Creative movie marquee
April 14, 2005 10:07 AM   Subscribe

What's the most creative and/or cost-effecient idea you have for creating a smallish movie marquee for a smallish indie theater?

Ok, here's the deal: We need to come up with a way to display the movies (and their showtimes) to people driving or walking by our theater. I think the best place to do this would be inside the vestibule with the sign showing through the window above the door (roughly 4' high by 6' wide). Here's a VERY dark shot of the front that gives you an idea of the area I'm talking about.

The marquee will also need the following components/features:

1. High visibility
2. Non-electrical (lights can be pointed at it if needed)
3. Easy to change as movies come and go

I've seen a similar theater use a big piece of metal with refrigerator magnets, but I don't think that would be legible from the road. I'm extremely handy, so don't hold back on the DIY projects.
posted by bjork24 to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about a giant white board? Someone with some talent could write the movie titles all fancy-like and add some pictures as well. You could really have fun with it.

Also, there's some variation on white boards that I've seen restaurants use to display their specials. It uses brighter markers and looks like it might be back-lit.
posted by bondcliff at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2005

Does it really have to be non-electrical? I was thinking 2 cheapo small tvs (13-inch? 15-inch?) set at angles facing each way, with movie clips and scrolling text and whatever running continuously.

Or--a scrolling LED strip along the top of the door.

Or--non-electric--sort-of a takeoff on those plastic flag-ish things people have in suburbia--with movie names and times and info on them. Get large presstype and go to town or have them printed (or print out yourself and glue to the plastic). Hang them above the door.
posted by amberglow at 10:20 AM on April 14, 2005

2. Non-electrical (lights can be pointed at it if needed)

Is there room behind it for a data projector? Because even a cheap/used one with the image flipped on a white sheet/spray frosting in the window would stand out a ton. And you could incorporate motion for part of it, which would be super eye catching. Pointing a gobo-style light or a projector would give you a lot of possibilities.

I'd treat that window like a backlit panel somehow.

Your visibility problem is going to be related to light in almost every way because of the dark nature of the building front and the light streaming through that hall. The lack of electricity eliminates my favorite idea. Some sort of modified Lite-Bright style signage.

You may want to consider putting the movie times on the side panel windows and the movie titles above the door. That will allow you to get it really, really big.
posted by Gucky at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2005

I'm assuming that you're speaking of the space above the door where the street address is located.

How many movies would be playing at any given time? Would you have access to the one-sheet for each movie?

If so, you could set yourself up with a piece of heavy-duty foam core laminated so that you could attach the one-sheet to one half of one side and list the movie times on the other half of that side. You could use laminated numbers so they could be reused.

You could also build a marquee to hang over the center of the storefront where the "Coming Soon" sign is so that it would be more visible to all concerned. Using two peices of plywood sealed and painted and attached at one side with a piano hinge. You'd have to anchor it to the building in some fashion - a ledge and several bolts and guy wires I would think.

Wooden molding meant to edge corners could serve as your "lip" for home-made marquee letters or you could string highly-taught metal wire across the front of each side and spring for the plastic marquee letters.

As for illumination you can affix a couple of inexpensive spots on the top or bottom of the marquee and shine them upon the surface of the marquee.

Finally, you could hang a giant sheet of metal across the front of the theater and make the marquee letters/number yourself and affix them with magnets. You'd just need to make the letters/numbers large enough to be seen from the road. I'll say that I like the ide of something hanging out OVER the sidewalk though, it's much more attention grabbing, so you could do hybrid of this and the DIY marquee I mention above.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: To answer the question "how many movies would be playing at any given time": the most we will probably show in one day would be three.

It's a single-screen theater, but the amount of films we show is only limited by the number of showtimes available.
posted by bjork24 at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2005

Something that might be really neat that would use the existing lighting in the area would be to have some sort of frame with rails, and the letters that you would arrange in or on them would be cut out of a 4x6 block of wood/plastic/sentra, so the light inside the building would shine through the letter. You could make it high visibility by going to your local sign shop and get some Reflexite vinyl (the stuff they use on cop cars and emergency vehicles) and covering all the parts on it that aren't cut out.

If that made any sense.
posted by jackofsaxons at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2005

Before I read your more inside I was going to suggest LED sinage like amberglow as well.

For the non-electrical: A giant whiteboard would eliminate the hunting for letters and numbers and such that whoever is changing the sign will invariably have to do each time you update your listings. It may not be as legible from afar as something that involves stock letters that can be arranged for display.

I'm having trouble googling examples, but I remember we used to have three different kinds of letters at one of the theaters I worked for: we had a smaller board which used small (one inch high) white letters pressed into a ribbed felt backing that we used at the box office. Our medium sized letters, were 2.5 x 5 inch clear rectangles that had black letters that we put on runners above the theater doors for the particular house. And we had the huge marquee letters for outside.

