Not all multiplex theaters are created equal, as proved by the Famous Players Star Cité, located at Olympic Park in Montreal. This 17-cinema venue includes stadium seating, a themed interior and, most notably, colorful outdoor architectural lighting. The project, designed by LD Stephen Pollard, was done with Christie Lites of Toronto and opened last November.

“Star Cité” is the French translation of the Famous Players theatres, which can be found throughout Canada. Pollard became involved with the project when he was asked to do a light show inside the theatres. After working on more than a dozen Famous Players venues, the Olympic Park project came up, and Famous Players wanted to make this facility unique. “They didn't want just floodlights, they wanted something that was going to make a statement,” Pollard explains. Keeping in mind city and Olympic Park management restrictions, the LD put together a proposal for exterior lighting and the project went forward.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was the lack of available land. “Because the facility is in Olympic Park, they really don't have any property; all they owned was the property that the building was sitting on. Consequently, when I gave them some ideas, they told me I couldn't use the lighting positions I wanted,” Pollard says.

Because of the lack of real estate available for lighting positions, Pollard's options were limited. “I investigated the Martin exterior architectural fixtures, and all of the other architectural lines on the market, but I was extremely limited because I had nowhere to shoot from. The best I could do was put fixtures on the building itself and slash it down the walls, which I thought would be rather tacky.”

So, with only 8.25' (2.5m) of throw from the building, Pollard went back to the drawing board and came back with a different approach. “I decided to use a color changer with a standard 1,000W metal-halide architectural fixture. I looked at quite a few of them, and the one that was the most aesthetically appealing was the Wide-Lite FX Series Architectural Floodlight.”

But he still needed a reliable color changer rated for outdoor use. Pollard, who helped develop the Chroma-Q scroller, went to Christie Lites president Huntly Christie with his idea for an outdoor-rated unit. “Christie was always bandying around the idea of doing an architectural fixture, and this gig gave the firm the opportunity to do it.” So was born the Aquarelle Weather Proof Color Changer.

Pollard consulted on the Aquarelle's design with technical supervisor Antoine Costantini, and the unit was designed and manufactured by the team at Christie (now known as Spectrum Manufacturing). “The Aquarelle has a heat shield in back of it to project the gel and prevent the scroller from getting hot,” the LD explains. Pollard chose to use Lee Filters gels inside the Aquarelle, which held up to rigorous testing by Christie, and his own. “At one point, I took a hockey stick to it to make sure the tempered glass on the front of it was vandal-proof.” It is.

Pollard took the Aquarelle, paired it with the floodlights, and placed them at 16.5' (5m) intervals, 8.25' away from the building. “We chose a reflector that has a very nominal hot spot, so the instruments just blended together along the wall, creating this giant cyclorama.”

Working with the Wide-Lite/Aquarelle fixtures are 19 Martin Professional MAC 2000s, from Erickson Pro. “I wanted a moving-head fixture to light the glazing of the building from both the inside and the outside,” the LD reports. “I used patterns and movement to draw people's eyes toward the lobby and the entrance of the building.” Pollard has five of the MAC 2000s indoors, while the other 14 are outside in Tempest Lighting Tornado enclosures.

Given the name of the theatre, one can see a variety of star gobos on the outside of the project, besides the blending of vivid colors. “The idea was to make it look beautiful and not garish, because there are a lot of residences in the area,” Pollard explains. And the lighting is doing much more than simply illuminating the outside of the theatre — it's become somewhat of a local tourist attraction. “Cars do stop and watch the lights. It's become a free light show,” he says.