Antique Cinema Lights: the Right Kind of Drama

Once you’re able to begin exploring the aisles of Royal Circus, you will quickly understand that we place special emphasis on objects which have made their way to us from vibrant, exotic locales. And you’ll be right.

Furnishings from Java, India and Tibet will feature prominently. But today, let’s talk about treasures from another fabled destination – Hollywood, California.

Geoff and Michael, deep in the industrial forest.

Each of the lights you see pictured in this post is the real deal. They’ve all spent decades on southern California soundstages and movie locations. They are made with old-school industrial quality, because they were meant to serve as serious tools. When you claim one of them as your own, who can say whether it may have been used in the production of your personal favorite film from the 40s, 50s or 60s?

But the story here gets even better. Each of these lights has also been lovingly restored by Scarpati, an acclaimed album cover photographer who also happens to be one of our dearest friends.

Some assembly required: Scarpati, with an assist by my son Grey.

Royal Circus is a labor of love for us, and restoring these old beauties is definitely a labor of love for Scarpati. After tracking down one or two of these rare creatures stashed in a forgotten corner of some cavernous L.A. warehouse – a feat in itself – he gets them to his personal workshop, where he completely breaks down each to its individual parts. Every knob, lens and metal component is cleaned, stripped and refinished, with impossibly rare missing parts found and fitted.

Often, lamps and stands are discovered separately. Scarpati is a stickler for detail, so he actually insists on matching every light to a stand made by the same manufacturer. New wiring, a fresh bulb suitable for home use, and you’re good to go.

Light 2.JPG

If by now you’re realizing that all this entails a tremendous amount of sleuthery and hard work, you are correct. Occasionally, the internet will offer up a similar example of industrial hardware from Hollywood’s golden age. But nobody, nobody, even comes close to this level of restoration. And we have them here. Go ahead, inspect them closely. The more you look, the more amazing you’ll realize they are. Talk about a quick way to add drama to any space.

The natural patina on these things is as good as it gets.

The gold letters being applied to our shop windows this week say “Furnishings & Curiosities.” So are these lights furnishings, or are they curiosities? As with many of our favorite finds, we believe the right answer is “both.”

We hope to be opening our doors in a few short weeks. Until then, please stay in touch. In the next installment, I’ll share pics from our first shipment of Tibetan antiques. The truck is scheduled to arrive tomorrow afternoon. Can’t wait.