The early theatres of a later period catered wholly to the cultured classes without regard to the masses. These were Court theatres, maintained at the expense of the various sovereigns, and National and Municipal theatres, supported by the different governments. There were also subscription theatres whose cost was defrayed by private subscription instead of from the public purse. Naturally the sole aim of all such theatres was the advancement of art and education.
Coming to the private theatre, we observe the same tendency toward advancement in architectural conformation. The private theatre of Continental Europe is sometimes aided by subsidy, but whether so aided or built entirely from private funds, it is always designed with a manifest interest in art and architecture, while in Englishspeaking countries the theatre is regarded solely as a moneymaking institution. In these countries it is built by a speculator, an investor or an ambitious actor, who, for profit only, caters to the pleasure of sensation seekers usually devoid of any appreciation of architecture or art. There is no effort to emulate the worthy example set by the ancient Greeks, who were conservative in their art and strictly opposed to realism.
Included in the general class of private theatres there are several distinct forms, each built on lines intended to serve best its peculiar use. These embrace the music hall or variety theatre, and the hippodrome or coliseum. The former is so like a regulation theatre, except, perhaps, for the addition of a restaurant or drinking pavilion, that it does not require special mention, and so few hippodromes are now built in this country that lengthy descriptions of them, , as hippodromes, would unduly encumber these pages. However, as large central theatres devoted to the presentation of motion pictures on a grand scale they will receive due attention.
The pioneer of the private theatre in Europe was the People's Theatre in Worms, Germany, founded when the city contained less than 25,000 inhabitants. It exists today and is a remarkable institution, comprising assembly rooms, a restaurant and a winter garden. A diagrammed plan of this theatre is shown among the illustrations of the "Evolution of Theatres" (Pages 7 and 8).
The destruction by fire of the Ring Theatre, in Vienna, on December 8, 1881, with the appalling loss of eight hundred lives, aroused all Europe to the necessity of devising a model safety plan for theatres, and many enterprising architects offered models that have had a lasting influence upon theatre construction. Alfred Derbyshire, an English architect, designed a new model that was adopted by Henry Irving (later Sir Henry Irving) for the Lyceum Theatre, London, and which still stands, slightly altered, as a model of capacity and safety. Franz Roth of Vienna suggested another form, which was carried out in the Raimund Theatre of Vienna. Another and more unusual design was proposed in Germany, and afterward adopted for the erection of the famous Wagner Opera House at Bayreuth. At the present writing there appears to be a decided tendency toward a more general adoption of this form in European advanced theatres.