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THEATRE OF DEATH

In 1903 Chicago, a crusading reporter exposes of the “Absolutely Fireproof” Iroquois Theatre, as a fire trap. He is proven right. Based on the true incident. No one was ever punished. Professional Coverage: "Recommend” - Dave Trottier (Author “The Screenwriter's Bible")

"Recommend” - Dave Trottier (Author “The Screenwriter's Bible")

OFFICIAL FINALIST - Hollywood Screenwriting Contest

Theatrical producers decide to build a magnificent theater in 1903 Chicago for the epic production, "Mr. Bluebeard," being imported from London. The show will star Eddie Foy, the most popular entertainer of his day, with a cast of 200 performers, including a death-defying aerial act.

The Iroquois Theatre is to be the largest, most modern theater in the country. They retain the best theater architect of that era and the most renowned construction company. The theatre is promoted as being "absolutely fireproof."

Jack Conway, a theatrical reporter, is assigned to do a feature story, with unspoken instructions for a favorable review to generate lucrative newspaper advertising. He is given complete access to the theatre site and is, at first, impressed with its scope. Gradually, however, he becomes aware of serious safety hazards: no sprinkler systems, flammable construction materials, no direct connections to the fire department, hidden exit doors, a flammable asbestos curtain, etc.

In his investigations Jack - a married man with two children -- meets Lilly Rider, the flirtatious aerial performer with whom he has a brief but significant affair.

Jack's editor refuses to print an expose. The theatre manager gives Jack four tickets to the December 30 Children's matinee as an enticement. The theatre owners now impede Jack's investigation and even have him mugged. Undaunted, Jack brings his information to the Mayor who refuses to believe the accusations.

Jack is suddenly fired by his editor. Coming home slightly drunk he discovers his wife has taken his two children to the Children's matinee, using the bribery tickets. He rushes to the theatre and discovers that a fire has broken out with his family is inside.

The backstage fire is calamitous. A fireball caused by a back draft virtually annihilates the orchestra audience and speeds to the upper balconies. Eddie Foy heroically tries to calm the audience. Jack rescues his family and others using his knowledge of cellar exits uncovered in his investigation.

Jack's wife, Mary, a trained and determined social worker, aids Jack in getting families out of the theatre and later assists in the recovery hospital and morgue.

Many casual passersby, including a Church Bishop and a locksmith are pulled into the panic and struggle to save lives. The owner of the restaurant adjacent of the theatre offers his restaurant as a refuge and hospital. The fire scenes are quite graphic.

Characters introduced during the story -- young performers who are lovers, stage hands, cast and crew, etc. -- most in their twenties -- meet various fates during the fire, with some heroics and tragedy.

The Fire Department arrives too late but attempts to rescue people trapped on incomplete fire escapes and forced to jump. The fire is eventually brought under control.

Chicago closes own for the New Year's Holiday as funerals dominate the city. The Iroquois Theatre fire is the largest building fire in US history. The loss of life is tremendous - 603 deaths, mostly woman and children.

The official investigation is a whitewash. During the courtroom scene all the principals feign innocence. No one is ever punished.

Eddie Foy becomes a national hero. Jack becomes an investigative reporter exposing government corruption. Jack's wife, who is now pregnant, comments on promoting a theater as "absolutely fireproof." "It's like building a ship and saying it's unsinkable." "An unsinkable ship?" jests Jack, "No, they'd never say that!"

Written by:
Format:
Screenplay
Posted:
09/07/2019
Updated:
07/05/2020
Author Bio:
Jim Saunders is a New York City-based professional writer, playwright, optioned screenplay writer and multiple contest winner. He has many years’ experience writing stage presentations, corporate films and multimedia projects; also a director and occasional actor.

Screenplays

Jim specializes in screenplays based on historical true events (including musicals), bio/pics and/or disasters. In alphabetical order:

“BOJANGLES, EUBIE AND BERT!” Three black musical legends of the past – Bert Williams, Eubie Blake and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – relive their show business success in spite of racism and theatrical bigotry.

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Contest Results:
Hollywood Film Competition (Finalist) [2013]