The Ideal Theater of the Future?

posted by TheaterBuff1 on December 8, 2005 at 6:33 am

TheaterBuff1 ponders the future of the movie theater:

There once was a time when people placed all faith in the movie palaces, believing they would always be. But such proved not to be the case, which is not the same as saying that the strong desire for them ever went away. Just as it was before they were built, while they existed, and after so many of them were demolished, the widespread wanting for them very much remained. And not just with regards to movie palaces, but also, regular neighborhood movie theaters where everyday folks could go between the big epics. So it’s to say of the ideal theater of the future it should come in two types — that is to say, tomorrow’s movie palace and its regular neighborhood theater. But in order for such theaters to exude a sense that they’re of the future and not of the past, they must have an overwhelming sense of solidity to them. Yet at the same time this solidity should fall far short of anything that could be describable as outright obnoxious. Regarding the latter, they must instill a great sense of hope in people from many varied walks of life, rather than, “We’re invading your world whether you like it or not.”

But in order for that to be achieved, they must exude that which everyone can positively identify with. And especially those whom the theater is built in closest proximity to.

They should also be very attuned architecturally to the underlying natural environment of where they rise up, rather than attempting to be a confrontation of this. Or in competition with that. For lack of a better way of putting it, there has to be that smooth positive flow one experiences when going from the natural environment into the theater, or vice versa. For to this day I can still recall an elderly aunt telling me as a kid, “Oh, why would you want to spend the afternoon in a gloomy old movie theater on such a beautiful summer’s day like this!?” And I see that her point was a very valid one now as I look back.

But my sense as I now look to ahead, is that if the theater of the future is designed really well, nature, and the theater, must be complementary of one another, something which it appears the ancient Greeks understood very well. Of course, a lot of this would have to do with the scheduling of when movies are exhibited. Still, there’s something to be said for making sure the theater’s design is such that it doesn’t look like “that frumpy old thing” when the sun is high in the sky and surf’s up or what have you. In the light of the bright sunny day its appearance should serve as “advertisement” for the excitement of what the night later to comes holds. Or on days when the weather’s not nice in the least, an appearance that would have everyone say, “Well thank God we have this great theater here to go to on otherwise miserable days such as this!”

And that to me, all told, is how I envision the best theater design of the future should be. In alignment with all that. But to the best of my knowledge, such movie theater has yet to be built. But then I figure, well, that’s what we, the people of today, are here for. And it’s what the historic cinema treasures of the past appear to be pointing us in the direction of.

My opinion at least.

Comments (8)

riz on December 8, 2005 at 8:14 pm

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willsanders on January 17, 2006 at 6:46 pm

Well I see you point and I agree that should be but the theater of today and the future is more worried about ads and commericals than the films that they were intended for and that
blame falls on us, we consume and discard. The theater of the future starts to die the minute it is constructed. One day we will stand around and tell great tales of film and the silver screen
and well be able to visit a few of the palaces of yesteryear and
talk about the good old days before digital.

I prey I am wrong.

TheaterBuff1 on January 18, 2006 at 8:09 pm

Digital technology has not come so far along that it’s far outsurpassed the full-bodied experience of seeing a well-crafted movie exhibited in a well-run movie theater. In this regard, in fact, digital technology has not even begun to scratch the surface!

So why then would anybody even begin to see digital as any kind of a threat to movie theaters' future? It would have to be an awful shallow, totally low-expectations type person who would say that digital is fine for fulfilling all his or her needs. And I’m hardly ready to conclude that that describes most of us. And right now I see digital only as a tie-over, an “intermission,” between when movie theaters last flourished and when they’ll flourish again. And to date the world of digital technology has come forth with nothing whatsoever to confirm that never will be the case. But on the other hand it has come forth with several things, many things, in fact, that will enable cinema of the future to be that much better. But just to stay stuck in the digital rut forever, that’s as boring as sitting down in the driver’s seat of a brand new Lamborghini but then not getting to take it for a spin. Maybe some would be happy to do just that, but I refuse to believe that’s most of us.

The theaters of the future are waiting for us to get on with building them, to which I ask, what are we all waiting for?

TheaterBuff1 on March 8, 2006 at 9:01 pm

In my estimation, theaters of the future will pay far closer attention to how they look from the exterior, simply as a cost-cutting measure if nothing else. It all has to do with the rising costs of promotion and advertising, which as we all know can get very expensive. A well-designed theater externally, however, serves as its own promotion and advertising. My only hope is that it will not come at the expense of what patrons will experience when inside the theaters, as certainly that will remain all important, too!

