The Gaiety’s technical time capsule

The Douglas Gaiety originally opened in 1900 as a theatre and was subsequently equipped for projection by the provision of a fireproof Bioscope Box at the rear of the Ampitheatre, the rear part of the upper circle. This space continued essentially untouched for nearly seventy years, mostly used as a dumping ground for obsolete equipment once films stopped being shown.

As part of the centenary celebrations the Box was cleared out and turned into a sort of museum.  It hasn’t been restored as such as films cannot actually be shown (indeed the projection ports are currently blocked) and the theatre does not have a cinema screen to project on (or even a white painted screen shape on the safety curtain).

The projection room has a room each side (somewhat constricted by the curvature of the barrel roof) wih natural light into each room by a series of low windows. There is no direct access to the open air, however, possibly a dispensation by the Isle of Man authorities.

The general view of the projection room, with the two projectors complete with cowls above. (They used carbon rods as a light source and needed to vent the fumes)

Stage lighting control and a projector for showing slides.

The turntables are for playing interval records between the films. There are two so that the music can be seamless.

These coils were to limit the current in the projector lamphouses. You could reputedly cook toast with them as they got hot!

The large handle is to change the lighting across a number of dimmers at once.

This horn was for the projectionist to be able to hear the soundtrack and interval music.

A number of lantern slides have been fitted into this light box on the back wall. It has been uploaded as a large file so that there is sufficient definition to be able to read the slides, most of which are adverts for events elsewhere at other venues (a potted history of which can be found here.)

Some stage lighting in one of the ancillary rooms.

This is an early salt water dimmer, the first complete one I have seen (although I’ve found a few ceramic pots under stages). Here is a picture of similar one at Ally Pally.

An old projector from elsewhere. The display to the right is of material for the centenary, including the restoration book, Full Circle.

This has the name Gaumont on it, the first time I have seen that.

Lots of old Strand Stage lighting, from the era when they were given Pattern numbers. That is Séamus Shea to the left.

Here is the theatre’s last lighting desk and an original Vari*lite VL1. Behind is a modern lantern to complete the collection, the ETC Source Four.

(A more technical version of this post can be found here).