Security Signs Revives Historic Theater With New Marquee

Neon and LED complement finished piece beautifully
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EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS
Coatings: Acrylic-polyurethane paint, from Akzo Nobel (Norcross, GA), (770) 662-8464 or www.signfinishes.com; exterior-latex paint, from Miller Paint Co. (Portland, OR), (503) 255-0190 or www.millerpaint.com
Construction: Engineering, from Miller Consulting Engineers (Portland), (503) 246-1250 or www.miller-se.com; structural repairs, from Perlo Construction (Portland), (503) 624-2090 or www.perlo.biz
Crane: Sixty-ft. bucket truck, from Wilkie (Oklahoma City), (405) 235-0920 or www.wilkiemfg.com; scissor lift, from JLG (McConnelsburg, PA), (877) 554-5438 or www.jlg.com
Design: Marquee design, by Ornamental Arts & Design (Sacramento, CA), (510) 375-0263 or www.duarteid.com
Letters: iBend channel-letter forming equipment, from Arete Corp. (defunct)
Lighting: Running-light LED bulbs, from American Lighting (Denver), (303) 695-3019 or www.americanlighting.com; channel-letter LED bulbs, from GE Lighting (Cleveland), (800) 327-0097 or www.gelighting.com; Voltarc, EGL and Tecnolux neon tubing and Allanson transformers, from Neon Distributors (Portland), (503) 287-6151 or www.neondist.com
Model: Correx corrugated-plastic material, from sign-supply or home-improvement stores
Welding: Weldmaster MIG-welding system, from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. (Appleton, WI), (920) 734-9821 or www.millerwelds.com
Hollywood Theatre is an historic theater that was built in downtown Portland’s southeastern section, known as the Hollywood District. This ornate, beautiful theater, located at 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., opened in 1926. There are no known photos of the original marquee; to our knowledge, only a drawing of it exists.
The theater’s management updated the Hollywood’s marquee during the 1970s in an effort to “modernize” the theater and help it compete with mushrooming, multi-screen “cineplex” chains. The marquee remained operational, but deteriorated to the point of ugliness. And, according to Doug Whyte, the Hollywood Theatre Foundation’s executive director, the revised marquee didn’t mesh well with the building. Consequently, they sought a design inspired by the original 1926 marquee.
Several streets converge at this location, so the theater enjoys high visibility. However, from a project-management perspective, this presented problems. Also, a new building had been constructed next to the theater, which further complicated matters.
Kevin Hallwyler, Security’s project manager for the job, learned of the marquee revitalization during its early planning stages, and established a relationship with Whyte. Hallwyler’s frequent communication, plus Security’s longstanding local stature, helped our bid be successful.
Fernando Duarte Design (Sacramento, CA), known for crafting marquee-restoration plans, designed the reimagined Hollywood Theatre façade. Other high-profile Duarte jobs include the legendary Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. The Hollywood received several renovations, but anticipation was high for the marquee’s rejuvenation.
A complex process
This community-based project received funding through Kickstarter and local donations. Security knowingly becoming a contributor, through an in-kind donation to rejuvenate something historic and be part of the community, was enticing, as were the publicity and satisfaction of executing a project of such magnitude.
Once the proposal was accepted, the fun part of removing the old structure and planning for the new structure began. As with many such projects, many unknowns awaited.
The old marquee came down as we peeled away layers. Extensive leakage and serious structural problems on the roof demanded attention. Originally, we thought the steel structure could be salvaged as a foundation for the new marquee.
However, the remaining rusty shell lacked structural integrity, so very little of it was useable. Channel iron, which had supported the old marquee, was removed because of widespread rust and fatigued I-beams – even the bolts were rusted through. We temporarily bolstered the structure with 4 x 4 wood posts used as temporary shoring. New, 18-gauge steel anchored the concrete structure, and we added steel framing to support the Italian-tile remnant of the original façade.
Using Miller Consulting Engineer’s specs, Perlo Construction repaired the structure with 5/8-in.-thick steel plates and 4 x 4 x 1/4-in. steel angle.
Because of the widespread water leakage – and, in case you haven’t heard, Oregon’s climate entails frequent rainfall – we enlisted Perlo’s help. They built a support structure that stabilized the steel and created a structure to help facilitate water runoff – something that hadn’t before been done.
How we built it
Under the direction of Chris Bresaw, our lead fabricator, we built 2-in.-deep, open-pan channel letters, which we painted with Akzo Nobel dark-burgundy, acrylic-polyurethane paint. We used Miller Paint dark-blue, blue/grey, and green coatings for the exterior, gold for the returns and cream-colored paint for the interior. To provide the sign’s chasing lights, we installed 800 S14 LED bulbs. Whyte wanted the marquee to look as retro as possible, but energy conservation was also a high priority.
To illuminate the “Hollywood” letters, we created a sample letter that accommodated many types of LED bulbs. Ultimately, we selected American Lighting’s bulbs. These bulbs cost almost $5,700, but they earned the Hollywood Theatre Foundation an energy credit, which partly offset the cost.
For the façade’s neon illumination, we bent and installed an array of 15mm neon colors – clear red, clear blue, classic red, yellow and exposed gold. Using metal-forming equipment, we fabricated custom light fixtures, and painted them satin-black.
To assemble the readerboard, we installed two, 15-in.-wide, set lines with a black background and white letters for one side, and three, changeable-copy lines on the marquee’s other side. We installed white GE LEDs inside the cabinet.
Bresaw brought in 4 x 10-ft. sheets of Correx polypropylene-sheet material, which he laid on the shop floor to draw the footprint by hand, and cut the design to scale as a pattern. The new building next to the theater presented an issue because the marquee’s pitch had to diverge from the original plan.
Considering this, we conducted five site surveys from the time fabrication began to ensure accurate, safe construction. For inspiration, we also referenced a drawing of the original marquee. Bresaw used aluminum and MIG-welded the parts with 0.0356-in.-diameter wire. Bresaw also handcrafted the two pillar lights reflected in the original marquee’s drawing.
The marquee measures 38 x 10 ft.; Bresaw said keeping our crew and the customer informed about the frequent changes and variables required thorough communication. As those of us in the sign industry know, the communication chain is often a detriment to productivity and timeliness.
Installation
Marc Linquist and Kevin Keljo managed the marquee’s installation. Linquist noted the considerable challenge the location presented. Because the Hollywood Theatre resides in a high-traffic, pedestrian-heavy area, all site work had to be done during theater hours. Only on installation day did we have lane closures with a flagman directing traffic.
Using one crane truck and a scissor lift, we lifted the frame off the flatbed trailer section by section, and welded the pieces to the new frame onsite. We brought in a certified welder, but Linquist got frustrated because, with a 2-in. range of “wiggle room,” the welder used part of the space for welds and was slightly off the mark, which made the install more challenging. Clips on the backs of the cabinets were welded to the channel iron.
To link to the installation video, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUgaBHl9w4k)
Positive payback
With more than 1,300 man-hours dedicated to the project’s fabrication and installation, and countless more devoted to design and management, the marquee was set for the lighting ceremony on a very rainy night. After the countdown, the lighting proved breathtaking for the large crowd, who cheered the neighborhood icon’s restoration.
While so many unknowns characterized this large undertaking for Security Signs, the community value and lessons learned offered some return on the investment. Preserving the past is an important part of the Security Signs’ culture, and giving to the future of the community is what makes us
what I believe is a company with a heart.
A video of the lighting can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDPRvByNdvk