the traveling production of Ben-Hur came to town in 1913, it was the only stage they had preformed on that didn't have to be altered for the chariot race scene. Its told to me that both of the back doors of the theater were kept open and the "racers" would ride across stage, into the alley, around to the other door and through the stage again!  The boards have hosted famous names such as Lillian Russell, Clark Gable, Judy Garland Debbie Reynolds and many more.  By 1915 everyone who was anyone in Vaudeville had played the Wichita Falls Opera House.  Then in 1928 something magical happened, Motion Pictures learned to TALK!  In 1938 the Opera House underwent some remodeling and became a movie theater, it was then that the theater became the Art Deco wonder it is today.
(Circa 2010)
What does this have to do with set dressing you ask? Not much, when ever the team had some down time we'd go exploring. Expeditions were led by friend Sheldon and oh the places we went! One night we explored the old projection booth in the balcony of the theater.

Even thought the old projectors were taken out long ago a few artifacts remain.  Like the original 1938 RCA sound system dials are still bolted to the walls.
 The projection booth itself sports concrete walls, and metal shutters over the projection windows and a solid metal locking door.
 Why you ask? Because when it was modernized for a movie theater movie film was still made from Celluloid, Celluloid made the pictures cells more clear and colorful. However it was highly explosive, and so the projection room was fitted in such a way so that if a fire did start only that room would be damaged. We found all sorts of long forgotten things up there...
 (The ordering cards they would send out for the film) 
 (A blank inventory order form)

  A slew of old Schlitz beer cans and a medicine cabinet mirror that all the projectionist had written in,
 The longest working from 1939 - 1973  that's 1,938 weeks. Think of all the movies he showed! Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Singin' In the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, & Blue Hawaii, just to name a few! They're no ghosts (per-say) haunting the booth, however there is Charlie...
He's just a cardboard cut out, and Wichita Theatre's #1 patron, however he has a tendency to move around that window on his own. On the Left side of the projection booth is the old "Ushers"  locker room, not much up there now but a sink/ mirror and a set of wooden lockers dated 1962 on the inside...
Other than that is just a 2 level balcony I love hanging out up there, because you can get a good overall view of the sets and the production! Here we ahve the original seats from 1938.
And look at these amazing frescoes on the ceiling! The Wichita Theatre is a registered Texas landmark, and when it was revamped in 1938 it took on the style and became an Art Deco theater.
 Its just beautiful! But I can never get a goo picture of what the whole "house" looks like because its so dim inside the theater. I can tell you that what you see above it just a FRACTION of all the cool Art Deco things still inside the theater... But that's a subject for a another post entire, and there will be many more theater adventures I hope!



Jim said...

Wouldn't be great to get 'lost' in there! All that history. Must be very exciting for you to be part of it all. Looking forward to more.....

1950's_atomic_ranch_house said...

Was just watching a movie about an old movie theater, and how a fire starts in the projection room.

Real history, there, I'd grab any little memorabilia I could, if possible!

Joshpotts24601 said...

yeah mickey, i was hearing that they are changing the seats in the theatre, i hope they don't remodle the whole balcony! its so cool up there! so much history!