Even by the standards of offbeat consumer concepts, combining a furniture store with an IMAX theatre is a risky idea, given the slender connection between contemporary sofas and big-screen cinema. But doing it twice, and succeeding both times, looks like genius. Boston-based Barry and Eliot Tatelman share a magic touch in the intersection of shopping and entertainment they call “shoppertainment.” In August 2002, the brothers turned heads by opening the 262-seat AT&T Broadband IMAX 3D Theatre in the Natick, MA, branch of Jordan's Furniture, a company their grandfather started in 1918. The business has come a long way since Samuel Tatelman started it off the back of a truck; it now has four stores, and his grandsons, who are well-known local TV and radio pitchmen, sold it to mega-entrepreneur Warren Buffett, chairman/CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, in 1999.

That backing has enabled them to grow Jordan's in unusual ways. “When I first heard about the IMAX at the Natick branch, I said, ‘Huh?’” recalls Rich Testa, principal of Saugus, MA-based Testa Lighting Design. “But Jordan's is the kind of store that ignores what everyone else is doing in the market today, because they do it so well.” Before he hung his own shingle, Testa helped add illumination excitement to the Natick store, including the colorful exterior and the elaborate New Orleans motif within. Last July, the Tatelmans tapped him for what they proudly call their “biggest and craziest” store — a 260,000 sq. ft. behemoth in Reading, MA, more than twice as big as the Natick branch, boasting the 500-seat Comcast IMAX 3D Theatre and their most novel décor to date. It had the good fortune to open in October, as the Boston Red Sox were racing to a World Series win. Defying the conventional wisdom has again paid off — Jordan's enjoyed a record-shattering 2004, and its presentation of The Polar Express made the Reading IMAX the highest-grossing US movie theatre the weekend it opened.

The Reading store is the one that proves conclusively that its owners are full of beans. Its highlight is Beantown — 17,000 sq. ft. of Boston-themed whimsy, forged from a whopping 280,000lbs. of Jelly Belly jellybeans. Shoppers on their way to the IMAX or any of the vignettes that are part of the 160,000 sq. ft. showroom (including stores-within-the-store for Bose home theatre products and Pine Cone Hills bedding) can indulge their sweet tooth at a Richardson Farms Ice Cream shop that's below Beantown's Biggest Dig, a 35'-high sundae that plays off the city's massive construction project and is scooped from four million multicolored Jelly Bellys. The Sweet House, a mock State House made from more than six million jellybeans artfully arranged (in clear Plexiglas columns) to resemble its gold-domed namesake, serves up candies, with a Johnny's Luncheonette on hand for other cuisine. A full-size replica of Fenway Park's “Green Monster” left-field fence is mounted in Beantown, with Wally the Mascot perched above it to add to the fun (unless you're a Yankees fan; he's clutching a New York player in his grasp). The Liquid Fireworks light-and-aqua show, put on by Cape Coral, FL-based Waltzing Waters, entertains the crowds as some patrons take trapeze lessons from the Trapeze School of New York under a model of the Lenny Zakim Bridge.

“It absolutely works to bring in customers,” says Testa of this jellybean-fueled jamboree, which was designed by Joanne Newbold of New York City-based J/Newbold Associates and constructed and installed by VDA & Adirondack Scenic. “Jordan's is like a casino, in that you have to walk through the store to get to the theatre, and there's a lot to distract you on your way. If the store makes a sale on just one theatre patron who comes through, it's worth it to them.”

It was also worth it to bring in lighting that would enhance and unify the different elements. “Beantown is a mini-Disney, and I wanted it to sing with color,” says Testa. “Eliot was excited about that, but he said to me, ‘I want people to know that when they look at this-or-that jellybean, they will know it's Jelly Belly Pistachio or Banana.’ So, we took some of that color out and put some ETC Source Fours® up top to throw patterns and breakups on the various elements.” Testa's design uses four Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profiles and 400 Series UV lights from Wildfire, plus architectural fixtures from Juno, Lightolier, and Lithonia to punch up some of the pieces. “Eliot loves ropelight, so there's some of it here [from NSL], wrapped around the dome and the columns of The Sweet House.” Twenty-two Chroma-Q scrollers are positioned above the trapeze to give it a bit more bounce, while cyc lights illuminate a large graphic panel (with images of landmarks like Prudential Tower) that wraps around the attraction. MACs “dance around the pool” that houses Liquid Fireworks, which has its own lighting system. Kate Henry, Mercedes Roman, and Matt Guminski assisted Testa on the project.

