*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.