Cinemas are a typology which enable consumers to view motion pictures for entertainment and leisure. Its commercial purpose is to cater for the general public, producing a comfortable, and luxurious interior environment.
The architectural style of contemporary cinemas have been established throughout the years by a myriad of influences from its preceding models. American design approaches in particular, have had a substantial inspiration on the early stylistic ventures of Australian cinemas. This is expressed most importantly by the notable technological features, spatial layout, and enthralling sensorial experiences offered to the consumer. With all composition efforts aiming to transport each person crossing the threshold into a synthetic escapist world (Thorne, R 1976, pp 3). Cinemas have been developed to create enjoyable spaces while viewing a film, in order to guarantee a high degree of satisfaction and ensure continuous patronage (Recuber, T 2007).
The architectural notion of the cinema was stemmed from the widespread appeal of bringing entertainment to the public with early projection machines. The Nickelodeon enforced famously by Harry Davis and John P Harris in early 20th century America, was a stylistic piece of architecture, fundamental to the development of cinema.
The Nickelodeon was initially a simplistic concept including a small raised screen unveiled by a curtain at the front of the stage, with a small orchestra for music and providing closely packed wooden seats for the viewers (Sharp, D 1969). Nickelodeons had become ubiquitous within America, and by 1910 were being presented in any large hall, stadium or stage theatre (Thorne, R 1976). The framed entrance of the nickelodeon established its archetypal visual language, alluring people into the space with single light bulb decorations spelling out the names of the theatres. Many of its traditional traits became prevalently used in latter cinema designs; comprising the iconographic vestibule, functioning as a poster decorated commonplace between the outside and the cinema screening. The box office was another crucial element, facing the street and was easily accessible to the buying public. It became a symbol of cinematic illustration, being expressed as the emblem of the motion picture theater (Herzog, C 1984, pp 13).
In the 1920s, picture palaces became large highly decorated cinemas, residing in prominent cities across multiple countries. The Regent, the first major opulent picture theatre in New York City designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, was a milestone in the historical rise of cinema. Samuel Lionel Roxy Rothapfel, a former projectionist and cinema manager, was known for experimenting with new innovations to create better hospitality for his patrons. Under Lambs management, Rothapfel was able to make The Regent, as well as The Strand Theatre on Broadway, a spectacular movie house structure meant to be admired as a model for all moving picture palaces (Sharp, D. 1969, pp 73).
Characteristics of the theatres embodied crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling luxurious lounges, comfortable chairs, a thirty-piece symphony orchestra and a mighty Wurlitzer (Sharp, D. 1969, pp 73). The picture palaces ensured the elaborate setting, with careful scored music for the motion picture, provided the atmosphere (Thorne, R 1976, pp 5) reaching out beyond the proscenium and engulfing the audience themselves. Rothapfel had a keen understanding of the needs of the average man and woman, presenting affordable prices and interior embellishment to leave the consumer in awe.
As the 1950s rolled in, technological developments obscuring the concept of reality and spectacle with the introduction of the Cinerama and Cinemascope. Patrons were no longer imbued by their grand surroundings while watching a film, as there was no longer a clear delineation of space between the theatre composition and the viewing screens. Wide curved screens had emerged, being able to cover the consumers peripheral vision, along with surround sound systems broadcasting the sound effects of the picture show in different areas of the auditorium. Illusory integration of the fictional space of the feature film, and the actual space of the audience, enabled consumers to visually immerse themselves into the motion picture (Belton, 1992, p. 154). As such, a shift had occurred in the services providing consumer satisfaction. The architecture of the cinema began focusing on the psychological impression that the film would have on the spectator, rather than from the spatial form of the cinema itself.
Multiplex cinemas have been a widespread contemporary phenomenon developed in the 1960s. It was built with multi screen cinema complexes, commonly connected to shopping centres or suburban locales (Recuber, T 2007). Event Cinemas, is a highly known Australian example of a multiplex cinema. Contemporary models similar to Event Cinemas have been able to adopt numerous design components expressed by comfortable lounges, vestibules for poster advertisements, ticket counters, and additional cafes, reminiscent of the compositional layouts of former Nickelodeons and picture palaces.
However, the convenience factor engaged by many suburban multiplexes have also compromised the stylistic decor of its architecture to a refined modernistic form, relevant to its branding. Event Cinemas demonstrates an apparent uniformity in its interior structures, complemented by its signature red and black paraphernalia, along with striking neon theatre signs and atmospheric coloured lighting. The distinctive palatial embellishment signified by picture palaces had been phased out, indicating a better focus on the consumers fulfilment with the cinematic apparatus. Thus, the grandeur and overall size of cinemas have been reduced to comprise of multiple compacted theatre spaces, serving to larger screens. Film critic Cameron Stauth remarked, the latest trend in theater construction and refurbishment is to increase screen size and to improve the quality of projection sound (Stauth, C. 1990, pp16). Henceforth, directing the audiences attention to the technological cinematic spectacle of the screen, and straying away from artistic deficiencies of the theatre.
The cinematic apparatus refers to both the technological aspects of cinema, such as the camera, projector, image, screen, and theater, and the mental or psychological processes that they activate within spectators (Lebeau, V 2001). Sensorial encounters have been heightened for the twenty-first century consumer with the addition of technological devices advanced from the 1950s. Wide-screen cinemas have reenchanted film viewing by blurring the boundaries between theater space and screen space and in the process, created a new, more absorbing moviegoing spectacle (Recuber, T. 2007 pp.318). This is especially evident in the experiences offered by Event cinemas in conjunction with VMAX and 3D display.
VMAX portrays a high quality movie escapade featuring ultra-comfortable stadium-style seating, thousands of watts of powerful digital surround sound and the latest state-of-the-art 20m digital screens (Event Cinemas 2019). 3D display has also added another dimension of digital immersion, imploring the audience to feel as if they are physically a part of the space of the film.
Contemporary cinemas now attain a more compelling absorption of the consumer, on the certainties of technology devices rather than the architectural processes of the theatre (Recuber, T 2007). As the attention of the audience [is] drawn to the novelty of the apparatus itself… [and] the greater realism produced by the new technology [is] understood (Belton, 1992, p. 160).
The earlier forms of cinema centralised its appeal to the grandeur of its compositional forms and ornamentation. Consumers were appeased by the many spectacular details that followed certain architectural styles of pseudo elegance, regardless of the cinemas small screens and lack of technology. However, as societal values continuously changed over the years, cinematic experiences relied more heavily on a tension between the realistic qualities of filmic illusions and their existence as technological achievements (Recuber, T. 2007) rather than the design of the cinema. Thus, leaving the stylistic nature of the theatre to become repetitive with subtle traits of originality, in comparison to their former counterparts.
Nevertheless, the factor which remained throughout the years of cinema architecture has been its constant acknowledgement for the needs and expectations of the general public. Successful film exhibition has prolonged its achievement in the development of cinemas due to its persistent realisation for adaptability and consumer orientation.