Local LED vendor Color Kinetics made its own contributions to Beantown's capital. “Joanne wanted to put some strobes inside the dome, but I didn't want to see strobes sticking off it nor anyone climbing 35' up or so to replace the lamps,” Testa says. “So, I put in a 50-node strand of Color Kinetics iColor® Flex. Each node is about the size of a jellybean, anyway, so they blend in fine. They do a constant, random strobe all the way around, giving a sense of movement to the top of the dome without going over the top.” The long-life iColor Flex also put the cherry on top of the Biggest Dig. “There's a large cherry there that's lifted up and down by a crane, and the red, strobing iColor Flex nodes we put in make it glow like the Times Square ball. A further advantage to the technology is that most of the showroom lighting is MR-16 heads pointed downward on the furniture, which raises the electric bill. Anything Jordan's can do to reduce that is appreciated, and LEDs fit the bill.”

Chris Burr of Port Lighting Systems in Amesbury, MA, was the main programmer on the project, with Gordon Manson and Jon Gonda also contributing. “The iColor Flex nodes are so fast, that if you're using a Wholehog® Effects Engine to do these cool effects with them, sometimes the refresh is so slow on the consoles that they start tripping up, and the sequence gets lost or stuck on something,” he says. “You have to watch the speed of what you're generating.”

Speed defined the lighting task as the opening loomed. Burr had worked with Testa on the Natick store, and “we tried to use the same programming in Reading as time was at a premium.” Given the different amounts of channeling required, Beantown uses a Flying Pig Systems Hog 1000, with a Hog 500 in the IMAX theatre. “The two theatres have the same kind of lightshow, generated by Martin MAC 2000s in Reading and Clay Paky washlights in Natick. Jordan's said, ‘We want the same exact thing that we have in our Natick store.’ And I replied, ‘Well, that's fine,’” says Testa, who lit both theatres. Not that there aren't differences. Besides standard worklights, houselights, Tivoli LED striplights, and edge lighting to guide audiences to and from their seats, Testa made more extensive use of 420W Color Kinetics ColorBlaze® 72 border lights. “Jordan's asked me to put in longer-lasting, more energy-efficient equipment. Their facilities guys are great, but they're not theatre people, and the Color Kinetics units have a 100,000-hour lamp life. They're in the pit of the theatre, lighting almost all of the 100' by 80' screen before showtimes; the MACs fill it in. I used the automated lights for creating kinetic looks, like a screensaver, between shows; the corporate logos are displayed by the lights, and there are 400 cues lined up on the Hog as the music plays.”

Testa's lighting spruces up the theatre's lobby, which has a black-painted ceiling and Transformit tensile structures made from stretched sheets of white fabric. “I put ETC Source Four Jrs. with abstract patterns in there to create a little anticipatory excitement as you enter. The hallway off the lobby has a low, 8' ceiling, which serves to emphasize just how big the theatre and the screen are. There, I put fourteen 16W decorative colored pattern ceiling lights from d'ac; they're pattern projectors in an architectural fixture with dichroic colored lenses in them that emit little streaks of light.” An ETC Unison dimming system handles normal/emergency lighting, and there are three LCD Unison Touch Stations available so that an operator can bring up any of the houselights from several vantage points. A separate Crestron LCD controller offers touchscreen control over the Hog 500 console.

Barbizon NE installed the Beantown and IMAX lighting and provided the gear. Most of the showroom illumination, including accent lights for certain vignettes, was put in by Boston's High Output, with Testa providing four GAM Twin Spins on ETC Source Fours for a little extra zip. While Testa used color-changing Color Kinetics units on the exterior of the Natick store, he stuck with metal-halide floodlights for tight, dramatic streaking and wide wall washes of white light at Reading. “While Eliot is a very visual person who likes to try different things, retailers are becoming more selective as to where and how to use lights in their stores,” the LD says. “The Natick store is on a hill, and it was felt that the exterior lighting would draw people up there. There wasn't the same need for it in Reading, as the complex sits on top of a Home Depot. Reading has the glitz factor, but it's achieved differently.” Testa also adds that it had to go its own way, “because the Reading site was a landfill that was capped. No fixtures could penetrate the rubber membrane, which could allow for gases to escape, causing serious issues. The engineers determined that the parking lot would sink over the years, so all fixtures must be attached the shell of the building to maintain its proper placement.”

