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1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 72 (61)

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition
1948-49 Theatre Catalog
1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 72
Page 72

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 72

Comfort and Safety of the Audience

An Interest Provoking Chapter From A New Book 011 the Derivation of Plan From. an Analysis of Function

Since books on theatre architecture are conspicuous chiefly by their scarcity, the publication of a new work in this specialized field is welcome news indeed. And when that work buttresses the theory of theatre design with an abundance of practical information. the news is doubly welcome.

Harold Burris-fileyer, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Edward C. Cole, of Yale University, have written such a book. Soon to be added to the Progressive Architecture Library as published by the Reinhold Publishing Corporation, their treatise entitled THEATRES AND AUDITORIUMS, deals primarily with planning a theatre which will be both profitable financially and successful architecturally. Its modus operandi is the derivation of theatre planning from an analysis of function. While the legitimate theatre figures prominently in the presentation of data, the principles int'olved are generally applicable to motion picture theatres.

The following article, which forms a chapter in the book, is reprinted here through the kind permission of Mr. Burris-Meyer and Mr. Cole.

Front Service Rooms

The playgoer arrives under the marquee and proceeds to foyer, box office, lobby, house, lounge, and back to marquee again usually via lobby and foyer. It is good Showmanship to conceive of the playgoer's progress through the theatre as a parade in which the playgoer will enjoy participating. Comfort and safety are primary considerations in planning those parts of the theatre through which the patron moves.

When the annual visit of the circus constituted the only show business in a community, the audience stood for crowding, hard seats, soiled clothes, dust, and perhaps a long trip home, and could Spend the next day recuperating from the fatigue, excitement and condiments. The audience could, would and did take it. The fact that people now buy seats in second balconies of theatres and in the bleacher sections of ball parks shows that hardy souls are still among us. However, there arenit enough people willing to look upon theatre going as a challenge to their fortitude to pay the

bills for any but a very few exceptional theatres.


By HAROLD Burials-Musk Stevens Institute of Technology and. EDWARD (I. COLE, Yale University

In other words, comfort is the favorite condition of the theatre-goer and he not only wants it but demands it, usually avoiding those theatres whose furnishings lean toward the ascetic. This article considers provisions for comfort and also safety, derived from traffic, sight and hearing requisites; and the functional design of the front service rooms.


Comfort and safety become the concern of the showman when the patron first approaches the theatre. Architecturally, plenty of light on the street in front of the theatre, on driveways about it (5 fc. minimum), clearly marked crosswalks, a lighted parking area (5 fc. min.), lights under the marquee (10 fc. min.), and illuminated automos bile traffic markers are requisite. An illuminated automobile call is indispensable where any substantial number of patrons use chauf'feur-driven cars.

If illumination in front is not provided by the marquee, it may be obtained from flood lights which illuminate the building, decorative lamp posts, bracket lights, or portico lights. Illumination under the marquee of minimum safety standard is poor Showmanship. The higher the illumination, the more the audience makes its own show. Illumination of more than 25 fc. may be in order.

The marquee must be drained so that a curtain of water is not interposed bee tween the automobile and the sidewalk.

A high degree of illumination is espe cially necessary wherever there are steps outside the marquee, or between marquee and foyer. Outside illumination is no less important if the theatre is hidden away in a school building. It is not enough to make it possible for the audience to see after it has got into the building, the school building plant which contains the theatre must include theatre requisites in the planning of the whole building.

Changes of level from sidewalk through the vestibule, foyer, and lobby into the house are best made by ramps. Stairs are forbidden by some building codes and permitted only under careful restrictions by others. Isolated steps and steps at doors are to be avoided as hazardous. Where steps occur, they must be adequately lighted.

Doors info the Foyer

Fire regulations provide that all theatre doors must open out. Traditionally the doors to the foyer are hung in pairs, and are in most cases metal with large glass panels. Fortthe sake of fulfilling their function there must be enough to

handle the whole audience without congestion in a few minutes. For the purpose of making foyer doors architecturally impressive they are often made wider than is efficient. Thirty-two inches should be considered a maximum width for the single unit of a pair of double doors. The glass lights are principally for the purpose of giving daylight illumination to the foyer, one of the few places in the theatre where there is any use for it.

Where the theatre building is used for other purposes and access is Via corridors, the entrance to the building itself must be so planned as to conform to minimum foyer design standards.


Foyer area and arrangement are determined by a study of the traffic loads. In addition to traffic, the architect is concerned with doors and other entrances, fioor, wall, and ceiling materials, heat, ventilation and light.

There is more traffic through the foyer than through any other part of the theatre. It is a room outside the theatre proper. The floor surfaces, therefore, must stand a lot of traffic, must not be stained or rendered hazardous by standing water, must be easily cleaned, must not be uncomfortable to stand 011. Stone and tile are popular and good but are best covered by perforated rubber matting in wet weather, as they tend to become slippery. Water tracked in from the sidewalk and the dripping umbrella of the patron waiting for friends or for a ticket can soon create a safety hazard on stone and tile.

Wall surfaces must resist defacing to at least shoulder height, and be easy to clean, and the junction between wall and door must be watertight. These requisites rule out plaster walls and, except where the foyer is so large as never to be crowded, wood panelling. Doors must all be silent and self-closing. If there is access from foyer to offices or other parts of the building, the doors are made as inconspicuous as possible to keep theatre patrons from using them.

Since hard-surfaced rooms tend to be excessively noisy, 'it is desirable to surface the ceiling and, where appropriate from a decorative point of View, upper sections of the walls, with sound absorbent material. Such materials must be easy to clean. The higher the absorption coefficient, the more appropriate the material.

Since occupants of the foyer are dressed for the weather outside, provision for heating or cooling need not provide the difference between outside and inside conditions demanded by the interior of the theatre. There is no need for heating to obtain temperatures above
1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 72