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From Vintage Theater Signs to Modern Marvels: The History & Relevance of Marquees

Picture it now: You’re walking down the sidewalk in a big city. As you approach a section of buildings, you notice a large sign overhead. It’s a vintage theater, the name displayed proudly in vibrant lighting over the door: THE GRAND THEATER. It’s lit with red and white bulbs, creating a picturesque display. It draws your attention, points the way, beckons you to enter. 

With distinct illumination and customized coloration, marquee signs are used by many businesses to draw in a crowd and drive up profits. In this article, we will discuss the history of the marquee sign, how it has changed over time, and the benefits of these outdoor signs for businesses. Read on to understand what marquees have to offer.

What Are Traditional Marquees?

Marquee signs (also known as theater/theatre signs) were originally used by theaters to draw in a crowd from the nearby streets. As foot traffic was replaced with automobile traffic, clear and captivating signage became a necessity. Businesses needed to quickly capture attention because people were moving at a higher speed.

Marquee signs were vibrant and captivating, attracting attention from anyone passing through, which was highly effective as cars became more prevalent. They featured elegant designs and brilliant coloration, turning the most ordinary location into an extraordinary destination.

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In the beginning, theater signs were created from individual light bulbs used to write words and names. With bright colors and intense illumination, these outdoor signs for businesses were hard to miss. They were generally displayed above building entrances, lighting the way into the facility.

Oftentimes, marquees would include a message board along the bottom. This board would feature interchangeable letters that could broadcast upcoming shows and events, creating a sharp advertisement for the business.

All in all, marquee signs began as an eye-catching display for local businesses, primarily theaters. Using bright light bulbs and popping color, theatre signs would effectively draw in a crowd.

Bringing Business to the Theater & Beyond

Marquees were a hit. From their origins, these outdoor signs for businesses created gorgeous displays that effectively marketed for their companies. From the smallest theater to the largest event center, a marquee sign could greatly improve traffic and bring in a higher revenue.

While theatre signs were originally created for theaters to draw attention to their productions, they quickly became popular among many business types. Any venue that needed to make announcements, advertise for events, or otherwise attract attention of those passing through turned to the use of marquees.

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Now, marquees can be found lighting the way to:

  • Casinos
  • Event venues
  • Hotels
  • Train stations
  • Sports stadiums
  • Performance theaters
  • Movie theaters

These outdoor signs for businesses are incredibly versatile and customizable, creating a perfect signage solution for any location. Because of this, they have been used for nearly a century by theaters, hotels, and other locations alike. However, as time has passed, marquee signs have evolved to accommodate the changing needs of modern businesses.

The Modern Adaptation of Marquees

Vintage theater signs still remain a prevalent display in today’s world. However, marquees have adapted over time to meet the changing needs of the industry. While older marquee signs used bright light bulbs and simple (yet captivating) displays, newer theater signs utilize several additional features that add to their value and benefit.

Explore some of these changes below.

  • Long-lasting LEDs: As LEDs have become more prevalent in society, they have made their way into the signage industry. LEDs are reliable and long-lasting, meaning that business owners no longer have to fret over dimming light bulbs. Instead, these bulbs have been replaced with vibrant LEDs.
  • Electronic Message Boards: While even older marquees feature a message board with interchangeable letters, modern marquee signs often use digital displays. These allow the message to be simply changed without the hassle of a ladder, missing letters, and safety hazards. Instead, the electronic message board can now be changed remotely – from anywhere!
  • Indoor Usage: Originally, theatre signs were simply created for exterior display. These outdoor signs for businesses sat only atop the front door, leading patrons inside. Now, marquee lettering and signs are used both inside and outside, allowing business owners to create elegant displays inside, as well as outside of their location.

Though marquees are changing over time, their efficacy and value never falter. These signs stand tall and proud, bringing in crowds day after day. They will likely continue to evolve as the needs for advertising and broadcasting change across time. But, they will remain an important part of many businesses.

Benefits of Theater Signs & Outdoor Signs for Businesses

As their longevity and wide use suggest, marquee signs are highly advantageous for businesses throughout the world. From the highest production theaters to the smallest event centers, these signs act as a marketing agent and announcement system for any business. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of theater signs for modern businesses.
1. Attention-Grabber: The most apparent advantage of marquees is their incredible visibility. Between the coloration, bright lights, and massive displays, theatre signs have a high visual appeal. They can capture and hold the attention of anyone passing through.
2. Customizable: In modern day, marquee signage is highly personalized. It can be curated to perfectly suit the needs of any business. Along with the brightly lit name, a marquee can feature a letter message board, an electronic message center, directional arrows, pictures, videos, and more. It can be made in a variety of colors, including neon selections.
3. Versatile: Because marquees can be perfectly customized, they are incredibly versatile. They can be used by many businesses, from the most elegant hotel to the most enthusiastic sports arena. They can also be created for indoor and outdoor use, creating vivacious displays both inside and outside of a business.
4. Timelessness: While marquee signs are a vintage dream, they are also a timeless piece that can proudly display a business name for many years. Theatre signs will never go out of style because they are visually stunning and effective.
5. Profit-Driven: With the powerful attention-grabbing tactics and customizable features, marquees drive profits for modern businesses. They can be used to advertise upcoming events and shows, all while proudly displaying the business name. Theater signs are captivating, ensuring the passing crowds will see what you have to offer.
Marquees are a powerful tool for any business location. They demand attention with their highly customizable designs and versatile solutions. In addition, these outdoor signs for businesses create timeless displays and drive profits. Many companies, from casinos to train stations, can enjoy the benefits of an elegant LED marquee sign.
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A Historical Relic or a Modern Masterpiece? You Decide.

What started as a way to draw a crowd into a theater has transformed the sign industry for modern businesses. With captivating designs, illuminated colors, and vibrant LEDs, marquee signs are an incredibly effective method to attract customers and drive profits. From hotels and casinos to train stations and sports stadiums, theatre signs bring many benefits.

Is a marquee sign the right fit for your business? Contact Legacy Sign Group to learn more about your custom marquees, theater signs, and outdoor signs for businesses.