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1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 75 (64)

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition
1948-49 Theatre Catalog
1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 75
Page 75

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 75

same reasons. Lavatories may be located either at the right or left of the lounge entrance provided they are both readily visible to the patron entering the lounge; or they may be located one after the other as he starts a circuit of the room keeping to the right.

The lounge needs overstuffed chairs arranged as though in a living room, save that their normal groupings for conversational purposes need seldom provide for more than four. The occasional straight chair will serve to make the normal groupings flexible. Small but rugged tables to hold lamps, ash trays and drinks, and many ash receivers complete the requisite equipment. A piano is decorative and useful if the lounge serves as a room for gatherings other than the intermission audience. A fireplace is useful only if it can contain a real fire and does when the weather makes one appropriate.

Light intensity at lounge entrance, exit, lavatory entrances and bar will naturally be higher than at other areas. For maximum effectiveness, it may well be planned so that as the patron walks through the lounge he passes through alternating areas of medium (10 fc.) and high (25 fc.) intensity. If direct light from ceiling to floor is a part of the scheme for the high intensity areas, sequins and jewelry will sparkle in them and a dramatic effect will be gained from the movement of groups of people.

It is gratifying to note that the vogue of amber lights in public rooms, which made the audience look like cadavers eight days drowned, is passing. White light is harsh and not very romantic. Pale magenta is good for general illumination but must be supplemented by white or steel blue to highlight the audience as mentioned previously. Color is best achieved in shades and roundels or iiuorescent tubes. The exposed bulb has no decorative value in most schemes.

A bar in the lounge is a source of income not lightly to be dismissed. In London, a play may run at no profit to the box office or even at a very slight loss, and the theatre may still operate on the profit from the bar. Aside from this, however, a bar undeniably adds to the spirit of carnival and helps to make theatre-going an event. The bar belongs in or near the lounge. Congestion, discomfort and hazards introduced by a soft drink vendor in the lobby or crossover are familiar to everyone.

The proportion of the audience which uses the lounge is, with little exception, limited only by the capacity of the lounge. Lounge area is inadequate in most theatres. It may well occupy all the space under the seating area of the house and the lobby and be supplemented by balcony lounges. In theatres located in warm, dry climates, the lounge may well be outdoors, in which case a large lobby is needed and the lavatories are located adjacent to it. The large indoor lounge constitutes, when properly planned, useful rental space for exhibitions, parties, lectures and meetings at times when the audience is not in the theatre. The lounge is traditionally used for rehearsal.

Most building codes require and wisdom dictates exits from the lounge suf

ficient to evacuate its capacity crowd at the same rate at which the house may be emptied.


It goes without saying that lavatories must have ante rooms-a smoking room for men, and a powder room equipped with at least one dressing table per 600 seats or fraction thereof in the house, for women. Five urinals, three wash

basins and two toilets per 1000 seats .

are minima for the menis lavatory; five toilets and five wash basins per 1000 for the womenis lavatory are minima. Kotex dispensers and drinking fountains are also necessary. Where performances run over three hours, the lavatory traffic is increased fourfold, for which reason it is wise to exceed the lavatory equipment minima by a considerable margin.

Multiple Uses

Restricted building budgets sometimes lead clients and architects to slight or limit the public rooms, or attempt to combine their functions. People still have to get from here to there and still take up the same amount of room whether the builder likes it or not. A theatre wrongly designed in the first instance is seldom susceptible of much improvement. In planning front service rooms in the face of a restricted budget, the same precept applies that has been recommended for other parts of the theatre, i.e., plan a complete and adequate plant, build or finish only as much as the budget provides for, leaving proa vision for completion when funds are again available. Temporary expedients necessary to the operation of the uncompleted plant are seldom any more annoying than restrictions resulting from compromises, and have the virtue of being remediable.

Auxiliary Uses

When the theatre plant includes, or is part of, an architectural unit which contains shops, restaurant, a broadcast station, or of a school or college, the public rooms of the theatre may well be planned to serve other than theatrical purposes at hours when no audience is present. Conversely, public rooms planned to serve non-theatrical purposes in hours when the theatre is dark may be made to serve the theatre. This condition is a critical one for the theatre in the school, located in a building which is used in part for non-theatrical pure poses. If special front service rooms are not provided for the theatre in such a building, the lounge, lavatories, and hallways of the building must be arranged to serve the theatre.


If doors between lobby and crossover are used, they will normally stand open except while the play is in progress. The glass partition behind the last row of seats (found in some motion picture theatres) is no substitute for a wall and doors. A 4'6" high wall behind the seats is desirable, to prevent draft and to accommodate standing patrons.

Comfort in the house depends upon: 1, shape and upholstery of seats and

the distance between rows; 2, temperature, humidity and freshness of air; 3, position and width of aisles; 4, house lighting; 5, decoration; 6, floor'slope; 7, absence of distraction. Theatrical requirements other than audience comfort and safety prescribe adequate comfort specifications for some of these items.

The seat which is acoustically correct will be comfortably upholstered. No less important than the upholstery is the shape of the seat. For some unknown reason the curved back, bucket seat has been popular in America and is installed in many theatres. Sitting with the shoulders pinched forward becomes extremely uncomfortable by intermission time. Flat-backed chairs are therefore the only proper equipment for a theatre. A chair of this sort developed for the Chicago Civic Opera House has proved so satisfactory tnat it has become a widely used type. Despite the past record of the Provincetown Theatre, hard seats wonit encourage repeated patronage. The comfortable seat is no less important in the school or college theatre. Assemblies and commencements held in

'the theatre will benefit from comfortable


Seats need to be spaced sufficiently far apart to permit passage of people without the occupants rising. Cramming them close together for the purpose of slightly increased capacity is a very short-sighted policy. Closely spaced seats cause extreme discomfort, especially to tall people. Some inveterate theatregoers will not go into certain New York theatres no matter what the show. The marginal comfortable spacing, back to back, is 34". Spacing to permit easy passage past seated patrons is 45", back to back.

Seats with springs which raise them automatically or which slide back are considered hazardous by some theatre managers. This feature, however, simplifies cleaning and saves many barked shins. If employed it must be considered in the acoustic planning.

The building codes in most localities set minimum limits for aisle width and number of seats in a row. For economic reasons it is generally wise to use the maximum number of seats per row. Under no circumstances is a center aisle tolerable. Actors abhor center aisles for the very good reason that they split the audience and make the achieving of mass reaction difficult.


Local and state ordinances governing buildings for public assembly prescribe the number, size, and to some extent the location of exits, In the absence of specific requirements in the laws, the planner may refer to the recommendations of the National Board of Fire Una derwriters.

Satisfaction of the code requirements for emergency exits, plus provision for the comfort and safety of the audience as set forth in this article, will result in a house in which the audience will be psychologically and physically conditioned to enjoy the performance to the maximum.

1948-49 Theatre Catalog, 7th Edition, Page 75