Friday, June 29, 2007

How draperies will lead to YOUR salvation as an Exhibitor!

*tap tap tap*
Is this thing still working?
Sorry I left you hanging, there, folks. Well, now I'm back and we can get down to business.

It is fascinating to read contemporary trends in movie house decor. Today, theaters are "functional"-- they do what they have to, but they're not usually very pretty to look at. Interestingly, this article from BoxOffice's Modern Theatre Section (Sept. 1, 1951) contains the attitude that inadvertently started this trend.

To artists such as S.L. Mitchell, functionality and pop fashion took precedent over timeless beauty. In a way, I think some of the popular designs at the time are hit or miss. The article has several pictures demonstrating the concepts mentioned within (captions are at the bottom of this post)... what do you think?

Beautiful Draperies Enhance the Film and Lure the Patron Back
by S.L. Mitchell (Knoxville Scenic Studios, Inc.)

Have you ever asked yourself this question-- "Why do we frame a picture?" When we think about it the answer is obvious-- to enhance and direct attention to the picture itself. Yet we all have seen frames in homes and picture galleries that cried so loudly, "Look, I'm the frame! Am I not beautiful!" that we forget the picture inside. So had the person who selected the frame. If we agree that, after all, the "play's the thing," then our moving picture frame should not distract but should complement and focus attention on the picture within. So what are some of the characteristics of good picture framing as used in our modern theaters today?

One of the keynotes of modern design is simplicity. In decorating our homes the gilded, ornate frame that enclosed grandfather has gone to the attic. The word "functional" has been stressed more and more in recent times. Picture frames, as well as chairs and beds, are designed with more thought given to their reason for existence. Good design today dictates that we plan a frame that will not distract but will serve best its function of focusing attention on our picture.

Mere simplicity, however, is not enough. We take great pains and pay good money to artists for beautiful walls and carpets. We bend over backward to give our customer a comfortable seat to relax in. We want him to be at ease and enjoy his surroundings. The picture frame, since it is a part of these surroundings, must be in harmony with them. Furthermore, while being simple and in good taste, as well as fitting in harmoniously with the over-all decor, the frame must be beautiful in itself if it is to attain the maximum results in fulfilling its purpose.

With these characteristics -- simplicity, harmony and beauty -- in mind, let us analyze ways in which these maximum results can be secured. We should consider styles, fabrics, colors, as well as the components of a good picture frame, and how they can be used to direct attention to and enhance the main feature of the house, the picture itself.

Style is one of those elusive things that is hard to define although we can readily recognize it when a good-looking, well dressed woman walks by. Style in theatre decoration had remained for a long time under the influence of the court theatres of Louis XIV and the gingerbread palaces of our grandfathers. Theater owners vied with each other in "gilding the lily." Ostentation was the keynote. Curtains were embellished with braids and beads. Somber backgrounds were garnished with tassels and tinsels, and walls and ceilings had to be covered with intricate ornamentation. Confusion held sway with distracting details. But modern architects and designers have finally been admitted to our picture palaces, and a pleasing theatre today is a far cry from the ostentatious temple of the Belasco era.

Fabrics themselves have changed in this evolution. Modern theatre fabrics lean more to solid colors rather than the heavy patterns of a few years ago. We still find patterns, but they are in the bold designs of carpets, murals, and wall fabrics. These are balanced by plain colors in the curtains just as in our modern homes, restaurants and offices, we balance florals and patterns with plain solid colors. As a result, we achieve in our theatres simplicity and smartness far more pleasing than the raucous confusion of yesterday's multi-colored textiles.

Brocatels, tapestries and heavily woven jacquards have been replaced by soft materials that are rich looking and drape better. Here we are indebted to modern chemistry and the strides taken by the manufacturers in the development of nylons, rayons, synthetic satins, ersatz silks, fiber glass and plastic ad infinitum. Also very appealing is the fact that these new materials are much kinder to the exhibitor's purse.

Another contribution of modern chemistry is the perfecting of flameproofing compounds. We have available permanently flameproofed fabrics that will meet the most rigid requirements of the varied state fire codes. This is even possible without marring the beauty, color and draping qualities of the curtains.

Just as heavy fabrics have given way to soft flowing, lighter-weight materials, colo has changed its face. Exhibitors used to cry, "Give me any color as long as it's red!" Somber colors around the screen were recently considered necessary to avoid distraction and minimize any light reflection that might reduce the visibility of the picture. But our ideas have changed, just as the fallacy of the pitch-dark movie house has been exploded in favor of illumination sufficient for the patron to avoid possible hazards in getting to and from his seat.

Modern theatre decor, including our picture frame, has changed complexion to lighter hues and pastel tones. We are also more conscious today of the effects colors can have on our audience, psychologically and even physically. We no longer cry for just red, but have even used green, once taboo, since we have "discovered" that it rests the human eye. Psychologists have convinced us that cheerful and harmonious colors give our patron an inward satisfaction and, perhaps even unconsciously, an urge to come again.

