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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 180 (158)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 180
Page 180

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 180

he may have to shape the auditorium in a new way which will ask for wider spans, more expensive construction. The management, on the other hand, will spend more money only in proportion to increased capacity; its argument, that a portion of the seats may be rather allowed to have a poor vision, is supported by the experience that the perfect seats will be sufficient during the week, while the undesirable ones will yet be sold over the week-end rushenot one cent for the prestige of having the finest theatres, where all seats are equally desirable.

Thislexample illustrates as well that there are always two different andpjten contradicting viewpoints in approaching a problem. The one thinks in terms of requirements and standards to be met in the most perfect way; the other thinks in economic terms of investment and returns. While the latter attitude cannot be disregarded, it should not kill the efforts of the former. Business people usually have a sort of pity for those ffout-of-the-world" idealists who want to improve things. Yet history shows that a' spark of pioneer spirit has at any time brought things forward,rthat it will pay ,in the long run. In fact, the builders of our presently obsolete theatres were in their time ready to spend tremendous sums of money for the intangible value of a theatrical atmosphere. Present managements still cash in on those generous investments and they hesitate to write them off completely.


It seems reckless, indeed, to scrap marble, bronze, and elaborate workmanship, only to have it replaced by less monumental materials and less spectacular treatments. Yet, utter disgust with all this fictitious makeshift puts aside, at last, such materialistic reasoning. Despite3 the maze of astronomic sums spent on some outstanding theatres

in the country and despite even some appreciation of their architectural elaboration, no reasonable person will any longer resist their condemnation. Other people, less sensitive to function and honesty in design, will yet become aware of their outdated character. The evergrowing fashion consciousness at present makes people sensitive, at least to the quality of being ifup-to-datefi compliance with this commercial requirement stigmatizes the object in question as a potential timark-down" item and reflects on the credit given the whole enterprise. Thus, apart from aesthetics, there is a purely psychological implication: people want to associate with apparently prosperous enterprises, and they use their judgment according to the evidence of such prosperity.

The moment is at hand when something decisive has to be done about obsolete theatres. Once a general start has been made, no one will stand back; competition is the best incentive for progress. The next problem to come up is the economic evaluation of a potential remodeling. The theatre management will have to reconsider the desirability of its present location, the structural condition and the commercial value of the building and the prospective development concerning trafiic, neighborhood, and the like. If all these present'and prospective assets do not amount to much, it may be wiser to build a new theatre

.on a new site.

Another decisive factor is the adaptability of the old building, and whether the basic structure will lend itself to a thorough remodeling and is worth the effort, or does not guarantee good and economic results.

This consideration is very often neglected whenever a building of any type is to be remodeled. Frequently, the yetexisting value of an old building rests in the comparatively perfect condition of surfaces, such as wall treatment and

STANDING ROOM, with a well hole and open stairs to {he balcony, are seen here. The placement of the stairway at this point was a grave architectural mistake, considering that the entrance is so clase at hand. In any contemplated remodeling of this area, this stairway would have to be entirely relocated in order to effect a better and more emcienf handling of crowds at all times, particularly in the event of an emergency.

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floors, and in the technical installations, such as heating and lighting, rather than in the basic structure. Structural work in the wake of remodeling will affect if not destroy these main assets; they have to be replaced. Adaptability of a building means that important improvements can be made without destroying the existing assets. The raising of the value of a building by improvements should always keep within a reasonable proportion to the efforts necessary to accomplish them. If this principle were kept in mind, the often-occurring disappointment in remodeling jobs and their final costs could be avoided.

In many cases, of course, the outstanding location of a theatre, and the unique commercial value of this location, will be a major factor in over-ruling such a comparison of figures. The disruption of

business in replacing the theatre by a

completely new structure on the same plot may rather compel the management to go into a thorough remodeling which in itself could not be termed economical. The carrying on of the operation over the whole or, at least, a considerable part of the period needed for the remodeling will justify the decision.

. Radical reconstruction rather than remodeling of a theatre will be necessitated, in most cases, by the demand for a considerable increase of capacity which cannot be gained by minor changes. The auditorium may be expanded in any direction where additional space is made available. In most instances, the ripping out of stage and backstage provides a wanted elongation of the house and the orchestra seating, a change, however, which cannot be confined to this part of the auditorium. Proscenium, ceiling, balconies will be equally involved, unless the reconstruction will miss its point.

The hull of the old auditorium has to be thoroughly reshaped; the balcony has practically to be replaced altogether by a new construction with larger seating capacity, a new slope; second balconies will be ripped out as a whole without any regret, so 'as to accommodate the new and longer main balcony; consequently stairs, lobbies, and foyers, vomitories and exits will be affected by the reconstruction. In fact, only the foune dations, walls, and roof will remain. Besides, the main lobbies and foyer are usually part of a higher building along the street front, so they may not allow radical reconstruction. In other instances, a deepening of the auditorium towards the foyer may be feasable. If a building lot close to the auditorium has been acquired, the theatre may be widened; one side wall will have to be torn down, thus affecting the roof construction as well,

All these efforts come close to a new theatre. The comparison of costs (expressed in costs per seat) between this type of reconstruction and a completely new building may yet show a limited economy in favor of reconstruction. In addition, the loss by disruption of operation may be cut down somewhat. On the other hand, the figures do not expose the difference in quality of concept and design, in efficiency of operation and other important aspects which are likely to justify the more aggressive method of

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 180