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1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 141 (129)

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition
1947-48 Theatre Catalog
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 141
Page 141

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 141

Basic Factors of Design and Construction

The Fundamental Principles Are Set Forth

To Guide Prospective Owners, Architects

In this article on theatre design and construction, it will be the aim to point out for the guidance of the prospective owner and his architect, the fundamental factors to consider in the original purchase of the property, the general design and layout of the theatre, and certain details peculiar to theatre construction. This series will also touch more specifically on layout of the entrance, lobby, foyer, rest rooms and other spaces required for the proper operation of a modern theatre. The mechanical requirementseheating, plumbing, air-conditioning and electric wiring ewill also be discussed where such installations differ from those in other types of buildings.

The furnishings and equipment of theatres including signs, marquees, seats, carpets, and furniture will also be covered.

Suggestions for remodeling of existing theatres will be outlined at the conclusion of the series.

All of these subjects have been covered very competently at different times and in different publications, but it is hoped that their repetition and coordination here will be helpful to the readers of this magazine, as all suggestions are the result of mistakes which have been made sometime or other in the planning and actual construction of this special type of building.


This section will deal primarily with problems in the construction and equipment of a theatre for showing of motion pictures only, having a seating capacity averaging between 1,000 and 1,500 seats and will not attempt to cover the more complicated problems of construction encountered in the building of larger metropolitan houses with complete stages, large balconies, and so forth.

Location of Site

In selecting a site for a new motionpicture theatre, consideration should be given to several factors which will infiuence the desirability of the location and each should be weighed against the other to determine the wisest and most economical course to pursue. It is quite possible that a u100 percent" location in the center of a business district or on a prominent corner would not, in the final analysis, be the most advantageous after a comparison of the cost of the land, the shape and contour of the property, availability for parking cars and the class of patronage to which the theatre is expected to cater.

Underlying Soil Conditions

In this connection it is always good insurance to have accurate knowledge of the underlying soil conditions, which may be determined by the experience of


adjoining property owners, or if such information is not forthcoming, the investigation of the soil by taking borings on the property. Such investigations cost very little in comparison with the final cost should unsatisfactory bearing soil be encountered after the work is started. Usually a boring at each corner of the property and one in the center will reveal the general condition and bearing value of the soil. If the results of these borings are generally uniform, no additional investigation will be required. However, if unusual conditions show up such as rock, water, quicksand, or a great difference in the elevation of different soil strata, further borings should be made especially at the locations of concentrated load of the proposed structure.

An intelligent ananysis of the data obtained from such borings will determine whether or not the cost of the foundations required will be prohibitive in relation to the other factors heretofore mentioned.

Adaptability to Desired Size

Before committing himself for the purchase of the property, the prospective owner should have his architect advise him whether or not the theatre he has in mind can be successfully and economically accommodated to this particular location, In this connection serious thought must be given to the number of seats required, sufficient standee and lobby space, stage, retiring rooms, service rooms, exit courts and the limitations imposed by the various building codes that govern. Experience has shown the retainning of a competent architect who is familiar with the operations and requirements of a theatre and who can advise as to the adaptability and limitations of the site or sites under consideration, is an insurance to the owner which should not be overlooked.

Future Parking Facilities

Facilities for parking patronsi automobiles should be considered. In many instances it will be found that a location outside of the commercial section where the property is cheaper but where a larger plot can be purchased for approximately the same expediture, would be much more desirable. The value of parking facilities has been proven so many times that it needs no further comment here. It will also be found in many instances that it is more advantageous to develop in conjunction with the theatre and parking space, several shops and stores, or in other words a community center. The parking space in such instances serves a double purpose, i.e., parking for shopping and parking for the theatre. Since the peak loads for the shops and theatre occur at different periods of the day, there is little chance of interference or overcrowding. A sim ple system of checking can be installed whereby the patrons of the theatre and the connected shops are not taxed for the parking privilege.

In connection with the parking lot, a secondary entrance and box office may be incorporated in the theatre plan giving direct access to the theatre from the parking area and thereby precluding the necessity of the patrons walking to the main entrance. This is especially appreciated in inclement weather and the advertising value and good will created more than offsets the additional cost and the salaries of additional personnel required.

One thing that is very important to consider in the operation of such a parking area is that it should be well policed, well lighted at night, and the fact established in the patrons minds that it is a safe and desirable place to leave their cars, also that they (particularly ladies) will not be subjected to any danger or annoyance in using the facility. A poorly operated parking space may become a greater liability than an asset.

Computing the Future Capacity

Before consideration is given to the purchase of a theatre site, the interested parties will have determined the seating capacity justifiable in the community and if there is a choice, the more suitable and economical site should naturally be selected.

A quick check on the number of seats on the ground or auditorium floor can be made as follows:

Determine the number of seats possible in each row across the theatre by first deducting for necessary Width of side exit courts and exterior wallseG to 8 feet is a safe figure to use for each court. If it is an interior lot, two courts will in most cases be required. Figure 4 feet for each aisle, fourteen 20-inch seats in the center banks and seven 20-inch seats for the side banks, which have aisles only on one side. For aisles which have seats only on one side, figure 3 feet.

To determine the, number of rows take 5 feet from the rear wall to screen, 18 feet from screen to back of first row of seats, 10 to 12 feet for standee space, and 12 to 25 feet for lobby and entrance. The sum of these, plus a rear court if required, subtracted from the depth of the lot will give the space remaining available for seats. Divide this by the. back-to-back measurement of the seat rows (2 feet 8 inches plus or minus) and the result plus one will give the number of rows. The number of rows multiplied by the seats to the row, deducting approximately 35 seats on account of sight lines at the front of the house will give the approximate number of seats on this floor. The number of seats, in a mezzanine or balcony, can be determined similarly.
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 141