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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 150 (128)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 150
Page 150

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 150

Pre-Fabrication in the Post-War Expansion

Pre-Fabricated Theatres Seen as Headache In Domestic Program of Cinema Development

The announcement several months ago that unquestionably substantial people financially able and financially competent were ready to embark on a vast program of pre-fabricated theatre construction immediately became the most exciting topic in the exhibition trade.

The excitement attending this announcement was in no way lessened by the fact that the financially responsible name of Charles Skouras, the head of the National Theatres Amusement Corporation, subsidiary of a large producing and distributing company, was prominently published as the head of the movement.

When it was announced that Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser had already agreedeand was possibly under contract -eto manufacture these pre-fabricated theatres as a post-war project in one of his vast ship-building facilities, the interest and excitement was even greater.

There are several premises upon which the writer bases his opinion that prefabricated theatres will die a natural death in the U. S. domestic market.

Pie-fabricated products are generally not first-class, because they are not adaptable to various climates, weather conditions, and other physical limitations.

The actual rate of depreciation in prefabricated buildings of every type has been five times as great as the depreciation in well constructed, permanent buildings of similar materials.

The maintenance cost of pre-fabricated buildings is far greater than the maintenance cost on permanently built structures. We have just been through the greatest wave of lore-fabricated homes and houses that the country has ever known. Instead of proving that this method was the least expensive and the most practical way of determining the problem of low cost homes, it has definitely proven that pre-fabricated houses are more expensive to construct, more expensive to. maintain, and that the depreciation is much greater. No doubt some of this experience arises from the fact that, in pre-fabrication of buildings, at least 35 to 50 per cent of the work involved must be performed by workmen in the field.

Among these tasks are excavation, plumbing and heating, final decorating, foundations, floors, outside walls to a point above the grade, all piping below the floors, all tunnels and duct work below the fioors, all wiring, and all field erection of all kinds. These items will cost more than they would proportionately, because they will be more intricate and more difficult to perform due to extreme cutting and fitting.

The outstanding mass production items today are automotive equipment and a series of small items such as radios, washing machines, and domestic equipment. These items represent comparatively small financial risk and the aver

By LEO YASSENOFF The F and Y Building Service

age buyer is more willing to take a chance on this type of pre-fabricated item, because he can see it already to be delivered, assembled and intact, for a given established price.

The element of chance involved, together with the unestablished cost of the items not purchasable on a mass production basis, which are outlined in a preceding paragraph, will make it more difficult to convince the buyer that he should take a chance on pie-fabrication.

In order to achieve the proper value out of a production line, a consistent regularly yearly volume must be available. One must stop to think that, at the present time, counting all of the small and large houses, throughout the country, including every storeroom, theatre, and shooting gallery, there is only a total of 17,000 theatres. It is very difficult to conceive that one agency can ever develop a true production line which could turn out as many as 750 to 1,000 theatres every year, of any model or design.

This fact alone will prevent the establishment of pre-fabricated theatres at a price in the United States of America. It is easy to see that if such a production line could be established and if the normal number of theatres built by other plans and procedures would be added to the number thus produced and sold, we would end up with twice the number of exhibition outlets and a consequently demoralized exhibition industry.

The dual and chief reason that prefabricated theatres cannot fill the need is one of cost. While we in America have been led to believe that pre-fabrication and production-line savings are brothers under the skin, that will provide fantastically cheap buildings, the writer believes that the cost of the pre-fabricated theatres described in the trade papers of the motion picture industry will, at all times, cost more than intelligently designed theatres properly constructed of the best materials.

At least, the writer believes that the pre-fabricated models shOWn will cost from $200,000 to $300,000 or more, completed and erected, exclusive of the site and equipment. Such budgets are beyond the realm of reason for neighbor hood and small-town theatres. Such budgets are likewise in excess of avails able costs of similar jobs specially designed and constructed.

At a recent meeting of Independent Theatre Owners, it was reported that representatives of pie-fabricated theatres have estimated the steel requirements for a 1,000-seat house to be in excess of 350 tons. This item alone involves an erected field cost of from $50,000 to $65,000, without $30,000 to $35,000 worth of mechan THEATRE

. ical work, plus painting and decorating,

grading excavation, floor and concrete work, sidewalks, and so forth.

Special shapes of a site or lot, unusual grades, special requirements of entrance and entrance grades will still be problems in the design of theatre structures. In addition to the above problems, differences in code requirements still remain. The designer or architect must wrestle with them continually.

There remains also the need and inspiration of Special architecture, With its attempt to interpret the spirit of the theatre to be erected in terms of its relation to the community it serves. The structure itself, if it is designed in harmony with the feeling of its community, has in itself made an initial progress toward a successful operation.

All over America, private architects and contractors are producing 1,000seat houses in the price range from $90,000 to $150,000, depending on local conditions, site problems, labor conditions, type of air conditioning, and the elegance of the design features, exclusive of seats, sound, carpets, and booth equipment.

Accomplishment of a top result depends on giving each job individual study and care and attention and the elimination of lost motion in the performance of the design and construction of each building.

A certain amount of standardization is acceptable. Projection layouts can be standardized. The general method of heating and ventilating and air conditioning can well be practically standardized. The establishment of sight lines can be standardized. The electric-wiring layout for the booth and sound, exits, and curtain control can be reasonably similar in various layouts. However, when the arrangement of the theatre and the front elevations and the entrance lobby, foyer, and auditorium become stereotyped and standardized on the production line, the total result is likely to be disappointing, to say the least.

The entire Skouras promotion seems to be based on the belief that the pre-fabricated models are cheaper than theatres from competitive constructing sources. This belief on their part may be erroneous. Mr. Kaiser, no doubt, is not interested in this point and takes it for granted that, if Mr. Skouras is willing to sign a contract to pay, he, Mr. Kaiser, will deliver certain work.

It is possible that there will be a market for pre-fabricated theatres of this type in India, China, Burma, Africa, or other distant points. The writer is not competent to appraise this market.

For the many reasons outlined above, I am loath to believe that pre-fabricated theatres will ever be anything but a headache to its sponsors and promoters if it depends on continental United States for its market.

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 150