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1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 18 (6)

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition
1947-48 Theatre Catalog
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 18
Page 18

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 18

Modern Functionalism for Theatre Design

Successful Use of Equipment, Furnishings

Depends upon Suitability of the Structure

The successful use of any equipment or furnishing in a motion picture theatre structure depends to some measure on the suitability of the structure to its proposed use. The amount of importance to be attached to this thought is emphasized by the invitation to me, a theatre architect, to talk* to this group of equip ment manufacturers, and further by the fact that so important a technical body as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers is devoting their fall convention next month to the design problems of the motion picture theatre structure.

This increased attention now being given to making the motion-picture theatre structure itself function more like the precise mechanisms you manufacture is indeed an indication of the long way the motion picture has gone to establish itself as a substantial industry. This is an unusual statement to make at this late date, when everybody has for a long time assumed the motion-picture industry to be quite substantial, but it is only in the last few years that a physical form for the motion-picture structure was accepted that followed exclusively the dictates of the functions of projecting and Viewing motion pictures.

Yes, the motion picture is so well en *Text of an address delivered before the convention pot the Theatre Equipment and Supply Assocration, Inc., September 25, 1947, in \\'nshington.


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trenched as an important industry that we no longer attempt to house so highly advanced a technology as the sound motion picture in a structure patterned after the requirements of the stage theatre.

The important differences between the requirements of the stage theatre and the motion picture theatre are many, too many to relate in this limited talk. Unlike a unit of mechanical equipment, it seems that a structure must enjoy long periods of amortization. Well, at last, it now seems that motion picture theatre investors will subscribe to allowing form to follow function and that proper periods of amortization are insured if this decision ismade.


The proper development of motion picture theatre design does not take place the way a mechanism for the motion picture theatre is developed. There is no sponsorship for research in the theatre design problem as may be found in the manufacture and development of equipment. Yet the auditorium for motionpicture exhibition should be a precision instrument almost as much as the mechanisms used in it. Proper seeing, hear COMMON TYPE oi screen end of a theatre auditorium reveals that the screen and the surroundings are. too strongly contrasted and. accordingly, distracting. The screen appears too much like a picture which is much too far away. The tendency is toward using decoration in places where it does not conflict with the functioning of the theatre. It should be of a practical type, allowing easy maintenance.

ing and environmental requirements in addition to the ordinary economical and safety problems involved create intricate engineering problems. The individual architect shies away from doing the necessary research work, because he knows the difficult problem he will have in expecting his client to construct a theatre building according to the changes which this research may indicate as being necessary. 1 can sympathize with him after all these years of research work on my own. I imagine that if I had done some real serious thinking about fifteen years ago, I wouldnit have dared to follow the research course. It surely was an exciting challenge and still is.

In the period between approximately the years 1925 and 1930, when a considerable number of theatres was erected, and even after then, the exhibitors about to build a theatre had a difficult decision to make. This decision, as one might easily guess would be to determine what kind of theatre would best protect his investment for the longest practical period. Today We would say that the decision was easy to make, namely, that basically the theatre should provide excellent seeing and hearing conditions, physical comfort and pleasing architectural finish, that would not become outdated too soon. Then, however, the exhibitor thought that the important decision was whether the theatre auditorium should have blue skies, twinkling stars and outdoor pergolas, or whether his auditorium should resemble a ballroom of the French Renaissance era.

I recall about twelve years ago taking a prospective client to a theatre I had worked on which was in operation for several months to show him the finished product. I had given considerable thought to making this theatre function properly and had omitted superficial decoration and hoped that I had made a good impression on this exhibitor. He looked around for sometime and then remarked, "When will the theatre be finished?"

This incident tells a story because the exhibitor then was conditioned to believe that considerable superficial decoration was necessary if the theatre was to be commercially successful. This now has been proven to be a fallacy. Decoration is still to be found in theatre structures, but the tendency is towards using it in places where it does not conHict with the functioning of the theatre and where it is used it is of a practical type allowing for easy maintenance.


There are two types of decorative treatment suitable in the motion picture structure.

One is an optional type, the inspiration for which may be derived from any of the known historical architectural


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1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 18