My name is Megan and I’m a twenty-one year old student in my second year at DeakinUniversity. This website is a project conducted under my Contemporary Australian Cinema unit. My idea is that it will be a combination of indulgences for the senses, exploring our creative sides, with the main feature being on the Hoyts Drive-in/ Village Starlite Drive-in, Frankston. Included will be:
– Authentic advertisments and trailers shown during the intermission of films shown at the drive-in’s during the 60s and 70s
– I will use my previous knowledge of Architecture through my studies at RMIT University as a Bachelor of Design and Interior Design student (2008/2009) to formulate an essay on the psychology behind old and modern cinema and it’s affect on audiences
– Interactive Poll’s I have created in which viewers are able to choose from multiple choice answers about their experience (or lack of) at the Drive-in’s
– An Interview I conducted with Andrea L, who has worked for the Lunar Drive-in for six years!
– A collaboration of personal memories from drive-in movie-goers of varying demographics that I have spoken to and interviewed along the way (I encourage you to add your own experiences to keep the discussion flowing! It is a great way to see how audiences experience and remember drive-in entertainment in different ways, and how the atmosphere and look of drive-in’s has changed over time)
– A slideshow of photograph’s I have taken while visiting the Village Coburg Drive-in
MAIN FEATURE INCLUDES:
– A link to my contribution to the Bonza database
– Photographs of the Frankston drive-in location; while it still operated, and today in 2012, long after the site was demolished and replaced with other buildings (sourced from Googlearth)
– Origional posters of the top 4 films shown at the Frankston drive-in during the 1970’s
– Infornmation regarding the drive-in’s change of operators (from Hoyts to Village), the ‘skyline’ experience, Frankston’s ‘grill bar’ and cafeteria furnishings.
– AS WELL AS:
– Tips for first time drive-in visitors
– Famous quotations about the cinema in general
– And Links to other helpful websites
The late 1930s attempted to impose an architecture which would be appreciated by the masses through its use of architectural ‘social realism’. They were aware of the psychological effects of colour and decoration on cinema patrons moods and feelings. It will be shown in this essay that these architects, their intentions and their buildings have implications for what Architecture and its meaning is in modern cinema.
With the hindsight of just about ninety years it could seem that the awe-inspiring theatre/cinema architects were trying to use contemporary psychological theories to make suitable environments available for the showing of moving pictures and in my opinion, their endeavor obviously worked in every way. It shaped impressive places of enormous appeal to viewers, who came in their thousands. As we shall see, they were to create an escape from reality not just for the lower classes but especially for middle and upper classes. Burris-Meyer and Cole (1949), in directing architects how to design cinemas, demonstrated a sense of place by outlining the importance of the entire experience of theatre.
The showman’s first contact with any member of his audience occurs when that individual comes in sight of the theatre. From that moment until the patron is on the highway or subway headed for home, his every movement is the showman’s concern. The easier and pleasanter the patron’s progress from home to theatre seat and back again, the better the showman’s chances of making and holding a repeat customer. (Burris-Meyer and Cole, 1949:16)
The movie theatre architects wished to articulate a number of attributes, in their designs. They wanted the viewers from all classes to feel important; they wanted to provide all the visual design elements usually accessible only to the wealthy, and to create a total environment consistent with the make-believe, escapist content of films.
THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE CINEMA
Though much written by cinema historians overlooks information regarding the venues in which films were shown and the audiences who watched them, some writing on the escapist “dreamworld” is available. To its writers, it is where disadvantaged patrons with supposedly boring, unfulfilled lives could whittle away a number of hours in an extravagant atmosphere, secretly living out emotions portrayed on the screen.
According to Handel (1950) no studies of theatre/cinema audiences were made until approximately World War II, although Jowett (1976) discovered a small amount of earlier studies which attempt to evaluate the suspected influence of movies on children and young adults. The Regent Theatre,Sydney,Australia, programme of the official opening in 1928 supplied the following commitment:
Today at wish we conjure up glories that are gone; they live again in tense reality upon our screens. There too, we leave a record of ourselves – the mighty and the meek, our prayers and strange despairs. The dreams we have may crystallise and stay for ever.
In the same year, at the opening of the State Theatre,Sydney, the venue released this statement:
To that priceless, peerless, and enduring spirit of High Romance that uncalled leaps to flame in the hearts of all; that divine spark that perpetually gilds this drab world anew with the glowing fairy web of adventure, courage, endeavour, and fancy free; that primal urge of imagination that shone in the flashing eyes of Jeanne d’Arc….
