Black Box Theatre Lighting Grid Cost Estimate

jcslighting

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Joined
Nov 17, 2009
Location
Cincinnati, Ohio
A local theatre company I work with has recently purchased an old factory space to convert to a theatre. I am trying to put together a rough - I mean huge ballpark rough- estimate of what it will cost to get things up and running from a theatrical standpoint. There is ample 3 phase power available within literally 30' of the stage area so that is a real plus. So here is my question...

The performance space dimensions will be approx 50' x 30' with a ceiling height of 20'. In a perfect world I would love a 4'x4' pipe grid over the entire 50'x30' of space hung at 18' from the floor. Would anyone have a rough idea of how much that would cost? I'm thinking cost of the whole thing - to have it engineered, the pipes, the fittings/connectors, and the hangers to attach it to the building and installation? Also, would this be something that a general contractor could install from engineering drawings without prior theatrical experience? I would think so but it doesn't hurt to ask. Plugging strips for lighting will have to come later - for now we could just use SO cables run to our portable dimmer rack.

I'm just trying to come up with a semi-realistic number to present to our board so they are aware of how much money they will have to raise just to get started.

The building structure is a steel framed, steel skinned structure. The ceiling is a drop ceiling with 2'x4' tiles just below the steel and the walls are currently just open with insulation batting between the steel beams. The finished walls would probably be either 3/4" plywood or drywall. I would think the plywood would be better as it would be more durable than the drywall. Either way, at least one will will probably be carpeted to help with sound control.

Finally, we are located in North/Central Kentucky if that really matters with pricing. Thanks for you input!
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I'd say you're between $15,000 and 20,000 by a rigging contractor. Call Dan or Matt at Beck and ask. They'll provide an estimate.

I've had very poor outcomes with pipe grids by other than theatre rigging contractors. However, I recently learned I Weiss has been designing and fabricating pupe grid "packages", and shipping them to the site for installation by local contractors. Contact Russ Dusek at I Weiss and ask.

Keeping hung ceiling? This will or may complicate this.

Call Paul Sanow in Ft Thomas, a newly independent professional theatre consultant. I'm sure he could help and would be very reasonable given being local and " newly independent".
 
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JohnD

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north central OK
You probably know this but since you mention that it is a former factory and 3phase power, check to be sure it isn't 3rd leg high 3 phase.
 

Les

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Joined
Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
I'd say you're between $15,000 and 20,000 by a rigging contractor. Call Dan or Matt at Beck and ask. They'll provide an estimate.

I've had very poor outcomes with pipe grids by other than theatre rigging contractors. However, I recently learned I Weiss has been designing and fabricating pupe grid "packages", and shipping them to the site for installation by local contractors. Contact Russ Dusek at I Weiss and ask.

Keeping hung ceiling? This will or may complicate this.

Call Paul Sanow in Ft Thomas, a newly independent professional theatre consultant. I'm sure he could help and would be very reasonable given being local and " newly independent".
Agreed with @BillConnerASTC

He also brings up a very good point about the drop ceiling. You're going to pay a lot more in labor to have them work around that mess. The other option is to pull the suspended ceiling, re-work elecrical/HVAC, etc. Makes the grid install easier but introduces other costs . You will need to find that balance.
 
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jcslighting

Member
Joined
Nov 17, 2009
Location
Cincinnati, Ohio
Thanks for the suggestions!

I have already explained to the board of the necessity of a Theatrical Consultant and how it can actually save us money in the long run. Hopefully
they will listen on this important point.

To answer other questions....
I agree that removing the drop ceiling is the best option and already thought of that but didn't put it in my original post.
I also already checked to make sure the power is true 3-phase not Delta or anything un-useable for dimmers.

Here's a bit more detail on the project....
Just getting started as the building will officially become the theatre's within a couple weeks. The factory is a strange animal. The overall building is approx. 80'x50' but
only 30'x50' is with the high ceiling. The front half is only around 9' to the steel beams and offices and restrooms are already framed in this area. There is another steel framed
addition next to the 30'x50' section that was a loading dock area it also has a high ceiling but no heat or a/c. The plan is to eventually tear the dock area off and build a full
proscenium theatre parallel to the existing building with an ample stage house and use the existing building for offices, storage, rehearsal space, restrooms, box office, etc.
The rehearsal space would be the black box space I am talking about. This gives us a practical use for the building until we can fundraise enough to add phase 2. We are probably
looking at a 10 year plan to complete everything IF funds become available.

The board was talking about trying to host a Valentine's dinner/fundraiser in the space in February. I think the best option to make something work would probably be to hang some black
curtains along the walls temporarily and rent trussing and crank up lifts. This wouldn't cost too much to pull off unless we did too many trusses. Maybe a FOH and rear truss. 4 lifts and 6 sticks
of trussing.

