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1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 12 (xii)

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition
1953-54 Theatre Catalog
1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 12
Page 12

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 12

lien Schlanger . . . lheories and Practices

Almost from the moment he became interested in theatre architecture, Ben Schlanger found that he wanted to learn and discover all that there was to know about constructing buildings that would be attractive to the eye, but of equal, or perhaps more importance, he wanted to construct theatres that were ideal for the presentation of film entertainment. With customary zeal, he studied the fundamentals and maintained a reSearch attitude in his practice.

The results of this study and research always caused him to go on to the next phase of theatre design. Schlanger was soon an expert on construction, seating and sightlines, projection, screens and acoustics. Almost without realizing it, he became a pioneer and the advocate of new ideas and theories about all of these important sciences that go into the building of a motion picture theatre,

Therefore, in any appraisal of this manls work it is almost mandatory that his theories and beliefs be put under the critical microscope. By doing this it is possible, as perhaps no other method would permit, to get a full understanding of his contributions.


Theatre construction in the early 1920's included considerable costly false form work of metal and plaster to provide the ornate ceilings and walls with various period architectural styles. In addition to this, the applied ornamental plaster represented an important part of the cost of theatre construction. Schlanger quickly recognized the wastefulness of this treatment, and even in his earliest projects he eliminated false ceiling construction, and did all in his power to get away from the idea of ornamentation, and stressed the importance of creating theatres geared to offer the best in viewer comfort, and capable of properly presenting the screen entertainment.

Schlanger always made the point that the successful use of any equipment or


furnishing in a motion picture theatre structure, depended on the suitability of the structure to its proposed use. He has always fought for research in the theatre design problem, as there is in the manufacture and development of equipment. His reason for this is his belief that the auditorium for motion picture exhibition should be a precision instrument almost as much as the mechanisms used in it. Proper seeing, hearing, and environmental requirements, in addition to the ordinary economical and safety problems involved, create intricate engineering problems. Schlanger felt that many of these problems could be solved more efficiently and quickly if there was some industry sponsorship for research. He recognized the fact that the individual architect could hardly do the necessary job.

In the period between the years 1925 and 1930, when a considerable number of theatres were erected, the exhibitor about to build had an important decision to make. This decision was to determine what kind of theatre would best protect his investment for the longest practical period. Most theatremen today would agree that the decision was easy to make. 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.

Schlanger has a favorite story that he likes to tell to make this point clear. He had been commissioned to design a theatre, and after it had been in operation for several months he took a prospective client to see it as an example of his workmanship. Schlanger had given considerable thought to designing this theatre properly, and had omitted

superficial decoration. Confident that he would make a good impression on this prospective client, he waited as the exhibitor looked around. Schlanger was taken aback when the client asked, UWhen will the theatre be finished?"

Schlanger enjoys telling this story to illustrate that the exhibitor of that period was conditioned to believe that considerable superficial decoration was necessary if the theatre was to be commercially successful. Through his efforts, and of the others who agreed with his principles, that has now 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 condict with the functioning of the theatre, and where it is used, it is of practical type allowing for easy maintenance.

Schlanger was early of the opinion that there were two types of decorative treatment suitable in the motion picture structure.

One was the optional type, the inspiration for which may be derived from any of the known historical architectural styles, or stem from recently developed modern architecture. This decoration, he says, can be used in any part of the theatre structure other than the auditorium proper.

The second type of decoration is surface texture that is created completely by the dictates of acoustical, visual, and psychological requirements, as well as the necessity to create a suitable setting for the motion picture. As an example, Schlanger says that the architectural shape for the auditorium may prove very troublesome acoustically. The design of the auditorium interior can make a projected picture seem too small while the visual acuity of the same picture may be satisfactory. Arbitrary decorative projections and redective surfaces

THE GABDE. BELOW. NEAHED COMPLETION when Mr. Schlanger was consulted. An original type of stenciled-on-plusler ornamentation was added.

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 12