Meantime, in answer to my question above as to what it is we are all waiting for, my own personal answer to that is better political leadership among other things. To me, well-produced movies exhibited in well-designed theaters is the highest art form there is, as they bring all other art forms together into a single entity. But many still tend to think of movie theaters too much as being businesses, and thus, as such, if they receive any sort of political and other favoritism it comes across as a conflict of interest. And yes, to be sure, movie theaters are businesses. Yet when well-run they become far more than simply that. When operated at their best they certainly are art as well. And that, in turn, does entitle them to a different type of treatment. And I have seen time and time again when movie theaters fold, or are run strictly as businesses, the businesses all around them suffer. In fact, I’m hardpressed to find where this wasn’t the case. And what other business can be signified the same way? Movie theaters, when run well, set the pulse for all that’s around them, even nature itself. They put across what the prevailing view is, or at least what people in any given community want it to be. They raise awareness where it needs to be raised and offer answers to certain problems people face that might be hard to come by otherwise. In a single shot they can make sense of what otherwise may be very chaotic or disinteresting. And without movie theaters in our midst it’s each person going their separate way, every person a complete stranger to the next.

And even theaters that fail unify people. When a particular film is showing and few people come to see it, there very much is a unified public statement being made there. And ultimstely all movie theaters, even those run strictly as businesses, are art. But when they fail when run strictly as businesses, it’s the business aspect getting too much in the way of the underlying art in question. Which I find to be a major turn-off with many movie theaters in existence now. Many are running commercials in addition to movie fare, to which many patrons are saying for that they could’ve stayed home for. And many are overly jacking up the concession stand prices. And perhaps worst of all is the multiplex concept, where patrons know they’re not getting the theater management’s full focus, given how there’s several theater units in the complex that must receive attention as opposed to the particular one they’re sitting in. And is that any way to put across what is supposed to be and is, in fact, art?

daltondix on May 22, 2006 at 2:04 pm

Interestingly enough, I am in the process of designing a new theater owned not by a large theater chain, but by me, an entrepreneur. I have stayed up many nights trying to design the “perfect theater” for the future movie-goer experience. I have come to the conclusion that every person has their own ideal sense of what “perfect” defines. Some like previews, some hate them, some don’t mind either way. Some like red carpets, some prefer shiny steel tiles, some like it as wild as possible. These are only a few examples of the challenge we theater owners face. I believe it is clear, however, that the theater needs to be run as an establishment providing a service, not just a building with a screen and some speakers. In order for people to continue coming to theaters, they need to have an experience they can’t get at home.

What does this include? Pay-per-seat customization, for one. Pay $10 for the very center two seats or $5 for a seat on the perimeter- it’s up to your budget. Have a conceirge show you to your seat, as in a live theater. Keep the price of the concessions DOWN. Now there’s a new concept. Have a Starbucks on site so you can order a hot latte' to take in with you. Offer something other than just popcorn, hot dogs, and soft drinks. Have large reclining seats that have enough room in front to stretch out and not kick the person in front of you. Have a theater employee sit through each showing to “shush” those making too much noise or escort them out. And have a no-ad policy and stick to it- people generally hate commercials, today more than ever. In other words, find out what people dislike about theaters and solve those issues. A profit can still be made, trust me.

And what about the theater itself? How about a large log lodge style with huge windows and river rock waterfalls cascading down the walls? This would be true nature-vs-technology, a unique and intriguing combination. Or how about having a theater underground? Or by a lake? Or in a circle? One theater nearby here (Seattle) has a full-size airplane hanging from the ceiling. The options are endless, yet huge boring rectangle megaplexes keep going up. It’s a shame, really. We as Americans are much more imaginative than that… aren’t we? Prove it.

In other words, theater owners need to think out of the box and offer patrons something new, something exciting, and something they enjoy going to. How many times have you seen the theater manager? How about having him/her greet you at the door? It’s all about the human experience and the enjoyment of the movie-making art.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 7, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Yeah,what would be a Theatre of the future? How about doing something simple and going back to single screen theatres and quit treating moviegoers like cattle in these 20 plexes.It is all about money,I know.

TLSLOEWS on June 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Yes Cinemateer I agree with the showmanship part of the business but I do not think people even think of that anymore, in my theatre days working for LOEWS when we were busy lining people up and down the street with USHERS my city Manager and myself would stand in front of the theatre and of course watch the crowds leaving and entering and make sure our staff was doing their jobs,not that way today.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Boy,those were the days.

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