Live Design is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Saks Fifth Avenue Theater of Dreams 2018 Photo by Sharon Sipple

Saks Fifth Avenue Theater Of Dreams

Holiday light-show on Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue continued its long-standing tradition of delighting spectators with its annual holiday light-show. American Christmas led the collaboration between the teams at Chris Werner Design, 4Wall Entertainment, AMA Sign & Electric, and Saks Fifth Avenue in alliance with Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS to create the 2018 iteration of this spectacular program.

The 8-story tall, city-block wide display, entitled “Theater of Dreams,” was an ode to Broadway, featuring John Williams’ arrangement of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”  Large, sweeping, repeating arcs paid tribute to the art deco shapes within nearby music halls. G40 globes outlined the shape of the facade - an homage to the marquee lights of Times Square. Lush, illuminated, red curtains nodded to the main rags of the many theaters just blocks away.

Sharon SippleSaks Fifth Avenue - Theater of Dreams

2018’s light-show premiered as part of a celebration aligned with the unveiling of Saks’s holiday windows - a live-stream broadcast including 120 dancers on Fifth Avenue and fireworks by Grucci in the sky above Manhattan.

Photo by Sharon SippleSaks Fifth Avenue Theater of Dreams 2018

The technically sophisticated show featured more than 30,000 RGB nodes under the control of ten timecode-sync’d Media Servers. Pixel-driven LED nodes were embedded within scenic elements fabricated by the teams at American Christmas and AMA Signs. Additionally, six racks of dimmed circuits energized items which were not pixel-driven.  Three control rooms within the building supported the show, linked by a self-healing fiber network.  In addition to standard DMX, a variety of other protocols were distributed across the facade - including, MA-Net, ArtNet, KiNet, and sACN.  A custom architectural monitoring system kept tabs on the health and status of all network-connected devices, alerting the team to potential problems and reducing downtime.

Photo by Sharon SippleSaks Fifth Avenue Theater of Dreams 2018

Within a pixel map that was used during planning, previzualization, and playback, Chris Werner Design’s team carefully placed each node relative to its exact position on the building.  A series of detailed storyboards were developed and shared with all stakeholders, illustrating capabilities and color-story. Upon approval, a series of animations were created showing how various components were to be utilized for each moment of the show.  It was from these animations that final content was produced for playback and a pyro design was developed for the opening night event.

The complex installation of this temporary show began in late-September.  Work was restricted to the “3rd Shift” to minimize the impact on Fifth Avenue’s traffic.  Each evening, a ballet of boom trucks and personnel lifts took place at the foot of the 1920’s landmark.  In the windy, cold conditions of midtown Manhattan, skilled teams from AMA Signs and 4Wall Entertainment meticulously deployed and tested scenic elements and delicate control hardware into the wee hours of the morning.

With over 2,000 performances (every 10 minutes in the evenings between mid-November and early-January), the show was viewed by approximately 140,000 pedestrians each night, spreading holiday cheer to an estimated 6.3 million spectators.

Concept/Fabrication/Management:  American Christmas, LLC (an MK Illumination company)

  • Fred Schwam - CEO
  • Kent Fritzel - Executive VP of Creative
  • Stephen Worthington - Executive VP of Design

Client: Saks Fifth Avenue

  • Mark Briggs - CCO
  • Chris Wieliczko - VP of Creative
  • Andrew Winton - VP of Copy & Brand

Lighting/Media/System Design: Chris Werner Design

  • Chris Werner - Designer
  • Dan Efros - Associate Designer/Programmer

Equipment Supplier: 4Wall Entertainment

  • Brent Pritchett - Director of Sales
  • Manuel Ramirez - Project Manager
  • Jeff Collier - Production Electrician

Rigging & Installation: AMA Signs & Electric

  • Joe Calvano - President


Vote for your favorite projects in the Excellence in Installation Awards now!

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.