“The story of the golden age of the movie palace” includes a chapter titled “An Acre of Seats in aGardenofDreams” describing the architects and their designs. It explains that not only did these theatres increase the dreams of the audience but, according to Hall (1961), were the outcome of dreams of the architects:
“these pleasure domes gave expression to the most secret and polychrome dreams of a whole group of architects who might otherwise have gone through life doomed to turning out churches, hotels, banks and high schools. The architecture of the movie palace was a triumph of suppressed desire and its practitioners range in style from the purely classic to a wildly abandoned eclectic’. (Hall, 1961:93)
On the topic of audiences, Sexton’s and Betts’ writing of 1927 in American Theatres Today recalls “The masses, revelling in luxury and costly beauty, went to be thrilled by the gorgeousness of their surroundings which they could not afford in their home life”. And I believe audiences are disappointed if they don’t discover the thrills they have come to the cinema for. Their favorite cinema is one which gives them the largest thrill. The theatre owners must take this into consideration for the largest part of the audience must come from the masses. Goodlad (1971) lists four effects of escapist, popular mass media which function with reference to social structure. Relaxation, encouraging imagination and providing interaction – especially for people in social isolation.
THE MOVIE-THEATRE USERS
In 1908 The Moving Picture World, stated that two million patrons, one third of which were children, attended cinemas every day. Additionally, people with higher education would visit more often than the low educated (Handel 1950/1976).
Visits to old theatres today, and an illustrations of theatres, show a huge difference in the quality constructed for the different classes. The stairs and hallways to the cheap seats have little decoration and floor covering (see photographs of entries to Theatre Royal, Sydney); with unmarked benches and little leg room. During the 19th century the only ‘service’ administered to patrons in the cheap seats were ‘packers’ employed to guarantee that everyone was restricted as tightly as possible occupying approximately 2½ sq. feet per person (Thorne, 1971; 1979, citing Royal Commission of NSW, 1887).
In 1923, when describing the design of large cinemas, George Rapp stated that the
Purchaser of the cheapest ticket (for the gallery) dislikes the feeling that he is isolated from the rest of the auditorium. And so there has been introduced broad and gradually ascending staircases leading up from lofty and impressive lobbies making the way to the upper levels of the auditorium attractive and inviting (Rapp, 1923).
Thus the classless cinema design was formed. However, this plan did not only articulate a social change: both the architects and the cinema owners wished to improve the psychological state of well-being. The new design allowed all classes to experience the footmen employed to open doors and usher patrons. This created an affect so that for a few hours all patrons could be kings and queens in pseudo opera houses or royal halls. The architects goal being to design environments which communicated to the viewer the feelings of importance (Herzog, 1980). And so the cinema environments were more stage sets where members of the audience were the real performers.
THE FUNCTION OF THE MOVIE PALACE THEATRE
Most of the cinemas which architects claim used psychological concepts functioned much more than just as a place to show silent, black and white movies. Indeed, the movie theatre was rather complicated, far more so than a present-day cinema.
Today cimeas sell sophisticated movies with wide-screen, colour and stereophonic sound, but Marcus Loew, head of MGM says: “We sell tickets to theatres, not movies”. (Herzog , 1980, citing Freeman, 1977). And the cinema supplied an environment of entertainment rather than an environment for entertainment. The showing of a movie was only a small part of these theatres.
Of course the picture is important, and we could not do without it; but what we have tried to do is to build around it an atmospheric program that is colourful, entertaining and interesting. This type of program, with its ballets, musical presentations, stage settings and lighting effects, calculated to form a series of pictures sometimes contrasting and sometimes gracefully merging into one another, was originated by ourselves. (Rothafel, 1925: 362-363)
Agrest and Gandelsonas (1979), “On Practice (1979)”, International Architect, No.1, Vol. 1, Issue 1.
Ahlschlager, W. W. (1927), “The Roxy, Demonstrating a Noteworthy Principle of Theatre Design”, Motion Picture News, December.
Atwell, D. (1980), Cathedrals of the Movies: A History of British Cinemas and their Audiences,London: The Architectural Press.
Barker, C. (1971), “A Theatre for the People”, in Richards, K. and Thomson, P., eds., Nineteenth Century British Theatre,London:Methuen, pp.3-24.
