Issue 27

Screen Test

Orpheum Cinema’s show lighting upgrade.


5 September 2016

Text:/ Robert Easton

The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace is a very old, heritage cinema complex in Cremorne, NSW. It has a number of cinemas, one of which seats over 800 people. The venue is also famous for its 87-year-old Wurlitzer pipe organ which rises up through the floor, played on special occasions by professional organists. It’s a beautiful room with classic decorative lighting throughout, both halogen and neon.


Unusually for a cinema, there’s a stage area that runs the length of the screen. Showtech’s LED fixtures were installed in the main cinema and we couldn’t be happier with the results. The previous stage wash, top lighting and side lighting fixtures have been replaced with the new Showtech LED Fresnels and Profiles for the front wash and the stage wash. There’s no back lighting, obviously — there’s a whopping great film screen there. We’re using long 15° lenses on the LED profiles. Three very old 650W Profiles installed on the bar were replaced with one of these new LEDs — they’ve gone from 2000W down to 180W of power. And it’s not just a power saver, the LEDs have much better colour rendition, great intensity and a decent CRI. 

With the side lighting, we’ve replaced six 650W Fresnels with two of the LEDs, again giving a massive power saving. The next round of installations will be replacing all the footlights, also 650W Fresnels, with another system of LEDs. 

Two old Martin MAC 500s — one of Martin’s original moving lights — were put in the theatre years ago for band performances and other music events. We replaced these with the new Martin Rush MH1+ LED moving light. For what they wanted, which was pretty much a direct replacement for the MAC 500, the Rush works very well.

Show Technology:
E Productions:

50,000 HOURS

In cinemas particularly, lights are mounted in such a way that they’re very difficult to get at — they’re up very high and there’s no safe access to easily replace the lamps. Having the 50,000-hour run time of these LEDs saves a lot of precarious lamp-replacement labour.

Cinemas always pose challenges during the installation process. The first film of the day rolls at about 9:30am, and the last film screens at 1am the next morning. Naturally most of the work needs to be done out of hours and it’s very rare to be able to shut a cinema down for business hour installations as that’d cost a lot of money.


The lights are now DMX-controlled rather than through a dimmer. It’s so convenient to just pop in a little control panel rather than full dimmers — the electrician literally took another line off the distribution board and ran it straight to the lights. The cost factor also comes in, as dimmers are more expensive than a little control panel.

Each of the three cinemas have individual control. That needs to be the case due to the fact the bio boxes and projection rooms are in different locations and all controlled by an individual control system. Cinemas have a high level of network security due to the sensitivity of what could be on their servers. As you can imagine, they don’t want certain files being ‘hacked’ so they tend to isolate any control to individual cinemas, keeping it of the network.


The other challenge is that cinemas are very dark places — they’re designed that way where everything is black. We had to work with the in-house electricians to ensure the Orpheum remained totally compliant with digital cinema protocols. These are some of the unique challenges you wouldn’t run into with your average theatre install.

Rob Easton is the owner of E Productions; a Sydney-based events production company providing lighting, audio and video installation and technical support services.


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