Why Are Theater Curtains Red?

As you step into a theater, you see one prominent color, red. Upon entering the theater hall, the individual observes rows of plush red chairs, along with red velvet curtains adorning the sides.

Different entertainment venues choose this color so often that deep red and crimson are now synonymous with stages and cinemas.

This may have made the movie buffs wonder why theater curtains are red? Has it always been red? Well, it is just not a color of choice for most theater owners but the answer has to do something with science.

Why Are Theater Curtains Red?

The big theater red curtain makes the audience sit in awe and anticipation. A curtain is meant to provide a simple barrier between the screen or stage performers and the audience. The red color suits the grandeur and aesthetic of theatrical tradition.

Besides all, red is a color of choice that

Theater Lighting

For technical and scientific reasons, red is not an ideal light absorber. It does not absorb as much light as other colors like blue, green, or black. So, when the spotlight is cast onto the stage, red curtains, seats, or background will help make it stand out.

Fire-Retardant Fabric

Moreover, red remains relevant today because, during fire-retardant treatment, the fabric of this color showed the least chemicals. The fabric for theater curtains complies with British standards BS 5867 and is flame retardant that burns slowly in case of a fire.

Cinematic Experience

One other reason why red is such a prominent color in theaters is that it’s the first color we lose in low-light conditions. In simple terms, human eyes lose sight of red in low-lighting conditions.

As the lights go down, red disappears from our sight, enabling the moviegoers to concentrate fully on the cinematic experience. Furthermore, red curtains symbolize a place halfway between the real and dream world.


History of Red Cinema Curtains

There is a strong element of tradition when it comes to red cinema curtains. Theaters in Britain copied the Roman amphitheater renowned for its open-air setting with banked seating and raised stage.

According to research, Cinemas and theaters have been around for as early as the 1800s. The first modern indoor theater was built in Europe, it was constructed mainly of timber and had a wooden interior, always at risk of fire.

London’s Drury Lane Theatre installed a large iron safety curtain to reduce the risk of fire.

The iron safety curtain evolved into rich, red theatre curtains that are commonly used today.

The red fabric curtain was cost-effective and easier to handle during the installation.

As per some historians, the red color curtains and background were inspired by people’s obsession with Italian operas.

Opera houses were primarily red and gold. The main reason why this red color trend prevailed up until today is that red is the first color we lose in low-light.

It has a wavelength of 650 nm, making it disappear from our site first.

Has it Always Been Red?

Whilst red is synonymous with theater curtains but it does not mean it is the only color you see in all cinemas.

Some other colors are used in accordance with the color theme of the theater or cinema space. Nowadays, black and other dark-colored curtains are being used instead of red.

Keeping aside all the technical reasons, red is traditionally the low-maintenance color that makes you feel passionate and energized.

It complements the passion and drama of the theater perfectly. Therefore, there are not many colors on the color palette as romantic and powerful as red.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does a Red Curtain Symbolize?

The red curtain is used to pique visual interests and is often linked to European opera houses and royal patronage. Since cinema shares a long and interesting history with the monarchy, the red fabric is used for curtains to represent the grand style and aesthetics of the theater.

Why is Movie Theater Red?

Red is not the color of choice for no reason at all, instead, there is a scientific explanation for choosing this color. Since the human eye is less sensitive to red, it disappears from our sight as soon as the lights go out. It ensures an immersive experience for the viewers with no unnecessary distractions.


Red pairs up nicely with most neutral wall colors like plum, forest green, or navy. If you are setting up a home theater, hang the traditional red curtains to keep the theatrical spirit alive. Also, next time when visiting a theater observe how the red seats and curtains disappear from the field of vision as soon as the light goes off.

Read also: How to Find the Best Cinema Seats for Couples?


  • Will Nob

    Will Nob has extensive experience with Laser Projectors. His job was to assemble laptops and projectors for a famous company in the United States. Several of his articles and research papers have been published.

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