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This image is not dated, but it is from early in the Orpheum's history. 
Photo by Kenneth Eugene Frederick. 
Posted to the Champaign Urbana History Facebook page
by Amanda Dickerman Van Ness 1 August 2014.
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Stagehands and Projectionists Union

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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 482 was chartered in January 1917.  This undated photo shows the members posing behind the Orpheum Theatre.  The date is somewhere 1917 and 1927.  We can identify the man in the light jacket in the front row.  He is Al Duncan and beside him is his dog Bob.  Al died on 9 October 1927.  In his honor, on Monday 10 October, the Orpheum paused the evening's show for one minute at 7 o'clock.  

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Jack Crannell

Jack Crannell had a long career in show business,

many of those years at the Orpheum.

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Jack is pictured in the booth at the Orpheum with a carbon-arc projector. 

Jack Crannell was born 23 January 1893.  He was an accomplished clarinetist and a member of Ewing’s Zouave Band, touring with them in the summer of 1911.

He was a cowboy with the 101 Ranch and was a student of lion taming.  He was an actor in traveling stock companies and he and his wife worked with D.W. Griffin, Douglas Fairbanks, and other screen pioneers.

Jack worked as the Orpheum Stage Manager in the vaudeville days.  He became a member of IATSE Local 482 (the stagehands and projectionists union) in April 1921.  He served as officer in charge of all stage hands for more than 25 years.  He also served terms as president of Local 482 and represented it at many national conventions.

Jack died on duty in the projection booth on 10 April 1963, at age 70, during a screening of Miracle of The White Stallions.  In the spirit of “the show must go on,” the arrangement of the booth made it very difficult to get Jack’s body out of the booth without disturbing the audience so they waited until the films were over for the evening.  The extremely steep stairs (basically a ship's ladder) to the booth also caused problems, so they resorted to making use of the pully system used to move the heavy film canisters up and down for assistance.

Backstage equipment

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The Pin Rail, located stage right on the stage floor, an integral part of the system used to raise and lower scenery, provided a solid, secure place to tie off the ropes to keep the flown scenery in place. The system included the grid high above the stage floor with shives for the ropes to pass over, battens (typically iron pipes) where the drops or curtains were tied to, and counterweights, sandbags in the period the Orpheum was active. 

Several feet above the stage floor was the Fly Gallery that the stagehands used when they were counterbalancing with sandbags the scenery they were rigging to fly, that is hoisting up into the loft when not in use, or lowered to stage level when needed in the show.  The pin rail is still on the stage although it has not been in active use for decades except for holding a few flies still remain.

It is interesting to note that the basic design was borrowed for the sailing ship industry where part of a sailor's job was rigging and tying off the sails. 

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This light control panel, with built-in dimmers, also located stage right next to the proscenium, controlled the house lights that illuminated the auditorium, the footlights that ran along the front edge of the stage, and the stage lights that were suspended above the stage.  Follow spots were located in a booth adjacent to the projection booth.

It likely does not date to 1914, but possibly was an update in the 1930s.

It remained for limited tasks for as long as the Orpheum was in use as a commercial movie theatre.

Next to it on the floor was an electric winch used to open and close the curtains in later movie days.

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This concession stand is the only one we can date.  It is from the 1967 remodel.

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Fire Curtain

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The decorated fire curtain is shown in this circa 1982 picture from The News-Gazette.

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This photo shows the painting of the mural on the east facade of the building in progress in 1967.  The mural was painted by American Dowell,  Due to a miss-communication, the mural was not centered, so an addition was painted on the left side. 

Remembering Bruce C. Creamer

Bruce attended movies at the Orpheum as a child.  He got involved with the effort to preserve the building and became a major donor of both time and money.  He was affectionately called "The Building Guy" as he put in a lot of volunteer time working on the building.  He refurbished the upstairs windows and kept the old projection booth in immaculate condition including creating two small exhibits that show the various aspect ratios of films and comparisons of film formats.  

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Bruce was responsible for setting up the old carbon-arc projector in the booth.  It is not original to the building.  It has not been returned to full functionality.

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Bruce in the projection booth of the Al. Ringling Memorial Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

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This rendering by Ray Lytle shows what the auditorium might look like full of exhibits.


This photo is from the 2017 Balloon Drop.  It became an annual event at noon on New Year's Eve.

An assortment of exhibit photos

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