This is a curtain.
Sometimes called a Traveler
These things are called travelers because they travel. In other words they open and close. And there are times when they're supposed to be open and times when they're supposed to be closed. How this concept was lost escapes the Curator but we'll have all these details ironed out in a jiffy. Since this tutorial is centered on roadshow presentations we'll discuss the proper operation in that context first and then we'll have a little lesson in what those curtains are for in regular performances at the end of this section.
There are only two things that the audience is supposed to see in a theatre. One is the curtain, see example above, and the other is the motion picture, see example below. Under no circumstances will the audience be shown a blank screen, ever.
The classic roadshow film may consist of as many as six distinct parts. Follow this guide and you'll have a first class presentation that your patrons will be justifiably impressed with. Should the film you're running not have some of these parts just ignore that item.
- MUSICAL OVERTURE
The curtain shall remain closed during the overture. An overture is common on almost all roadshow films. In the heyday of roadshow films, prints were specially made with the overture volume adjusted for the density of curtains in a given theatre. With today's untutored audiences it's a good idea to bring down the house lights slightly to let them know that the film is running. If this is not possible then the stage lights on the curtains should be brought down slightly. The house and stage lights are to be fully dimmed during the last ten seconds or so of the overture. It is critical that the curtain should not start to open before the final notes of the overture because this will cause a change in the volume and tone of the music. Exceptions to the curtain rule are for films like West Side Story and My Fair Lady which have their overtures played over a picture.
- PART ONE OF THE FEATURE
The curtains should start to open the instant that the studio logo appears and should be fully open by the time it fades out. This means that your curtains should be capable of opening in ten seconds. If they operate a little faster than that it's not a problem. If they are significantly slower then their speed should be adjusted as much as possible. If necessary, you may start to open the curtains before the studio logo appears as long as the house lights are fully down and the overture is completed. This may give you three or four additional seconds to get the curtain open before the titles begin.
- END OF PART ONE - INTERMISSION
The curtains should start to close within a few seconds after the appearance of the intermission title card. They should be fully closed by the time the card fades out. The house lights should not be brought up until the curtains are fully closed. The audience must never see a blank screen. Their world will consist of two places, the showmanlike atmosphere of the theatre and the movie - the screen does not exist.
- ENTRE ACTE MUSIC
The second half of the film will usually begin with music without picture and it should be handled exactly like the overture. The house lights should be fully dimmed at the conclusion of the Entre Acte. The length of an intermission should be between ten and fifteen minutes at most. A shorter intermission is a disservice to your patrons and will cut into the sale of those delectable concessions. Remember, it takes the ladies a bit longer to do their business than the gents, so have a heart.
- PART TWO OF THE FEATURE
Open the curtain the instant that the picture appears. Close the curtain when the last title card appears on screen. Bring up the house lights slowly when the curtain is completely closed.
- WALKOUT MUSIC
If the film has walk out music, don't chop it off. Do not allow any staff members to enter the auditorium until the music has finished. The concept is showmanship and having ushers or usherettes dragging trash cans around the auditorium before the entire audience has left is decidedly unshowmanlike.
Following these simple guidelines will give your audience the experience intended for an event film. And whether the film itself was good or bad, the audience will always remember where they saw it and the way it was shown.
What do you do with those curtains and house lights for regular shows? Showmanship isn't limited to the big event roadshow films. Your audience will appreciate quality presentations of standard films.
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