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TOPIC: Do I need a Theatre Designer?

Do I need a Theatre Designer? 09 Oct 2003 09:53 #6507

  • bemily29
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I have a general architect helping me convert a retail space into a 2 screen cinema pub, but should I try to find an actual theater designer who knows more about this stuff? Especially code reqs for lighting et al?
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 09 Oct 2003 11:08 #6508

  • John Pytlak
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"On the job training" is great, but do you really want your theatre to be the first one they have ever done? At least link up with a theatre equipment dealer who has done good installs in your area, to work with your architect as a consultant.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
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John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 09 Oct 2003 17:32 #6509

  • outaframe
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In a word, YES... Unless you are extremely knowledgeable in the requirements of a theater enviornment, and able to accept or reject what the architect proposes... The requirements of a theater are far different from those of other type establishments than an commercial architect normally designs... It ALWAYS costs more to "fix" it, than do it right in the first place...
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 09 Oct 2003 18:15 #6510

  • Ken Layton
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I agree...better get a theater architect pronto!
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 10 Oct 2003 08:42 #6511

  • NanEman
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Can't agree more, a designer can make or break your dream!

Because you are a "specialty theater", you might want to at least have a consultation with a designer who has done a cinema pub/cinema cafe design. It doesn't mean you have to use them, but it certainly would give your actual designer a head's up on the problems inherent when planning this type of operation. Sound and lighting are greatly affected by tables, chairs, etc.
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 11 Oct 2003 09:53 #6512

  • jimor
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I must agree with everyone on this; a specialist in theatres is definitely worth your while. Theatre architecture, especially if combined with a restaurant license, is highly specialized design, and while today's cinemas do not present the diffculties of design (acoustics, electricals, vast balconies, traffic flow patterns, sight lines, etc.) that the movie palaces did, there are pitfalls for the inexperienced.

If you don't know of an architect/designer EXPERIENCED in this area, consult the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA ( www.HistoricTheatres.org ), and the LEAGUE OF HISTORIC AMERICAN THEATRES ( www.LHAT.org ), and the AMERICAN SOCIETY OF THEATRE CONSULTANTS ( www.astc.org ) who have worked with many such and give recommendations. [The League may require membership before being able to help, and since they focus only on historic structures built before 1935, you many not find thier membership or service fees helpful for you -- unless you also happen to appreciate older theatres.]

There are a number of books on theatres, including some which touch upon examples of converted theatre spaces, and there is a list of most of them at the THSA's sidebar link: BOOKSHOP. Go to any title there and click on it and it will take you to that listing at www.Amazon.com where you can purchase it, or at least read reviews of it and decide if you want to approach your local library about ordering it for you on Inter-Library Loan. Also ask the librarian about the various professional magazines for mall owners, architects, and restaurant equipment suppliers which will have a number of articles on the subject, since this has been done before. There is no substitute for studying a subject like this.

One other note: if you will not be able to be at your new locations daily during construction, consider hiring a man experienced in your local codes as well as theatres to be there almost every day to supervise the work. This man is often referred to as "Clerk-of-the-Works" and is the owner's representative on site, and serves YOUR interests in making sure that all the details are met as you wish. Remember that the architects and contractors really work for themselves, and your project is just one of several they are doing at any one time and so they just don't have the time to give your project the individual attention it deserves; some 'mistakes' (or deliberate ommissions) are going to take place, especially if they perceive the owner as remote or inexperienced (naive). You may have to network among businessmen extensively to find a guy knowing both the local codes, AS WELL AS dealing with contractors, who often bend the rules if it makes their job quicker and therefore more profitable. The general contractor really only represents himself (and maybe the other contractors if he hired them), NOT you or the architects/designers. It can be unwise to depend upon him to be your superintendent. Likewise, the mall's rep. is representing ONLY the interests of the mall owners, not you. This may sound harsh, but construction is a nasty business. Are there any nice ones anymore?!
Best Wishes, Jim, member THSA.

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited October 11, 2003).]

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited October 11, 2003).]
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 21 Oct 2003 10:02 #6513

  • bemily29
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Ok I have an architect who will collaborate with a theatre engineer to do a fitup cost estimate. The estimate alone is going to run me $4500-6000. Is this a little out of control for just an estimate (they take care of all the BOCA code stuff, making sure handrails floors are at x degree slope, people per sq. ft limitation checks, etc)?
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Re: Do I need a Theatre Designer? 21 Oct 2003 11:36 #6514

  • jimor
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Whether a price is out of line or not depends upon the resources available in your community. If the architect and others have to travel far, they are going to charge more, but what they are doing for you is vital, so you must expect to pay more than you might be experienced in when you pay contractors, for example. The many codes and statutes involved in a place of public assembly must be known and adhered to if you are to avoid costly legal problems down the road. Do not think that you can dismiss the experts' advice and go against statutes and the the authorities would not dare to order the demolition of all your building if it is out of code -- they WILL so order if need be. The burden of proof is then on you to prove that you took all reasonable steps to learn and follow the law on the legal advice of experts.

Remember that the expert "estimate" is likely to be a formal document that may bind them legally in some aspects, so you are getting more than something off-the-cuff. They will probably have to prepare drawings and take a number of photos along with writing up detailed specifications or descriptions. Talk to them exactly as to what the estimate includes. This can be taken care of by a Memorandum Agreement as to the nature and extent of the estimate. Don't be afraid to write up your own Memorandum with all the details and areas which you expect them to address in writing. Remember the old adage of the manufacturing world: "VERBAL ORDERS DON'T GO!"

If you are still in doubt about them or their fees, consult one or more of the organizations I listed in my previous message here. Note that the URL of the American Society of Theatre Consultants is actually: www.theatreconsultants.org

Best Wishes, Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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