The Brenkert Theatre Projectors
The Russell Theatre still contains two original Brenkert arc lamp theatre projectors. The projectors are stationed in a fireproof room behind the center balcony. The carbon arc, which provided the light for the film to be seen on the screen, was a lighted piece of carbon producing an open flame hence the reason for a fireproof room.
Each reel of film lasted 20 minutes. When the projectionist saw a black dot on the top right corner of the movie screen film, it was time for the next reel to start up on the second projector. Twenty minutes on one projector, twenty minutes on the second projector and on and on until the movie was finished.
If the film would slow down or stop, the film would “melt” and the projectionist would be required to cut the film and splice it together while the audience waited impatiently! As the movie started back up on the screen, hand clapping was prevalent.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Blankenship
Brenkert Brenograph Jr.
The Brenkert Brenograph Jr. was a projector used in atmospheric theatres to project moving clouds over ceilings painted blue. The effect created the illusion that theatre patrons were outdoors. The device was used primarily in theatre designs of John Eberson.
The machine was manufactured by the Brenkert Light Projection Company of Detroit. The company sold the projector for $225 in the 1920s.
The projector operated automatically with a universal electrical motor, capable of varying speeds. It used a powerful 1500 watt light bulb to display nimbus and cumulus clouds. The clouds were images on a strip of negatives that moved continuously in front of the light. The negatives were affixed to a circular disc that rotated once every 105 minutes—about the length of a typical performance. The projector was small enough to be hidden in the theatre architectural design so that the illusion of floating clouds would be maintained.