Plumb Theater

108 S. Vermillion Street,
Streator, IL 61364

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DonLewis
DonLewis on June 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm

From the 1940s a newsprint photo of the Plumb Theater in Streator.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on October 26, 2009 at 10:58 am

Ron – thanks. I’m a little obsessive about theatre layouts because figuring out viewing angles for various projection situations was a big part of what I did at Radio City where we were constantly dealing with the demands of touring concerts and television productions. I wish I had the knowledge that I gained there when I worked at the Plumb. All of the big names in vaudeville played the house (and the Majestic up the street), so Cahn’s data base was probably accurate as far as the stage layout. It would be interesting to see documentation of both the original house and the changes made by Publix. Even after the transition, there was still a ledge running the width of the balcony designed to hold lighting instruments. The booth was probably enlarged at that time as well, suspended from building beams over the last row of seats in the balcony with the capacity for two spotlights as well as the film projectors. Unfortunately, preservation of theatre plans wasn’t given much thought, so records are sketchy at best. That’s one of the great things about Cinema Treasures — it allows for a collective memory to keep at least some aspects of these theatre alive.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 26, 2009 at 10:37 am

REandres- please do not fret too much over the info above from the Cahn Guide ! Those guides are full of errors. They were published every year in the late-summer for the benefit of roadshow producers and stage managers. Julius Cahn was a New York theatrical agent. In an age long before computers he must have struggled to maintain an accurate data base every year. The info about the Plumb from the Guide may or may not be 100% accurate.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on October 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

It occurred to me after some thoughts about the stage dimensions listed above that I had never seen the whole stage depth. Either the picture sheet was flown in, or the CinamaScope screen was anchored to the stage. Thus the stage would seem more shallow. There was an asbestos drop and a traveller in front of the screens so they sat upstage of the proscenium at least a few feet. When Dr. Silkini did his last show there, they tied the traveller against the CinemaScope screen which allowed enough depth for him to do his act in between it and the foots.

In the case of the 27' width, as noted above, the Scope sheet was curved which would have shortened the width of the chord across the screen. In addition, if the screen was upstage a bit, the image might have been 27' at the proscenium and then widened out a bit more before it hit the screen. The edge of the picture would have been slightly trimmed as viewed from the seats toward the front and at the outer edges of the seating area, but that wasn’t unusual in proscenium houses.

The pit would have indeed held just about six musicians.

At any rate, thanks to Ron Salters for coming up with the dimensions which probably remained as listed in the material he cites. Various people who lived in Streator have shared their memories over the years, and most of them mention the Plumb. It’s nice that it won’t be completely forgotten.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on October 23, 2009 at 11:22 am

I might add that while the CinemaScope screen was slightly curved to the Fox specification, the curvature wasn’t deep enough to fit a 35' screen into a 27' proscenium, so some modification must have taken place.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on October 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

When it became a Publix theatre and was given a newer look, they may have eliminated boxes along the sides of the auditorium to widen the proscenium. They may also have done so to add the organ pipe chambers. The CinemaScope screen was 35' wide and filled the stage to the proscenium edges. The projection booth was built over the last row of seats in the balcony, and the downward angle was about 23 degrees. This resulted in a significant keystoning of the picture. I can remember being in the house for the first showing of “The Robe” and noting that the edges of the picture actually hit the proscenium edge. That was later corrected when they had a chance to fine tune the projector apertures, but it does indicate that the proscenium had been widened at some point. It also seems to me that the stage was narrower than 33' deep. When I was growing up, the Plumb still had a stage show once in a while, but they consisted of performers from the WLS National Barn Dance or Dr. Silkini. While both shows carried a scenic drop before the CinemaScope screen was put in and couldn’t be flown, the performances could easily fit on a stage with less depth.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

The Plumb Opera House is listed under Streator in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. J. E. Williams was Mgr and Press Agent. The seating was 1,101. The auditorium was on the first floor and had gas illumination. Ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to 75 cents. The proscenium opening was 27 feet wide and the stage was 33 feet deep. There were 6 members of the house orchestra. There were 3 daily papers and 3 weeklies, one of which was German language. There were 4 hotels for show folk, including the Plumb House. The 1897 population of Streator was 15,000.