THIS chapter will be devoted to the descriptions of the interiors of three existing theatres and of three original models of various types, any and all of which may be adapted for the presentation of motion pictures. In order to differentiate the original models from the existing ones each of the originals will be described as the first visit of an imaginary patron.
The first to be described will be the interior of the New York Hippodrome, an existing theatre selected because of its large size and adaptability to the exhibition of motion pictures amid spectacular surroundings.- The idea of the Hippodrome had its origin in Blackpool, England, a workmen's watering place near Liverpool. The popular success of a replica of this Blackpool institution that was built in London some years later prompted Fred Thompson of Coney Island fame to construct a similar structure in New York on a much larger scale. He secured the aid of private capital and erected the colossal edifice herein described. It is by far the largest building of its kind- in the world, and was designed by J. H. Morgan, of New York. Its construction was begun July 1, 1904, and five months later it was ready for occupancy. Its front covers the full distance between two ordinary city blocks, 200 feet, and it extends back on the side streets 240 feet. Its cost was $1,750,000.
While the entire building is devoted to a single object, there are, as a matter of fact, two structurally independent portions; the auditorium and the stage, which are connected through the proscenium arch. The auditorium is 160 feet square, and five transverse trusses that span the structure carry the roof. These trusses are supported by four main columns at the corners of a 108 foot rectangle, the two end girders being connected directly to the columns and intermediate trusses by two large longitudinal members.
The general color scheme is a Roman red background with all structural features finished in ivory, gold and silver. The entire orchestra, balconies and galleries are carpeted with a fine grade of Royal Wilton covering, woven to order to match the dark crimson decorations, and the wall hangings, draperies, and upholstery are executed in Roman red velvet, enriched with heavy gold and silver embroidery and tassels. Some of these tassels weigh as much as 170 pounds each.
The proscenium opening is 90 feet wide and 45 feet high. In front of the main proscenium is a false arch of terra cotta blocks extending to the ceiling, and between these two prosceniums there is a secondary gridiron used for suspending trapezes and like paraphernalia.
The stage itself is 200 feet wide and extends back no feet to the rear wall. It stretches upward to the roof over 90 feet, its upper section being employed as a fly loft. The semi-circular apron of the stage protrudes 60 feet into the auditorium, and is large enough to contain two regulation circus rings, 40 feet in diameter, in which two distinct performances may be given simultaneously. Underneath this apron and stage is an immense water tank, 14 feet in depth, holding 400,000 gallons, in which aquatic spectacles and all manner of water sports may be shown.
The construction of the stage is original and unique, and its possibilities are exhaustless. It may be lowered, raised and divided throughout at different periods of the performance, and great volumes of water made to flow under it, either hidden or open, as the master hand directs. The whole stage platform is virtually a system of huge elevators supported on mammoth plungers. Two sections of dressing rooms, five stories high, flank either side of the immense stage, behind fireproof walls.
The imposing entrance, which is graced on both sides by elaborate Corinthian porticos, opens into a reception lobby, liberal in its proportions, wainscoted in marble, with heavily beamed ceilings above. The side walls of the lobby, like those of the interior, are imitation Caen stone relieved by rich illuminations of ornamental gold and silver. Immense elephants' heads serve as capitals for the marble columns and pilasters.
The New York Hippodrome and its productions have come to be regarded by the American public as a national institution. For a brief period this colossally proportioned house was devoted to the display of motion pictures on a grand scale, brightened during intermissions by elaborate spectacles and rich stage settings.