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The Davis Theater Restaurant Has a Name: What Is It, and What Does It Mean?

By Patty Wetli | January 15, 2016 9:07am
 The theater's restaurant will be called Carbon Arc, a nod to the early days of film projection.
The theater's restaurant will be called Carbon Arc, a nod to the early days of film projection.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE —The Davis Theater is in the midst of a makeover that will provide patrons with a 21st Century moviegoing experience, but that doesn't mean it's leaving the past in the dust.

When the theater reopens in early summer, it will have added a restaurant called Carbon Arc, owner Tom Fencl revealed to DNAinfo.com.

It's an unusual choice given the current trend toward restaurant names with ampersands but one that makes perfect sense for the nearly 100-year-old Davis.

The earliest film projectors were lit with carbon arc lamps, which burned bright enough to mimic daylight, Fencl explained.

"They were also pretty dangerous," he said.

Carbon arc lamps are illuminated by an arc of electricity formed between two burning rods of carbon — a literal unenclosed flame inside the projectors. Combined with highly flammable nitrate film reels, the lamps caused many a projection booth fire.

A less flammable form of film was introduced in the 1950s and carbon arc lamps were largely phased out by the 1960s.

In renovating the Davis, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., Fencl has made an effort to find the sweet spot between providing patrons with modern conveniences while maintaining a sense of the theater's history.

"We're trying to stay true to an Art Deco and industrial feel," without slavishly turning the Davis into something resembling a set from "The Great Gatsby," he said.

Carbon Arc is a "nod back to 1916," Fencl said, but note, the restaurant will serve burgers and tacos.

In case you were curious, here's how carbon arc projectors work:

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