Monday, 30 January 2012

Object of the Week 6: Revealed

Congratulations to Steve on twitter who recognised the shutters in the projection room and guessed at a use for fire prevention!
The picture was indeed of a black shutter from the projection room. You can see a wider angled shot of it here:

There are four windows which look from the projector room down into the auditorium, two for each of the two original projectors. They're set at different heights because the lower one was for the projector to shine through and the higher one for the projectionist to look down into the auditorium and check how the screening was progressing. In early cinema, the quality of the film projection depended very much on the skill of the projectionist. There were many different things that could go wrong with a film, from the speed of the film to the brightness of the light, even the colour of the light in the early days, so it was important that the projectionist had a good view of what the audience were seeing so that they could fix anything that was wrong.
Each of the four windows into the auditorium has its own shutter, branded 'Kalee' - Gaumont Kalee made the original projectors that were installed in the projection room of the Regal in 1937. They are all attached to the horizontal bar you can see in this picture:

And what were they for? Well, they had various uses, but their main purpose was to act as a fire break between the projector room and the auditorium. Early film was very flammable; the fumes were toxic and the fires very hard to put out. It wasn't unusual for film to heat up travelling through the projector and catch fire.
If that happened, the projectionists could pull a lever which would immediately drop the four shutters, which are heavy iron slabs, down in front of the windows to stop the smoke from entering the auditorium for long enough for the public to be evacuated. The wires which connect the shutters to the top bar also contained a metal with a low melting point, so that if the fire had incapacitated the projectionists or they hadn't noticed, the wires would melt and the shutters would come down automatically.
Down in the auditorium, there is a handle which connects to the horizontal bar. It is next to the usher's seats at the back, so that in case of an emergency, the ushers could release the shutters and effectively stop the film's projection.

Have a look for it the next time you're in the auditorium! If you ask one of the staff or volunteers, they should be able to point it out for you.

We hope you enjoyed this week's mystery object! A mystery film will be up on Friday...

1 comment:

  1. awesome!
    i love the fail safe of 'meltable wires'!!