What scares me about projects like this is the people who are 'in charge' usually have no clue about what they should be trying to accomplish ! To be a safe, use-able, and well planned space requires
more than a few local contractors with no theatrical construction experience building something designed by a group of non-theatre professionals with plenty of stupid suggestions of what 'they' want
or think should be included. To give you an idea of the group, their existing space is in an old gymnasium. The FOH pipe is at way too flat of an angle and was installed over 20 years ago by school
maintenance folks. It is hung from angle iron bolted thru the gym's tin ceiling and 'u' bolted to the 1 1/2" pipe. There are only 4 hanging points over a 40' pipe! When I started there 12 years ago I
was afraid to hang ellipsoidals due to the weight involved so I went to aluminum PAR 64s as a front light wash - they kept the weight down and blend quite well they just create a more than ideal
spill. Folks like this have no concept of safety or the weights and stresses involved in theatre. I'm just glad that I had nothing to do with installing that pipe. Hanging 12 - 14 PARS at less than 10lbs each
vs. 25lbs per leko seemed like a better safety factor.
 

Les

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
What scares me about projects like this is the people who are 'in charge' usually have no clue about what they should be trying to accomplish ! To be a safe, use-able, and well planned space requires more than a few local contractors with no theatrical construction experience building something designed by a group of non-theatre professionals with plenty of stupid suggestions of what 'they' want or think should be included.
Ouch. That's a sure recipe for a space that ends up being both overpriced and functionally crippled.

I'm just glad that I had nothing to do with installing that pipe. Hanging 12 - 14 PARS at less than 10lbs each
vs. 25lbs per leko seemed like a better safety factor.
That's true. But as a word of caution: If it comes crashing down, you might be called out as the last one who was seen messing with it. Don't let yourself become a scapegoat. I've ended my relationship with places because they expected me to hang lights on sketchy rigging and refused to make improvements moving forward.

Hopefully you will be able to hire a consultant or even a design-build firm for this space. I highly recommend it! The users should always have a say, but they are also not as good at forward thinking or considering alternative ways of implementing an idea.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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Location
Clayton NY 13624
I spend a lot of time trying to gently explain to non-theatre people why their ideas don't quite fit theatre today - let alone never. I sometimes am asked by building code folks for some input on a specific issue and cringe at the rest of the plan. My favorite is the dressing rooms about 2' off stage of proscenium opening. Way too common. It is frightening what little good sense sometimes is brought to bear on theatre design and construction.
 
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jcslighting

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Nov 17, 2009
Location
Cincinnati, Ohio
caution: If it comes crashing down, you might be called out as the last one who was seen messing with it. Don't let yourself become a scapegoat. I've ended my relationship with places because they expected me to hang lights on sketchy rigging and refused to make improvements moving forward.
I've wondered about potential liability in the event of the unthinkable. Trying to keep the total load as light as possible and evenly distributed. While it seems sturdy enough I would bet anything that none
of the hardware involved was/is load rated. It has presented challenges design wise by having to keep lekos off the FOH pipe. I have gotten use to throwing gobos from the balcony rail and from the
sides or on booms. The overstage electrics were hung with what appears to be playground type chain. I changed all that out a few years back with rated hardware. There was just no way I was even thinking of hanging
any amount of weight over someone's head on that stuff. BTW, these overstage pipes were mounted on plugging strips and I have no idea who installed them but they were hung with 5 pcs of "swingset" chain onto eyebolts
set into the plaster ceiling. I knocked the plaster loose to make sure the new hardware went into the center of a joist and changed out all the chains.
 

jcslighting

Member
Joined
Nov 17, 2009
Location
Cincinnati, Ohio
I spend a lot of time trying to gently explain to non-theatre people why their ideas don't quite fit theatre today - let alone never. I sometimes am asked by building code folks for some input on a specific issue and cringe at the rest of the plan. My favorite is the dressing rooms about 2' off stage of proscenium opening. Way too common. It is frightening what little good sense sometimes is brought to bear on theatre design and construction.
Schools are sometimes the worst at this. I was asked to 'help out' at one local school that had a water fountain just off stage right behind a masking curtain.

My explaination to the board about using a true theatre consultant vs. just an architect was that a theatre consultant knows theatre: production, audience, lighting, sound, scenery, dressing rooms, all of the needs of a
working theatre - as well as building codes and design. Most architects know very little about the needs of a working theatre, they are only concerned with the building asthetics. If they only take my advice on this point alone I think it could improve the outcome and use-ability of the space 1000%.

More background on this group.....
At an event announcing the purchase of the new building one board member described what we could do there as "theatre in the black". I wasn't sure exactly what that was.... some guesses were: theatre without any lighting - like in the dark?, everyone just wears blacks like the crew?, everything in the theatre is painted black, including the set? The same board member also wants to produce only "GP" shows and has no clue of the differences between a cyc, scrim, or traverse curtain.

And they want input into the design of a theatre?