Having all these new fabrics and colors of the spectrum at our disposal, how can we use them most effectively to frame our picture? Draperies on a typical stage will begin with a valance and, perhaps, cascades or proscenium legs. Just back of this curtain frame we have a front curtain, separating in the center and traveling to the sides. Often, this proscenium setting is in th eform of a contour curtain, as illustrated in the accompanying photographs of the Carib and Gateway theatres. As this curtain rises, by means of a series of cables, it forms its own valence and cascades. Incidentally, all curtain movements and light changes are handled by remote control from the projection booth.

Several feet behind this setting is the screen, framed at the top by a grand drape, or teaser, and at the sides by tormentor legs. Covering the screen itself is a title, or screen, curtain. The opening of this curtain provides a dramatic focus of attention as the picture begins. A recent development in the screen curtain has been the introduction of unusual mural effects.

Through the use of dyes on soft materials, colorful and distinctive designs may be achieved without losing qualities inherent in draped curtains. The photographs illustrate most effectively the results accomplished through this new technique.

When the stage is used for live shows or other programs there will be a background of drapes, curtains across the stage and legs to mask the sides, commonly known as the cyclorama or "cyke." Here modern practice calls for subordinate backgrounds, plain materials and neutral colors, so that there is no distraction from what is being presented on stage.

But to return to our picture screen, we have it framed with curtains, simple but beautiful to look at and in harmony with the rest of the theatre. To this we add the magic ingredient, movement. Let us assume an ideal situation before the running of the picture. The house lights are on and the stage curtains are closed. Our customer walks in, feels the soft carpet under his feet, glances at the attractively decorated lobby and is ushered to a comfortable seat. As he relaxes and looks around him the cares of the day begin to leave him. His mentality may be low and his taste nil but the decor and colors around him provide an "atmosphere" that consciously or unconsciously he likes. His eyes rest on the curtain facing him-- beautiful in itself because of its richness and its soft folds. His attention, of course, wanders. But suddenly it is riveted as the house lights dim and the contour curtain in front of him slowly rises in flowering cascades and rippling festoons. Before him is a new scene, a gorgeous array of tropical loveliness-- large, bold splotches of multicolored splendor (in just the right colors) on soft rayon or satin in beautiful folds. While he is still under the exotic spell the curtain quietly parts in the center and glides majestically to each side. The screen comes to life as the picture is projected and the show is on. How more effectively or forcefully could we focus and hold attention on the picture itself?

A bad frame has ruined many a good picture, while a good frame can save a second or third rate film. Although we are now belittling the importance of top features in filling the house, the average theatre patron, given pleasant and comfortable surroundings, will agree that "movies are better than ever" and will come back for more regardless of what picture is showing. So let us keep in mind the importance of the total impression on John Q. Public-- the front, the lobby, the furnishings, the decor, the picture itself and not the least of these, the frame around the picture that he has enjoyed for two hours.

Photographic Captions
1. Simple, but beautiful and dramatic, is the "picture frame" at the Gateway Theatre, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The aqua contour curtain harmonizes with the palm-green masking legs and borders. In contrast, the proscenium is rust-colored. The eggshell satin screen curtain is enhances with an especially designed mural of tropical foliage done with hand-painted dyes.

2. This photograph of the Martin Theatre, Sylacauga, Ala., shows an interesting drapery treatment of the wing wall. The valence is of deep green royal rayon damask, the front curtain is chartreuse, and the masking legs and borders are dusty rose. Marine life is depicted on the aqua screen curtain of rayon ripple repp. The sidewall is enriched with pleated gold fabric overlaid with white diagonals; the decorative panel in the lower corner ties in with the curtain mural.

3. Exquisite color drama has been achieved in the draperies of the Carib Theatre, Miami Beach, Fla. The contour curtain of tangerine hammered satin, with the first masking legs and border of emerald green satin, and the second pair of legs of deep bottle-green plush. The theme of the theatre has been carried out in the scene curtain of translucent turquoise rayon ripple repp, decorated with a hand-dyed mural of marine life found in the Caribbean waters.

4. The contour curtain in the Varisty Theatre, Martin, Tenn., is of dusty rose hammered satin with harmonizing masking legs and borders of aqua and eggshell figured damask. Scalloped, egg shell-colored rayon satin forms the screen curtain.

5. In the Taylor Theatre, Gate City, Va., the festoon valance and cascades are of rust colored panne plush. The front curtain is made of turquoise figured damask, while the masking legs and borders are of copper-toned satin sheen. A screen curtain of gold figured rayon satin complements these colorful draperies.

6. The luxurious sweep of this curved contour curtain in the Palace Theatre, Tampa, Fla., extends past the wing walls. Total width of the dusty rose, satin sheen curtain is 135 feet. The masking legs and borders are of aqua sunrise brocade and the screen curtain is of eggshell sunrise brocade.

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