LORAIN — The chandelier at the Lorain Palace Theater will be low enough to swing on for the next several weeks, but since the 90-year-old masterpiece is priceless that’s not an invitation.
Executive Director Chris Pataky said the original fixture was lowered almost 40 feet from the ceiling to the section of seats in the middle of the theater earlier this week to perform lighting upgrades and maintenance.
“Lowering it was actually a pretty nerve-wracking experience,” he said. “We had to go up into the ceiling and onto these catwalks where if you stepped off of them, you would be on the plaster for the ceiling and you’d fall right through. Then the chandelier had to be slowly cranked down to the floor.”
Pataky said it took anywhere from eight to 12 turns of a “decent-sized” crank to move the chandelier a foot while in the meantime being sure to feed a wire down at the same rate to keep the electricity flowing to it.
“Earlier this week, I was on the phone walking through the theater,” he said. “Now I’m not a guy who gets impressed often, but I caught a glimpse of it all lit up and lowered out of the corner or my eye and I got chills.”
Pataky said the chandelier is made of Yugoslavian crystals. To remake it today would cost about $4 million but because it’s original to the 1928 theater, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978, it’s likely priceless.
Palace Theater Technical Director Issac Thompson said the lighting upgrades will allow for more versatility in lighting, comparing the new system to a dimmer switch you’d find in a home.
But his system for the 1,500-pound chandelier and the rest of the theater is way more high-tech than the run-of-the-mill switch and can be completely controlled from his iPad.
“We want to make everything as versatile as possible because then we can get
bigger-name acts,” he said. “This theater is vintage and historic, but we want to make it as attractive as possible.”
Thompson said the upgrades to the chandelier and other places throughout the theater will put it on par with other theaters in the area, including those in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, and Pataky said he hopes it catapults the theater to Cleveland Magazine’s Best of Lorain County.
“We really feel like with the historic nature of the building and with the advances we’ve made in technology that we stand out,” he said, encouraging people to vote for the theater on Cleveland Magazine’s website at cleveland magazine.com/magazine-events/best-of-lorain.
Pataky said the visitors can view the chandelier 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, although it will be in its proper place by March 23 when the theater hosts the “Where the Action Is” concert, featuring Paul Revere’s Riders, Mitch Ryder, Peter Rivera and The Cyrkle.
Palace Board Vice President Dan Kelley said the theater is expensive to maintain, so the organization thrives on donations for things like lighting the 87-bulb chandelier. He said once all the maintenance is done, “it doesn’t leave a lot.”
“I just hope people realize all of the work that these guys put in to make this place what it is,” he said.