The architecture of today’s theaters
An interesting read from Architect Magazine discusses the changing look and feel of today’s theaters.
Not long ago, the average American movie theater was big on square footage and short on personality. Cookie-cutter interiors made it difficult to distinguish one venue or chain from another. The introduction of stadium seating in the 1990s drew audiences with the promise of enhanced comfort (not aesthetics) and became the dominant trend in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Stadium seating “led to record attendance in 2002 and record box office in 2004,” says Patrick Corcoran of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), an industry group. But its novelty is wearing off, he says: “People are looking for something more.”
Lots more. Today, the industry is experiencing a burst in construction and renovation activity. Movie exhibitors around the country are tempting patrons with new, carefully designed theaters that cater to increasingly sophisticated desires. Parking lots, popcorn, and box-office lines are being replaced by valet parking, bars and restaurants, and online reserved seating. Companies ranging from industry giants Regal and AMC to the art-house Landmark hope to pull in bigger box offices through enhanced architecture.
“About every 11 years, there’s this spurt cycle where people reinvent what going to the movies is all about,” says veteran entertainment architect Mike Cummings, principal of TK Architects in Kansas City, Mo. Cummings believes the industry is now in the midst of one of these overhauls. “The [trend] before this, of course, was stadium seating and the big megaplex. But that’s not what we’re seeing anymore. There is a lot more attention to brand and to design.”