Famous Manager Predicts Egg-Shaped Playhouses (Apr, 1923)
I love how this guy makes such bold predictions about what the future of movie theaters will be like, but fails to anticipate little innovations like sound. The Jazz Singer came out only 4 years after this article was published and there were already short format talkies playing in NYC in 1923.
Famous Manager Predicts Egg-Shaped Playhouses
Plans to Paint Movie Theater Sets on Walls with Light THE day is coming soon when we shall not merely look at the movies; we shall live in them. By scientific blending of color-light painting with action and music, by consummate artistic realism, we shall be transported to a vivid land of drama, where pulsating, colorful life springs from the very walls of the theater in which we sit. While the drama unfolds before us, we shall be encompassed by ever changing lifelike scenesâ€”now the crashing waves of a sea; now the shadows of a great forest; now the towering buildings and the crowded streets of a cityâ€”projected in color on the walls about us.
We have this assurance from the managing director of the world’s largest movie theaterâ€”from S. L. Rothafel, who already has carried into execution in the Capitol Theater of New York City some of his ideas for synchronizing light painting, music, and drama, which he prophesies will bring the motion picture art to a degree of realistic perfection surpassing the legitimate stage.
The theater in which these ideas will be fulfilled, as pictured by Rothafel, will have an egg-shaped auditorium with bare walls. He describes it as follows: “Entering the theater, we are carried by escalators to an upper floor, where we find ourselves in a vast auditorium seating 5000 persons. Instead of elaborate architectural decorations, the walls of the egg-shaped auditorium are bare and white. But as the lights go down, we are suddenly flooded with colored light from a thousand re- flectors cleverly hidden in the walls. Then, as a hidden orchestra plays, the walls that a moment ago appeared bare, become alive with changing panoramasâ€”a forest, a sea, a great city â€”each in turn painted on the walls by colored light projectors above.
“While we are thus carried in our imagination to the land where our drama is to be enacted, the drama itself begins to unfold on the screen, the moving figures and the settings made real by lifelike colors and by stereoscopic perspective. Action, color, music, delicately blended and ever changing, melt our souls into the story on the screen, and we experience what the movies have been striving for ever since their first conception in crude form. “My reasons for saying that the moving picture theater of the future will be an egg-shaped, balcony-less, bare-walled auditorium are various, ranging from the esthetic to the purely economical. In the first place, it is obvious that a theater of this shape will occupy the least valuable ground in the blockâ€” the ‘core;’ it will have a frontage of but a few feet; it will allow the entire lower floor to be used as a store. The audience will enter from the rear and leave by the front, saving endless confusion. The painting of walls with changing scenes by light would not only mark an advance from a standpoint of beauty, but it would actually be an economy.
“Ten thousand scenes could be painted every year for far less than the decoration of the walls would cost. Light painting would not be possible, of course, on flat, rectangular walls. In the matter of seating arrangements it will make possible a greater number of seats and more comfortable than a theater of any other shape could provide. “All of these things may not be accomplished. But I can speak with surety when I say that most of them undoubtedly will be accomplished in the near future.”
He Began as a Failure
ONCE a failure at everything he attempted, S. L. Rothafel today is managing director of the world’s greatest movie theater and ranks as one of the ten foremost motion picture geniuses of Americaâ€”just because he learned how to make use of his own brilliant “visionary” ideas such as he presents on this page.
Rothafel began his movie career in a makeshift theater rigged up behind a barroom in a Pennsylvania mining town, renting his seats from the undertaker. There he conceived the idea of twilight projection of motion pictures to relieve the gloom of theater auditoriums. As a result, he was selected to manage a large theater in Milwaukee, Wis. Later he assumed charge of the Regent, Strand, Rivoli, Rialto, and finally the Capitol theaters in New York City.