I can't remember how many houses you have in the theater, but I'm guessing 1 - 3. So, how about building a board yourself that runs atop the box office area and flush with the window (I'm presuming that this is somewhere around the "opening soon" part of the sign you have now) and uses the medium sized letters. This way you could re-use the letters above the house doors as well, they'd be a good enough size to read from the street (if your board was backed white) and by making the board you only have to buy materials and the letters. Also, you can custom fit the positioning. I'd consider hanging it from some heavy duty chain that gives it a little drop from where your window meets up with the ceiling and will allow for the whole board to be removed easily to update. Also, I think this idea fits well with what amberglow may be saying about making your own letters, there's a way to cut some more costs -- although I always got the impression that those medium-sized letters we had weren't too costly (now the big ones were a different story and they were metal, too).
On preview: wow there's too many answers to read on preview. Sorry if I repeat anything from amberglow on. And my apologies for the hasty writing.
posted by safetyfork at 10:50 AM on April 14, 2005

A projector would look lame in daylight. I'd suggest a big blackboard and some of those dayglo chalks, and employing someone with fancy handwriting. You could mount it on ropes and pulleys so it can be lowered like a victorian airer.
posted by cillit bang at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2005

A big-ass DIY Lite-Brite. A few flourescent tubes behind a lot of black-painted pegboard with Lite-Brite pegs to spell out the titles and even pictures.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:56 AM on April 14, 2005

A big-ass DIY Lite-Brite. A few flourescent tubes behind a lot of black-painted pegboard with Lite-Brite pegs to spell out the titles and even pictures.

holy shit i'm totally doing this.
(no seriously good idea -- now to start acculmulating lite brite sets).

posted by fishfucker at 11:44 AM on April 14, 2005

From your last question, I know you have been dealing with the city about some things. Have you talked to them about signage requirements? Some cities don't allow sizes above a certain size, signs that are lit, signs get the point. I would hate for you to do something cool and have them say no.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 11:49 AM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: ooOOoo, that's why we're proposing to keep the sign INSIDE as opposed to OUTSIDE, above the city-owned sidewalk. We can do whatever we please as long as it's on our turf.
posted by bjork24 at 3:57 PM on April 14, 2005

cool, then I vote for the LITE-BRITE.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 5:27 PM on April 14, 2005

I know Springfield can be hard ass, But is a sign at right angles to your theater and over the sidewalk, like old-fashioned style, really out of the question. How did "Lofts at the Seville" (same street-two blocks east) do it? Were they grandfathered in?

It seems that that placement, coupled with the white-plastic-background-black-movable-letter rig usually found outside of churches (or check around the corner at the Outland Ballroom or the Rockwell) can't be beat.

If outdoors is not an option, and visibility is the crux, get one of those black dry erase boards with the florescent markers often seen in restaurants (again, walk to the Outland and check the downstairs window). If you can run an extension cord, these are very visually grabbing.
posted by sourwookie at 6:45 PM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: sourwookie: I'm pretty sure the Seville was grandfathered in. The city is getting really picky these, especially now that they're taking the time to redo all the sidewalks. I'll have to cruise around downtown and see what some of the bars and clubs are doing in lieu of signage.
posted by bjork24 at 6:54 PM on April 14, 2005

The projector would look incredible at night, but in daylight it would blow indeed.

I was thinking along the lines of lite-brite as well, but it's a lot of work for each title change. You'd want a pretty high resolution. If you pre-made tiles for each letter, it might be easier, but that would be a lot of tile making. I would probably make them with a lip on the top, bottom, and right side, so that they could fit into a rectangular slot, and not leave light gaps.

I see the problem as this - Projected images have weak blacks in daylight, and will lack punch. The light-brite works because the black is a reflected black, but any reflected black material is going to have to be rearranged a lot!

I was going to suggest large paper rolls on a DIY motorized scroller, but that's electrical. It would be potentially neat-o. You could draw or print your own banners.

The plastic letters have won out because they are a good solution. So why not just one-up them? You can plastic letters here, here, here, here, here, here, and you can get a case of small magnets at K&J magnetics. You could use the big ones for titles, and continue the theme down to the movie times, in various letter styles. Or you could buy a sheet of acrylic and use a bandsaw/jigsaw/one of those weird boyscout type reciprocating saws and work from paper templates taken from digital fonts.

In the end, I think that small movable letters are the winner, because legibility (I'm thinking moving car, catching a movie title & the times if possible) should be the top priority.. with style coming in second.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 1:29 AM on April 15, 2005

« Older Dieting   |   Potential Relocation to Japan - Cost of Living Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.