The first section of communication is the vestibule or outer lobby, which should offer every facility for the entrance of the patrons. It should never show the same warmth of decoration as the better parts of the house, but it should be a simply treated, inviting approach to the auditorium. Its size should be such as to prevent any possibility of congestion, even in time of panic, but it should not be so large as to waste space that might be put to better use.
The location of the box office and a local manager's office within it is largely a matter of convenience. There should, however, be two ticket windows in the box office, separated from one another by space sufficient to permit the sale of tickets for the present performance and those for future booking without confusion. The number and arrangement of retiring rooms and toilets will be taken up later in the chapter devoted to "Comfort."
Next in order of sequence is the foyer, the drawing room of a theatre. In England the foyer partakes of the character of a "lounge," and is generously provided with comfortable settees. This is a requisite feature where the foyer also becomes the promenade.
For the sake of safety the lobby or foyer should be made common to all parts of the house. The semi-circular corridor, originally created by Gottfried Sempner, and now universally used in good theatre designing, is a true idea for a foyer.
The playgoer instinctively prefers to leave the theatre by the way he entered it, and in time of panic will employ only the means of escape with which he is thoroughly familiar. For this reason all exits and passages of communication should be so distributed and arranged that they are in constant use by the audience. While the average playgoer may not have a keen appreciation of the architectural treatment of a theatre, a clear plan and abundant means of quick exit will surely appeal to him and do much to popularize a playhouse.
The seating should be arranged in continuous rows, thirty-six inches from back to back (instead of thirty-two inches, the legal distance now employed in America), with ample aisles radiating from the front of the auditorium to the rear. At the points opposite the side entrances from the foyer widened passages between rows should be introduced, extending to the middle or intermediate aisles, as necessity may require. Where it is desirable the radiating aisles may turn at this dividing passage and extend parallel to the side walls to the rear of the auditorium; or if the cross passage be a liberal one, new aisles may be formed from it.
There should never be more than fourteen chairs between aisles in any single row, and if one end of the row be blind and without an •aisle, seven chairs should be the limit.