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Thunder Roll Event at Thalian Hall (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Although Thursday has been hot and sunny across Downtown Wilmington, it was quite stormy at Thalian Hall as the theater held its first ever Thunder Roll event.

WWAY previewed this story last week, it was a free event unlike any other for the whole community.

The Thunder Roll is made possible with wooden troughs and cannon balls. As the cannon balls roll through the ceiling, the historic device creates a realistic thunderstorm indoors. The event gave people a glimpse of what the theater was like hundreds of years ago.

“Audiences of the 19th century loved special effects, storms, explosions, disasters, there were many ways of creating those effects,” Thalian Hall Executive Direction, Tony Rivenbark said. “They seem a little creaky and fake to us today, but in the 19th century they were as real as anything that’s done in the film studio.”

It was a good opportunity to understand how things used to be, versus the way special effects are used now.

“It’s much easier to press a button and listen to a cassette tape, but the experience is not nearly as deep and rich,” attended Thunder Roll, Erin Hunter said. “And listening to the history of it and imagining what it would be like to have heard this back then, it just had to be incredible, and It’s incredible today.”

Thalian Hall is the only theater in the country that has the device built into the ceiling, it is something people say they can’t believe still exists.

“The fact that we’ve preserved so much history here, the fact that we still have this intact it hasn’t rotted it hasn’t been destroyed, it is still here. And it still has the ability to be used. That’s pretty incredible,” Hunter said.

Many, like Allyson Mojica, are fascinated by all the work that goes into making the Thunder Roll possible.

“Seeing something that was so advanced in it’s day, it had a lot of thought to it. I loved hearing about the process and how it worked in particular, and how it could be timed to the scenes,” Mojica said.

Thalian Hall had four presentations throughout the day, nearly 1,000 people from across the country stopped by to see the shows.

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