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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 184 (162)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 184
Page 184

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 184

A TYPICAL DOME OF HUGE DIMENSIONS dominates this whole ceiling. Chandeliers are retained along the side walls. The over-crowded decoration tries to make the scale of the ceiling areas agree with that of the rest of the architecture. The coming of sound motion pictures put an end to this type of architectural embellishment. Such construction is now generally removed from old theatres and not used at all in modern cinemas.

in their desirability by putting screen and approaches, such as lobbies and foyers, half way in between these two levels. Seats in front should have an adequate distance from the screen, preferably about 20 to 25 feet; side seats should not go beyond a line of allowable obliqueness of angle.

Requirements of Sound

Sound in general and sound reflection in particular are two different problems. Although based on the laws of acoustics, the former is taken care of more from experience than by research. It was even more important before when amplifiers of voices were not yet in use. The avoidance of undesirable reflection of sound waves by the enclosing walls was met by the breaking up of continuous wall areas. Heavy stucco relief decoration, fabric panels, velvet fabrics draped for hangings and draperies did the job, besides the audience itself works as a sound absorbing element. With the introduction of acoustic plaster (the rough soundabsorbing treatment for walls and ceilings), there are no more reasons for breaking up large and fiat surfaces. In addition, the decorative treatment may include a corrugated or otherwise rough texture of surfaces which will serve the same acoustic purpose.

The disturbance of the audienCe by outside noises and by noises within the building should be reduced to a minimum. The use of heavy carpeting is almost indispensable and cannot altogether be replaced by rubber flooring. Draperies over doors and large openings served the same purpose for protection against outside noises and light; at the same time, their sound-absorbing qualities were appreciated and they used to fit into the architecture. They have been discarded, or at least reduced, for reasons of safety and maintenance rather than for any other reason; but nothing has as yet been


found to replace them in all their functions. Draperies of glass fiber are less sound-absorbent and rather transparent; they improve only the optical appearance and the safety angle. In the planning of new theatres, new methods of breaking up potential soundwaves and their approaches into the interior of the auditorium will do away with such rather primitive devices. For the time being, all sources of disturbance by noise have to be reduced at their sources. The old well-holes, opening the rear orchestra towards the balcony foyers, should be closed without exception. The standing room, usually a place of movement and unrest-in particular with the doors from the foyer standing open-should be separated from the auditorium as far as possible by skirts and beams between the piers, leaving just enough open space for following the performance. This will, at the same time, prevent outside light rays from penetrating the auditorium and onto the screen, a condition which is especially annoying when the center door from the foyer happens to line up with a center aisle running directly towards the screen. The heavy carpets on stairs within the auditorium are a safety hazard; they can safely be replaced by rubber mats or other noiseless floor coverings.

Requirements of Light

There are two main types of light sources needed for motion-picture operation. The one is indirect cove lighting, preferably around the dome, or other indirect light fixtures; this system is supposed to distribute a general diffused light of very low intensity but yet high enough for orientation and safety. The other type is recessed spotlights for highlighting traffic points, steps, and other points of danger. Aisle lights, also, belong in this group. Light from all these sources should hit the floor


without touching any wall surface. The experiment of exclusively using spotlights distributed over all ceiling areas was not too successful, because it did not provide sufficient modulation of general light. By comparison, diffused light will allow for variations of desirable intensity, according to changing trends up to full lighting of the house, as required for the intermissions of stage performance. In addition to these two strictly functional types of light sources, there might be other lights for decorative purposes and special effects. Mixed operation, as well, may ask for some additional lights distributed over the auditorium for supplementing .the cove lights with the warmth of direct incandescent light waves, the light bulb preferably covered to protect against the glare. Socalled black light used on specially treated surfaces serves only a purely decorative purpose for the time being.

In the future, materials with luminOUS surfaces might revolutionize the field of lighting; a carpet, for example, with lue minous qualities, would be very helpful in the orchestra aisles to abolish the need for aisle lights and the large contrasting patterns used in carpets for better visibility. Other luminous materials might do other things.

Colored light is very well adaptable for all sorts of changing effects on walls, and'some features are emphasized by modern flood lighting. It is the best way of introducing color in a dark auditorium, particularly when thrown upon surfaces (walls and fabrics) of neutral color.

Motion-picture operation, with continuous performances, has little use for such brilliance of lighting as was provided for the festive character of legitimate operation. Glass chandeliers with glittering reflection have been discarded in most theatre auditoriums for reasons of safety and maintenance; the main chandeliers hanging from the center of the dome have disappeared. Some chandeliers on both sides of the ceiling have been retained more for their decorative appearance than for their function as light fixtures. In lobbies and foyers chandeliers can yet be seen in their somewhat tarnished glory.

Standing rooms require higher light intensity than the rest of the auditorium, as a transition from the bright foyer to the darkness of the auditorium. Old ceiling fixtures and wall brackets have, in most cases, been replaced by "modernistic" fixtures usually not too beautiful in themselves. Their commercial novelty makes the discrepancy of clashing styles the more conspicuous.


Redecorating an old theatre is very much different from decorating a new one for the first time. Once all the symbols of old architecture have been removed, the house will appear naked, revealing its actual proportionseits wall and ceiling areas, arches and openings, its three dimensional space-altogether in their intrinsic architectural qualities. Some theatres may then retain beauty or may even gain in impressive structural balance. Others may fall off completely because of a basically poor concept which

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 184