A safety curtain is a fire safety precaution used in large proscenium theaters. It is usually a heavy fiberglass or iron curtain located immediately behind the proscenium arch. Its purpose is to contain any fire to the stage to allow time for the audience to evacuate safely. These curtains were used in Europe for many years but it wasn’t until after December 30, 1903 that regulations regarding these curtains became much tighter in the United States.
On December 30, 1903 people were filing into the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Women and children gathered to watch a matinee production of Mr. Bluebeard staring Eddie Foy. At the time the theater was only 5 weeks old and had been labeled fireproof beyond a doubt by designer Benjamin Marshal as well as city fire inspector Ed Laughlin. Once the audience members had taken their seats ushers were instructed to lock 27 of the theater’s 30 exits to prevent people from sneaking in.
The entrance of the Iroquois Theater in Chicago 1903.
During the second act of the show an arc light sparked catching the painted canvas backdrops on fire. Foy ran back on stage to try to calm people letting them know the fire curtain would be lowered. As the curtain was lowered it became caught and unable to reach the floor causing major panic. It was later discovered the curtain was made of paper and would not have helped even if it had come down completely. Ushers fled the theater first forgetting to unlock the 27 exit doors resulting in the death of 600 people.
Aftermath of the Iroquois Theater fire 1903
Since that major tragedy fire curtains are now a staple in any large theater venue. The original fire curtain for the Hollywood Pantages Theatre was lost when it did its job after a spark from a music stand in the orchestra pit set it ablaze. It depicted the evolution of man, art and architecture.
Hollywood Pantages original fire curtain
The current Hollywood Pantages Theatre fire curtain is rarely lowered with the exception of the occasional photo shoot. It depicts a painting of billowing clouds and a flock of flying birds.
There are a few things The Hollywood Pantages is known for. The beautiful Art Deco architecture, the glowing chandeliers, our dazzling marquee, and of course our wonderful shows. There is one other thing about us that is simply unique. Beyond the chandelier and the scrolling ceiling facade is the beautiful sprawling blue ceiling. Check out the photos below as we venture into “Howard’s Hideaway” to see the blue ceiling up close.
Howard Nugent Master Electrician at the Hollywood Pantages takes us into his “Hideaway” above the scrolling ceiling facade.
Blue light glows above the theatre as we peer through the ceiling facade to the mezzanine seats below.
The chandelier is visible hanging over the seats of the mezzanine from above the ceiling facade.
Blue gels are used to create the blue ceiling effect.
Howard Nugent explains how the blue gels work to create blue ceiling effect.
The Nederlander “N” is visible from our location above the scrolling ceiling facade
Many photos have been taken over the years of the beautiful Grand Chandelier that illuminates The 2,703 seats beneath it every performance. There is another view that most people don’t get to see and that is the view from inside the Grand Chandelier. Check out the video and photos below as our own Master Electrician, Howard Nugent takes a walk around the inside of the Grand Chandelier.
A view of the stage from inside the chandelier. (Photo Credit Howard Nugent)
A view of house right from inside the chandelier. (Photo Credit Howard Nugent)
A small opening from the ceiling allows access to a narrow ladder that climbs down to the chandelier. (Photo Credit Howard Nugent)
The great detail seen in all other parts of the theatre continues into the ceiling just above the chandelier. (Photo Credit Howard Nugent)
A look through the small opening down the ladder into the chandelier.
Master Electrician Howard Nugent climbs down the small ladder into the chandelier
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