Thinking about the future of theatre design

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This is a very exciting time in the motion picture industry. Summer box office has hit an all-time record and the nation’s theatres are undergoing the most sweeping technological change in their history. By the end of this year, the industry is predicting that nearly half of North American screens will be fully digital. From a very slow start, this has advanced to a major rollout that is spreading across the globe.

So what’s next for the industry? One of the questions most frequently asked is what the cinema of the future will look like. Well, we know that theatres now have stadium seating, digital sound and digital projection, 3D systems, dine-in auditoriums and alternative content including the opera and sporting events. What else can theatre owners do to continue to attract patrons to their theatres? It’s time to go to the best and busiest architects in the nation to hear their thoughts on new concepts to create the magnet that will help reverse the downward trend of moviegoing in this country. The October issue of Film Journal International does just that via interviews with Jack Muffoletto of TK Architects, Dan Ogden of D.L. Ogden Architecture, David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group, Theo Kalomirakis of TK Theaters, and James Law of James Law Cybertecture International.

With alternative content growing by leaps and bounds, Muffoletto likes the idea of considering a separate and dedicated room. This is similar to the concept of having dedicated auditoriums for 3D, dine-in movies, VIP seating and large-format presentations. Muffoletto asserts that “not only do these types of amenities create more variety and excitement for more reasons to visit…they also help increase attendance.” He goes on to describe what a dedicated space for alternative content might look like in Andreas Fuchs’ report. Muffoletto also discusses how the demands of the new era of social networking might impact theatre design in a separate article he penned for our Construction & Design section.

Dan Ogden, operator of his own company who recently worked on a major Muvico project, agrees that moviegoing is and will continue to be about the presentation. “But to give people a variety of different ways to experience a movie is the way to go,” he declares.
Theo Kalomirakis advises exhibitors to spend a little more money: “If you do it just a little bit better than the multiplex next door, people will come to you instead. If they have a choice between a great environment and a regular environment, they’ll come to the more exciting one,” he emphasizes.

Hong Kong-based Law specializes in ultra-modern décor. His latest signature design is “filled with exciting interior decorations and installed with innovative gadgets. To capture audience imagination and ignite visual impact, our revolutionary theatres are fabricated with a shape of fluidity and a sense of freedom.”

“Finding opportunities where you have to go outside of your comfort zone is the key to stay driven towards new projects and new challenges,” states Rockwell, celebrated for his designs for Broadway productions, the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and the new cinema complex at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Each of these architects feels that presentation is key, but also notes that theatres must be designed to facilitate a variety of events and diversity of customers attending. The design has to be about more than just the auditorium—the entire venue must be developed to address the needs of the changing customer.

We hope you enjoy our report on the future of theatre design.

Summer’s Record Box Office
The summer is officially over and the kids are back in school. Hurricanes have been downgraded, New York and many other states along the East Coast experienced their first major earthquake in decades and the fires continue to burn in Texas. Despite all this and a failing economy and a terrible first quarter at the box office, the 2011 summer box office reached a new high of $4.4 billion.

That is absolutely remarkable and everyone should use this opportunity to take a moment and pat themselves on the back, assured that this industry is resilient. Despite the poor performance of the market during the first three months of 2011, the industry bounced back from nearly a 20 percent shortfall and is now behind by less than five percent.

Summer 2011 grosses were up nearly one percent over last summer, and for the fifth consecutive summer, revenues exceeded the $4 billion mark. Leading the pack were Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

International markets were even more robust with revenues of $8.2 billion, which easily surpasses last summer. And for the first time, three summer films hit $1 billion globally. Notably, all three were sequels in major franchises.

The remainder of 2011 has some strong titles that should make up the gap relative to last year. So, as members of the industry get ready for the Geneva Convention and ShowEast, a spirit of excitement will travel with them as they depart for Lake Geneva and Miami/Hollywood.