The decoration of the motion picture auditorium may be more ornamental than that of an ordinary theatre, the better to satisfy a more general taste. The exposed front and entrance lobby should, however, be the most striking feature in order to attract the attention of passers-by.
For the same reason a conspicuous and well located ticket booth is also a decided advantage. Experience has taught that a ticket booth resembling a circular kiosk, placed near the front of the outer lobby, is the most practical.
Each photoplayhouse should have its own individual design, expressing as nearly as possible the purpose of the building. Suitable and genuine materials should be employed for the construction of its exterior, and not spurious imitations of other materials. The advertising or poster space, if possible, should be incorporated in the design, making it unnecessary afterward to mar the complete effect by separate signs or posters.
Display of vulgar taste is always to be avoided, as a carefully designed photoplayhouse is bound to draw patronage. Motion picture theatres, unlike regulation theatres, are too often degraded by illy-designed stock theatre fronts, that neither harmonize with nor enhance the design of the building, and they rarely ever save money for the owner.
The motion picture auditorium presents practically the same problems as does that of a regular theatre, except that the sight lines in a motion picture house must be truer. The proscenium opening must be wide enough to admit of a full view of the screen from the extreme sides of the audience hall, and the spectators in the last row of seats underneath the balcony must be able to see two or three feet above the top of the screen. In like manner those in the last rows of the balcony must have a full view of the screen underneath the top of the proscenium opening.
The motion picture theatre, whatever its form, requires a stage, not only for the purpose of presenting variety or musical numbers on its program when desired, but to obtain when the stage is darkened a shadow box effect that is most de sirable. This shadow box arrangement affords relief to the eye by placing the picture farther from the spectator, and gives added depth to the picture itself. Aside from this, it permits the display of pictures in a fully lighted auditorium, provided no direct rays of light are permitted to reach the screen; a decided advantage in picture presentation. A few cities foolishly prohibit the introduction of a stage in a motion picture theatre.
Complete darkness, so common in motion picture auditoriums in this country, rarely enhances the effect of a picture. This unnecessary gloom never pleases the audience and seriously interferes with the prompt seating of patrons. The showing of a comedy picture is assuredly better in a lighted auditorium than in a darkened room. Laughter is contagious, and when one sees his neighbor in paroxysms of laughter he laughs, too. Subdued light has a much less irritating effect on the eyes than complete darkness relieved only by reflected light from the screen, and a lesser degree of darkness is already one of the insistent public demands.
Managers now realize that the soft amber and rose tones of illumination employed in many higher class motion picture theatres add greatly to the attractiveness of the silent drama, and patrons are made more cheerful and have become more interested in the productions shown on the screen since the introduction of partial auditorium lighting. In any event, it is certainly wiser to make provision that will permit the showing of pictures in any degree of light. It is also important that picture theatres have dressing rooms for the accommodation of artists presenting additional acts on their program.
The seating arrangement presents a far more serious problem in a motion picture theatre than in a regulation theatre. In the latter persons arising to permit the passage of others only obstruct the view of the stage for a moment, which is not always important, as one can usually hear the dialogue, and continue to follow the thread of the story, but with a photoplay the same obstruction effectively breaks the continuity of thought and if continued is likely to ruin one's appreciation of the entire play.
The agitation for a law limiting the number of continuous chairs in a motion picture theatre row to eight seats, instead of twelve, thirteen or fourteen, because of this constant interference with the view, is not without reason, considering the present insufficient passage room between rows. The proper amount of space between rows, 36 inches instead of 32 inches, would permit the free passage of persons without the necessity of anyone rising, and would put an end to this agitation that threatens real loss of seating space.