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1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 165 (154)

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition
1948-49 Theatre Catalog
1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 165
Page 165

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 165

Remodeling the Theatre

The Economies and Advantages in Effectively Modernizing According to Accepted Practices


Before extensive remodeling is undertaken, a complete inspection of the building and an operational schedule based on this inspection and existing building codes are recommended for economical and efficient results.

Building Codes

In remodeling an old theatre, the owner will have to comply with the building codes of his community, wherever they exist. This will include provisions for wide exits, well-lighted passages, legal aisles, and stepping, and also certainty that the building itself will not one day cave in. It may well be that modern safety measures never were complied with at the theatre for the very reason that the building codes were drawn up long after its erection. Few codes are retroactive.

In such cases, the enforcing ofiicer is powerless to demand compliance with the new regulations. He is not powerless, however, when it comes to issuing a permit for proposed alterations. ,

Moderate Improvements

Some of the conditions which might be changed to provide a greater degree of safety for the public but which still could not be made to comply with the stricter code, would include width of the exit courts, seat spacing, fireproof construction, etc. Such conditions, if changed to comply with the letter of the law, would entail too great an expense, with a probable loss of seating capacity and accompanying revenue.

This is not to be construed as advice to circumvent the laws or regulations but simply as a warning as to the possible resulting cost if a major alteration is started without first considering all the angles.

Roof Inspection

If the theatre structure is old, and does not comply with the codes presently existing, it is well for the owner and/or the operator to assure himself that everything is being done to prevent accident and panic.

This is especially true of structures which have wooden trusses for roof supports. Since the roof of a theatre is generally supported entirely on the outer wall construction, either on masonry piers or steel columns, the roof trusses should be inspected regularly by a competent engineer, and his recommendations followed.

Many instances will be found where some parts of these old wooden trusses

have failed, especially at their point of bearing on the wall. If leaks have developed in the parapet walls, very often the bearing points of the wooden members making up the trusses will be found to have actually rotted away.

The reason for the structure still standing will not be apparent, according to best engineering principles. If any evidence, such as mold and soft timber, is found, the surrounding masonry should be removed, and a thorough examination made. If the materials Show deterioration, proper reinforcing should be started immediately.

Ceiling Inspection

Another source of danger in older theatres is the suspended plaster ceiling in the auditorium, especially if heavy relief plaster decorations are included. Such a ceiling, if very old, will probably be supported on wooden joists and wooden lath. The joists will generally run from truss to truss, with some intermediate hanging supports.

The entire supporting structure of the ceiling should be carefully inspected, with special attention to the plaster keys between the laths, and also to any areas which may have been exposed to water from leaks in the roof. The heavy decorative ornament on the ceiling should have originally been securely tied with wire through the lath. In many cases, this precaution will be found to have been neglected, and the ornament merelyfstuck" in place.

On account of its inaccessibility, the auditorium ceiling is difficult to inspect, but a rolling scaffold, a long pole, and a competent inspector will generally suffice to show up any defects. It is also well to know the condition of the ceiling before any alteration or redecoration is decided upon so that sufficient funds may be included in the budget before, rather than after the job is started.

Wiring Inspection

For safety, and also for determining the amount to include in the budget, the electric wiring system should be thoroughly inspected. In many of the older theatres, the old knob-and-tube system with open wiring is still to be found. Such installations should be entirely replaced by a modern system of conduit and insulated wire in accordance with the requirements of the National Electric Code and local codes.

In the inspection of most any theatre ready for a major alteration, the wiring system will be found to violate almost every safety measuree-with overloaded circuits, wires without proper insulation, and metal raceways. These conditions constitute a definite fire hazard, and can,

at any time, be the cause of a serious fire. Even Without the losslof life, fire may still be the cause of closing the theatre for many weeks, with resulting financial loss.

Heating Plant

Another item that should be carefully inspected before the budget for alteration is completed is the heating system, which may require a new boiler, modern efficient radiation, and new supply and return lines. '

Special attention should be paid to the return lines, even if the balance of the system appears to be in good working condition. It will be found that in most theatres, the boiler room is either underneath the stage portion or under the lobby end of the building. In many cases the original builders, in order to save expense, installed .the steam returns underneath the auditorium floor, not in trenches or accessible spaces, but simply in the soil. This piping, if it has not already been replaced, will certainly require it, and provision for future accessibility should be made.

Balcony Check

If the theatre has a balcony of considerable size, the structural members should be investigated for safety. Also any new requirements in the code relative to additional stairways or lire escapes should be looked into.

Contingency Money

These different points are being brought out at the beginning because it is most important to have a full and complete knowledge of the condition of your theatre. You must be able to estimate closely the costs which may accrue for items which may not be contemplated in the preliminary estimates. In any event, it is always good policy to include a contingency item in the alterae tion budget to cover the cost of work which will be found necessary in remodeling an old building.

Time Element

After the extent of the remodeling and alterations have been determined, it will then be necessary to decide upon the proper method of procedure in order that the time, if any, required for closing down the house may be reduced to the minimum.

Considering a major alteration, which might include new signs and front, new toilets, new seating, a complete decoration job, and, perhaps, some changes in the auditorium, such as a new concrete floor, and new proscenium treatment, those items which must be manufactured, such as signs, boxofiice, doors, display frames, seats, etc., should be ordered, and definite delivery dates scheduled.

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 165