Red Theatre Curtains

My boyfriend and I were pondering this question as we sat at an old fashioned theatre the other night… Why do most theatres have RED curtains? What is the significance?

Thanks! :confused:

WAG: It looks pretty when the lights are on full… and when the lights are off* it looks black, and more unobtrusive. This is assuming it does not 100% disappear when retracted.

There’s also the distinct possibility that someone, somewhere, somewhen had lots of red material they did not know what to do with… so they made a curtain. Someone else came and saw it, liked it, and copied it. Then, when “everyone else was already doing it”, everyone else started doing it. I imagine there’s quite a few things that are the way they are because it’s just the way they are.

  • perhaps “minimal lighting” would be a more appropriate term, as there’s always some light, somewhere in the theatre

I love this board. Where else can you sit back and ponder theatrical drapes?
I learned that what you are referring to is called a Grand Drape, and there is one for sale on eBay.

I have no idea why red was prominent. I seem to recall from my youth, many were made of velvet, or something similar.

Hides the blood.

Actually, I guess it’s a sense of grandeur and drama that they’re after. I’ve been in plenty of theaters and the few curtains that haven’t been red have been gold or silver or some other dramatic color. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a pastel or beige curtain, although I have seen black ones in the kind of places where the brick or concrete walls are always showing.

My theatre’s Grand Drape is Blue. It DID replace a red one.

Red, especially a deep red, has had powerful connotations of wealth and opulence through the ages, especially as its use was at one time restricted to the royalty. Didn’t help any that making a strong red used to involve the collection, crushing and processing of untold kajillions of small bugs.

Way back when, the theater owners wanted their theaters to look fancy and opulent, so what better way to do that than a lot of gold-leaf in the plaster and those huge red curtains?

The fabric in this decor style is frequently known as “red plush”. It’s traditionally been used not just for stage curtains but for other theater accoutrements such as seat upholstery and even the “red velvet ropes” used for crowd control.

Red plush theater decor has been traditional since at least the nineteenth century, but I can’t seem to find out exactly how or when the tradition got started. The suggestions made here about connotations of opulence and dramatic grandeur seem plausible, but they don’t tell us what made this specific trend really catch on. Why red plush instead of, say, purple satin? This has to have a particular historical origin somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.

My WAG is that your eyes would adjust more easily to the dark once the lights go down with a red curtain. Since red light is ideal for astronomers and stargazers who don’t want to obscure their night vision when they need light to see their away around, it would seem to follow that your eyes would adjust more easily to dark after being in a red-colored environment.

That was my first thought after reading the OP, also. Red has the longest wavelength, so is easier on the eyes when adjusting, as you say.

Perhaps dyeing cloth red was easier and cheaper than dyeing it any other color.
That’s my WAG. The only other colors I’ve seen besides red are black, blue, and deep purple.

Far from it! See the wiki article about the bugs, and compare collecting and crushing huge quantities of bugs to gathering up the leftovers from preparing a meal.

A lot of natural dyes are trivial to produce, using things like onion skins and bark, but deep, lasting red was exceptionally difficult.

Ignorance, busted. :wink:

Not just “was” difficult - ever forget and put one red shirt in with your whites?

Yes, and my girlfriend won’t let me live it down.

Red also stimulates the appetite, thus spurring concessions sales, and is flattering to skin tones.

In Eastern Orthodoxy, the curtain that is used in front of the altar, if it does not change color with the liturgical season (only common among the Russians), is red. To my knowledge, the Oriental Orthodox (Copts, Syrians, Armenians) invariably have red curtains.

Red Stimulates the appetite? Hmmm… Learn something new every day!