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1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 11 (xi)

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition
1953-54 Theatre Catalog
1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 11
Page 11

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 11


Returning to New York, Schlanger received a telephone call from a friend. He wanted to know if Schlanger would be interested in taking a designeris position in the office of an architect who was drawing up the plans for an elaborate theatre. With few other prospects in sight, he accepted the offer. From the very outSet he discovered that theatre designing excited his imagination, and he soon drew up an ambitious set of drawings. Once again fate stepped in, and the entire project was called off. However, on the strength of his eXCellentdrawings, Schlanger was offered a position with a firm that designed and constructed theatres in New England.

In 1926 Schlanger was assigned to do the work on the Garde in New London, Connecticut. The theatre was half completed when the firm suddenly went bankrupt. Instead of being another step backward, this event started Schlanger on his independent practice in theatre construction, The mortgage company, left with an incompleted theatre, employed him to finish the job.

Having had a taste of being on his own, and finding that he liked it, Schlanger got his chance to do his first complete theatre project in 1927. He completed the St. George Playhouse, Brooklyn, just in time to welcome the chaos which was brought about with the advent of sound. By this time Schlanger began to show signs of having real ability to develop and perfect new and interesting ideas on the construction and design of motion picture theatres. His emphasis, even at this early formative stage, was on the interior, and in the creation of a theatre that was pleasing to the eye, but also designed to direct the attention of the audience to the screen rather than on the beauty of the interior decor.

In one of his earliest attempts at putting his ideas about

theatre design on paper, Schlanger wrote a chapter in a book"

called "American Theatres of Today? John S. Crabtree, who was president of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers at that time, read the chapter and invited Schlanger to write a paper to be delivered at the Hollywood convention of the S.M.P.E. in the spring of 1931.

Schlangeris paper suggested that it would be beneficial for ,

motion picture theatres to reverse their fioor slopes. In 1931 this was considered an extremely radical thought, and was received with great interest by those attending the convention. However, it was not until three years later that Schlanger was given the opportunity to put his idea into practice. After that period of time, he was commissioned to design the Thalia and Sutton, in New York, and used his reversed fioor slope feature in both houses. Today, as the result of the work of Schlanger, and other architects who advocated this idea, the reversed Hoor slope has been improved and adapted in the construction of theatres all over the world.

Knowing that the art of motion picture theatre design was in its infancy, Schlanger could not be drawn away from the urge to devote some of his time to research, even though he was aware of the fact that he was limiting his income by doing this type of work.

Up until the advent of sound, theatres were patterned after stage theatre design principles. A completely new approach \Ivas very necessary for the acoustical, lighting, viewing, proJectiony and psychological aspects of the functioning of the motion picture theatre auditorium. Like all who are of that strange breed of men who have the imagination and determination to uncover fundamentals, Schlanger devoted much effort to learning more about theatre design, and developing new ideas to keep up with the times.

After a great deal of study, he felt that theatre auditoriums should be functional in nature as opposed to the ornate, heavily decorated interior design that was so popular in the 1930's. It was no more than natural that theatre owners who had spent Vast fortunes on their houses, were a bit reluctant to go along Wlth this thought. Whether it was because of, or in spite of tho Ornate theatre design, exhibitors of that period were reaping a full and rich harvest. Aware of this, Schlanger saw that his plan to subordinate everything in the auditorium in order to focus all of the audience attention to the screen, was not yet to be appreciated by tho exhibitorrs.

p Thoroughly convinced that he was right, Schlanger continued to fight for the construction of simplified auditoria, A 100k at many of the recently erected theatres will offer proof that this battle was not a futile one. Today the neutralized



auditorium setting for picture projection has been recognized and accepted by many theatremen all over the globe.

If he had done nothing else, Ben Schlanger would have earned his place as one of the industry% most progressive and imaginative theatre designers, on the strength of his work on the patented RCA Synchro-Screen. As far back as 1934, Schlanger found it difiicult to agree with the universally accepted practice of putting a black border around the motion picture theatre screen.

Schlanger realized that the dark surround was detrimental to the full enjoyment of a film presentation. In the early days of the industry, the auditorium was generally kept dark because the light level of the picture projection was inadequate, and the darkened room served the purpose of making the picture appear brighter than it really was. With the advent of increased light sources, Schlanger believed that the surface brightness of the auditorium could afford to be of a considerable higher level in order to increase the general light level of the room, and also to form a morelogical blending of the room environment with the projected picture.

With this realization in mind, Schlanger spent years developing various ways and means of increasing the light level of the auditorium and eliminating the black screen masking. The end result was higher light levels for auditorium surfaces, and the RCA Synchro-Screen, which have been received with much enthusiasm in the United States and Europe.

Schlanger was fortunate in having his various researches incorporated into practice, and has been the original architect, or consultant on hundreds of theatres all over the U.S.A., South America, and Europe, as well as having had the honor of being consultant in the design of the United Nations various auditoria in New York. a

In addition to all these activities, Schlanger always found time to be active in many industry organizations, and he has written a large number of articles in architectural and motion picture industry publications.

Born in New York City in 1904, Schlanger received his early education in that cityis public school system. He took his architectural undergraduate work at Columbia University, and did post-graduate work at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design.

More recently he was elected a fellow in the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. He is a member of the New York City committee for the revision of the Building Code for the construction of theatres, a consulting architect in relation with all types of auditoria design, and a member of the projection practices, screen brightness, and theatre engineering committees of the S.M.P.T.E. He was recently appointed chairman of the theatre engineering committee of the S.M.P.T.E., and is co-author with Prof. Talbot Hamlin of Columbia University, of the ffForms and Functions of 20th Century Architecture," in connection with the section on motion picture theatre construction.

Despite the fact that all these activities keep him working on a full schedule most of the time, Schlanger does take time out to pursue his two favorite hobbies; fishing and photography. However, even in his selection of hobbies, Schlanger has not excluded the chance to get in a little more research. He has coupled his interest in photography with his study of the cinematographic arts, and since 1938 has been devoting more and more of time to this study.

Today, after almost a quarter of a century in the motion picture industry, Schlanger is still filled with ideas, and his enthusiasm and desire to uncover newer and better ways of presenting motion picture entertainment, show no signs of abatement. A recent example of this could be found in the fact that Schlanger was the first to publish data showing that warning lines on the camera apertures would enable film to be projected on other than the standard aspect ratio. The production industry was quick to follow this fundamental idea.

Like everyone else, Schlanger is working to meet the chale longo of the three-dimensional and wide screen problem. His love for research is sure to carry him to important discoveries. And it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him, or his work, if some of the major new developments that will become standard in the future, will be fathered by Ben Schlanger.

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 11