The LD calls the new store “a very positive experience — one that's built to last.” However you look at it, this branch of Jordan's Furniture is undeniably cool beans.

Robert Cashill is a former editor of Lighting Dimensions.

Beantown Gear

19 ETC Source Four® 575 19°
54 ETC Source Four 575 26°
28 ETC Source Four 575 36°
3 ETC Source Four 575 50°
4 ETC Source Four Junior 575 36°
75 ETC Source Four PAR MFL 575
25 ETC Source Four PAR WFL 575
35 Selecon Acclaim Cyc Light 500
3 Altman Micro Floods 75
4 Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profile 1200
7 Wildfire 400Series UV 400
12 Color Kinetics ColorBlast® 12s 50W
6 50-node Color Kinetics iColor® Flex 30W
64 1' sections of Color Kinetics Amber Uno iColor® Cove 6.2W
14 Boca Flasher Green LED 25
50 Juno PAR38 Track Heads 90
60 Juno Studio Line MR16 Track Heads 50
14 Juno ED17 Metal Halide Wall Wash 70
1 Custom 14' diameter Contech Magellan Low Voltage Track
11 Contech MR16 Decorative Track Heads 50
60' NSL Brite Strip Micro Zenon
71 4' sections Juno Track Master Single Circuit Track
19 Lithonia T8 Food Service Fluorescent 64W
6 Lightolier Recessed Fluorescent Downlight 32
14 Canlet Yellow Jelly Jars 40
8 Abolite Goose Neck Lights 40
277' Tokistar LED strips
272' NSL Light Rope Chasing

Accessories

25 Apollo Spectra Q3 Color Scroller
4 Rosco Double Gobo Rotor with power supply
7 Wybron Eclipse Dousers (for UV lights)

Dimming & Control

120 ETC Sensor 2.4K dimmers with CEM96
1 GAM Check hand-held DMX Controller
3 Pathway Connectivity Rack Mount DMX Repeater/Splitter
1 Flying Pig Systems Hog® 1000
1 CueTouch TFT LCD Touchscreen
1 Linksys 10/100 Ethernet Switch
906' ETC Stage pin Connector Strips
1025' Schedule 40 1 1/2" black steel pipe

IMAX Gear

8 ETC Source Four 575 19°
16 ETC Source Four Junior 575 50°
4 Altman Micro Floods 75
6 Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profile 1200
14 Color Kinetics ColorBlaze® 72 420W
604' Tivoli LED Step Lighting
20 Design Plan Prondo PAR30 Surface Mount Downlight 75
10 Kim Quartz Washlight 500
18 Zumtobel PAR30 Recessed Downlight 75
14 d'ac Decorative colored pattern ceiling light 60

Accessories

6 custom Apollo Color Scenic Glass Gobos.

Dimming & Control

42 ETC Unison 2.4K dimmers
3 Unison LCD Touch Stations
2 Unison (2) button entry station
1 ETC Emergency Lighting Transfer Switch (ELTS)
1 Pathway Connectivity Rack Mount DMX Repeater/Splitter
1 Flying Pig Systems Hog® 500
2 10'-0" SSRC Connector Strips w/ Stage Pin Connectors

Showroom Gear

10 ETC White Source Four 575 19°
4 ETC White Source Four 575 50°
14 ETC White Source Four PAR WFL 575
4 ETC Source Four PAR MFL 575
1 ETC HID Source Four 150 36°
Several Juno Track Master Track
Several Juno MR16 Track Heads 50w

Accessories

14 Half-Hats for Source Four PAR
4 GAM Twin Spins
12 Apollo T5 Fluorescent Gell Sleeves

Dimming & Control

2 NSI DS 12 × 1.2k Dimmer Rack
1 Alcorn McBride Lightcue playback device
1 Crestron LCD controller

Lighting design
Testa Lighting Design (TLD)
Rich Testa, principal

LD assistants
Kate Henry
Mercedes Roman
Matt Guminski

Building architect & engineering
Carter Burgess (Boston office)

Programmers
Chris Burr
Gordon Manson
Jon Gonda

Theme design
J/Newbold Associates

Designer
Joanne Newbold

Construction/Installation of themed area
Visual Design Associates
Adirondack Scenic

Onsite project manager
Julie Remele

Water show design
Waltzing Waters

Beantown & IMAX lighting vendor and installer
Barbizon NE

Show room lighting vendor
High Output

Electrical contractor
Professional Electric

Lead electrician
Bob Donovan