Architect Breaks Down 120 Years Of Movie Theater Design

If given the opportunity, any devoted moviegoer could talk for hours about their favorite movie theaters; which have the best accoustics, best bathroom locations, most comfortable seating, etc. One of my favorite hobbies during my 20s was taking myself on dates to the movies. I must have frequented over 25 theaters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Some are now gone (RIP the LES Sunshine Cinema; the small but lovely Brooklyn Heights Cinema; the grimy but glorious Sunnyside Center Cinema – $5 matinee tickets! We’ll never see that again!). Some are still going strong (the Angelika – a personal favorite even though you can hear the subway rumbling during screenings; Film Forum – the absolute best curation and highest chance of running into a downtown celebrity; Cobble Hill Cinemas – I’ve just always loved the facade; Regal Tangram in Flushing for when you just have to see an action movie in 4DX). Then of course there’s the whole drinking and dining while viewing scene (Nighthawk; The Alamo Drafthouse, etc), which although seems over the top it is kind of fun and more dignified than BYOB… I guess.

Anyway, my many persoal opinions aside, movie theater design history is fascinating and has evolved quite a lot in the last hundred years. Architect Richard Weiss details it all here in thie video from Architectural Digest:

Today on AD he joins us to break down the evolution of theaters from the dawn of commercial motion pictures to the present day. From the earliest projections featuring Thomas Edison’s Vitascope in converted vaudeville theaters to the contemporary multiplexes we visit now, learn the detailed history of where and how we’ve gone to the cinema for over a century.


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