Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, IN

Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, Ind., opened in 1928 as a movie palace and vaudeville house. In its heyday, the theater hosted iconic stars including Perry Como, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett and Doris Day. The historic theater was rescued from the wrecking ball in 1972 and two decades later underwent a major renovation to bring it up to the modern standards required for national Broadway productions, concerts, cinema and educational programming.

The digital marquee installed as part of the theater’s 75th Anniversary was in need of replacement. The low-resolution sign required frequent repairs and parts were becoming scarce. One side no longer worked. Getting the marquee up and running again was a priority during the pandemic so the theater would be able to advertise virtual events and promote COVID-19 messages of encouragement to the community. They sought donors to help fund the new marquee, and two patrons stepped forward to meet the need.

The Baldus Company of Fort Wayne, known for resurrecting the marquee sign at another local historic venue, The Clyde Theatre, was tapped to provide the new sign. The company specified 6mm digital displays from Watchfire Signs, which are the highest-resolution digital signs in Indiana. “Digital displays are a natural for historic marquees,” said Hugh Baldus, a partner at The Baldus Company. “Digital allows us to take something classic and modernize it in a way that is in keeping with the historic integrity of the sign.”

The Baldus Company specifies Watchfire Signs exclusively because the displays are reliable and the software is easy to use. “Watchfire is the single best vendor relationship we have,” said Baldus. “We rely on partners when we can’t do something in-house, and Watchfire supports our reputation as the region’s highest quality sign company.”

Today the new sign is showcasing more refined messaging, including videos of upcoming acts, high-resolution photos of the inside of the theater, and messages to support the community and the arts. The theater’s marketing staff programs the sign themselves and finds the Ignite OPx software easy to learn and use from anywhere. Watchfire’s library of customizable EasyArt makes creating new messages a breeze.

“While some think of digital signage as a capital expense, it really is a prepaid advertising expense for a decade or more,” said Baldus. “There’s no better way to reach people passing by a location.”

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