Chilling at a theatre near you

posted by Michael Zoldessy on August 17, 2007 at 8:15 am

I came across an interesting article in the Toronto Star. Apparently, your choice in film can affect your comfort in the theater. And we’re not talking about size of screen and number of seats. Science was never my best subject in school so I clearly hadn’t thought about how temperature in a room depends on the number of people in it.

Have you ever gone to a movie – say, Nancy Drew or Hostel: Part II or some other box-office dud – only to find yourself sadly alone and even more surprisingly, freezing your ju-jubes off?

I recently attended one so-called blockbuster and within the first 15 action-filled minutes, I slowly began shivering until my mind drifted off, focused on only one thing: the woolly cardigan in my closet at home.

Of course, cool theatres are part of the appeal of going to the movies in summer. The relieving chill of air conditioning in a dark theatre can be a soothing break from sweltering, smoggy, 35-degree Ontario heat waves.

But sometimes cinema houses are so cold I wonder if the theatre is trying to beef up their revenue by hanging meat in the projectionist’s booth.

Isn’t that something? I never thought how strange it is that the movie theater is the first indoor space I think about bringing a jacket too, regardless of the temperature outside.

This can’t be the last word on it thought because I have noticed some exceptions. Despite a packed audience at one local theater, it nevertheless requires multiple layers to survive each showing. Oddly enough, it’s a single-screen classic theater too.

Anyone have any horror stories of their own? How has this theater feature changed over the years?

(Thanks to kartooner for providing the photo.)

We encourage you to share your thoughts on the subject. For comments on the article or the blog itself, feel free to email me. We’re also open to any suggestions for future columns!

Comments (11)

IanJudge on August 17, 2007 at 9:32 am

All I can say as a theater manager is that is is hard to keep several hundred people 100% happy about the temperature. We set our a/c or heat to 72 degrees and monitor it closely with patrols, but inevitably (and in the same audience) there is always someone who prefers it colder and someone else who was too chilly.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on August 17, 2007 at 10:16 am

72 is still too cool. Don’t forget that sitting still for a few hours slows down ones blood, especially the older one is, and the body temp drops.

Across the “pond” merry old England was not noted for being air conditioning fanatics like we are here in the U.S!. I can only speak on this subject as to when I was a projectionist there in the mid-50’s to late 60’s.

We often left a couple of stage house windows open to let the place blow through to get the cigarette smoke out!

Of course, the warmer temperatures kept the drinks and ice cream sales ladies quite busy and that was good for the bank account and kept HQ happy and quiet.

Notably, Disney’s EL CAPITAN THEATRE in Hollywood seem to enjoy freezing your twig & berries off, as management don’t give a damn. They claim it’s because the Wurlitzer organ is sensitive -oh please.
My wife uses a wheelchair, and as a guest, was forced to sit under a huge a/c grill. This resulted in her coming down with a severe cold.
Good bye El Cap!

KramSacul on August 17, 2007 at 10:32 am

The last time I was in the El Capitan it was pretty cool, but it was so damn hot outside that it was acceptable. How full was the theater when you went? They probably set it to low to compensate for the amount of people that are in there.

I actually rather it be too cold than too hot because, believe me, there’s nothing worse than trying to watch a film with a room full of a few hundred people and feeling uncomfortable.

KJB2012 on August 17, 2007 at 11:48 am

Actually I usually take a sweater with me. If the house too cold, which is rare, I just slip on the sweater.
I’ve never noticed the El Capitan to be too cold. But then I’m usually there when it’s packed with kids.

LorenzoRodriguez on August 18, 2007 at 12:04 am

I agree with Ian. The sheer number of persons and their various comfort levels makes it impossible to please everyone.

Theaters are generally too cold because it’s better than too hot. Also, coldness does seem to help the concession stand even though most patrons buy stuff before they enter. (Frankly, I’ve never understood the coldness = higher per capita thing.) Overall, I think the cold auditoriums are caused by two considerations:

1) The theater saves money on electricity by running the central air 24/7 thus maximizing the efficiency of the A/C, though it results in a colder auditorium, especially during a slow early show.

2) Projection booths run hot. Almost all projection booths are ventilated and cooled by the same AC units responsible for cooling the auditoriums.

exit on August 18, 2007 at 12:44 am

Not just movie theatres… I worked in nearly every legitimate theatre on Broadway in NYC and can tell you that it’s common to blast the AC when a new show is in previews, especially during the few shows when the critics come in. They want the audience freezing to keep them alert. And I guess they think the audience will clap harder to keep their circulation going?

One reason I was given for the Strong AC: “think of every person who comes in the door as a little 90 degree furnace.” In the short time of the walk-in, 900-1600 little furnaces walk in the door and the place has to be freezing in order to reach a comfortable temperature once all the little furnaces are seated.

When a patron made a comment on the temperature in the house, we got used to telling them that we were aware of the problem, and I eventually added that it was nearly impossible to get the temperature to change before the show was over.

LawMann on August 20, 2007 at 12:31 pm

While visiting a friend who had moved down to Arizona it was great to sit inside a cool theatre and out of that hot Arizona heat.

Tasha on September 10, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Any of you who are tired of theaters being too cold, please come visit us at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque, the only independently owned art house single screen theater left in town. We have quite the opposite problem! Our AC unit struggles to keep things cool once we fill about half the house (total capacity 140, more or less). We’ve been looking into adding a second unit, however there’s not only cost to consider, but new wiring, re-roofing, etc. Therefore, we will remain warm and cozy.

tube2005 on November 25, 2007 at 9:14 pm

do you have any old theater sound equipment like speaker amplifier .i pay big money and remove pay cash.773-339-9035

MPol on July 12, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Probably the best thing to do then, is to bring an extra sweater in case the auditorium is really, really cold. At the ( no longer existing) 733 Theatre on Boston’s Boylston Street, I heard a wierd story from my parents who’d gone there at one point. It was a hot sultry summer’s day, the box-office person had sold more tickets than there were seats available in that theatre, and the A/C was malfunctioning, to boot. It was so hot that people were taking their shirts off—in a public movie theatre yet!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Play that Epic so many of you like “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” 300 old ladies on a matinee and at least during the running of the movie more than one would come out complaining about it being TOO COLD.I just went down and looked like i made an Adjustment.I don’t think so many of you would love this movie if you EVER HAD TO WORK IT!!!!

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