Birkmire, W. H. (1901), The Planning and Construction of American Theatres, New York: Wiley.
Bishop, M., Coe, F., David, C., Ellies, C., Kight, B., Marsico, J., Salvato, G. and Woods, A. (1978), eds., The Ohio Theatre: 1928-1978,ColumbusOhio:Columbus Association for the Performing Arts
Burris-Meyer, H. and Cole, E. C. (1949), Theatres & Auditoriums,New York: Reinhold.
Cambria, F. (1927), “. . . discusses Theatre Design and Decoration in an interview by Thomas C. Kennedy”, Motion Picture News, June, pp.2185-2189.
Canter, D. (1977), The Psychology of Place,London: Architectural Press.
Card, J. (1979), “The Silent Films of Cecil B. DeMille”, in Dentelbaum, M., ed., The “Image” on the Art and
Evolution of the Film,New York:Dover, pp.118-120
Carlson, M. (1989), Places of Performances: The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture,IthacaNY:CornellUniversity Press.
Dorin, A. (1927), “Showmanship and Interior Decoration”, Motion Picture News, May, n.p.n.
Eberson, J. (1927), “New theatres for Old: Originator of the Atmospheric Style Discusses the Formula in which Art and Showmanship Meet”, Motion Picture News, December 29, n.p.n.
Franzheim, K. (1925), “Present Tendencies in the Design of Theater Facades”, Architectural Forum, June, pp.365-368.
Freeman, R. E. (1977), “American Movie Theaters, 1894-1977: The Practical Side of Fantasy”, unpublished paper, p.8.
Gomery, D. (1982), “Movie Audiences, Urban Geography, and the History of the American Film”, The Velvet Light Trap, No.19.
Goodlad, J. S. R. (1971), A Sociology of Popular Drama,London: Heinemann.
Groat, L. (1982), “Meaning of Post-Modern Architecture: An Examination Using the Multiple Sorting Task”, J. of Environmental Psychology, 2:1, March, pp.3-22.
Gruenke jnr, B. E. (1983), “The Decorators View”, Marquee, J. of the Theatre Historical Society: Theatre Preservation Issue, Vol. 15, No.4.
Hall, B. M. (1961), The Best Remaining Seats: the story of the golden age of the movie palace,New York: Bramhall House.
Handel, L. A. (1950), Hollywood looks at its audience: A report of film audience research,UrbanaIll: University ofIllinois, (reprint by Arno Press ,1976)
Henon, P. J. (1928), “The Architect’s Service to the Industry: an interview with (the author)”, Motion Picture News, December 29, n.p.n.
Herzog, C. K. (1980), “The Motion Picture Theater and Film Exhibition, 1896-1932”, Ph.D. Thesis NorthwesternUniversity; Xerography facsimile copy,Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1982.
Horak, J-C. (1979), “The Pre-Hollywood Lubitsch”, in Dentelbaum, M., ed., The “Image” on the Art and Evolution of the Film New York:Dover, pp.107-117.
Jowett, G. (1976), Film: The Democratic Art,Boston: Little, Brown Kopp, A. (1970), Town and Revolution: Soviet Architecture and City Planning, 1917-1935,London:Thames and Hudson.
Lamb, T. (1928), An interview with, “Good Old Days to These Better New Days”, Motion Picture News, June 30, n.p.n.
Lang, J. (1983), “Perception Theory, Formal Aesthetics and the Basic Design Course”, in Amadeo, D.,Griffin, J.
B. and Potter, J. J., eds., EDRA 1983, Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference of the Environmental
Design Research Association,WashingtonDC: EDRA Inc.
Lee, S. C. (1929), “Stretching the Building Fund and the Plot Area”, Motion Picture News, December 28, p.31.
Manvell, R. (1972), The International Encyclopedia of Film,London: Michael Joseph.
Morrison, C. (1974), “From Nickelodeon to PicturePalaceand Back”, Design Quarterly, No.93, pp. 6-17.
M.P.N. (1929) “Conservative Design Has Lasting Appeal”, Motion Picture News, June 22, pp.43-52.
Norberg-Shultz, C. (1980), Meaning in Western Architecture,New York: Rizzoli.
R.A.I.A. (1962), “Buildings are for People”, Annual Conference of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
Prak, N. L. (1977), The Visual Perception of the Built Environment,Delft:University ofDelft.
Purcell, A. T. (1984a), “The organisation of the experience of the built environment”, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol. II, pp.173-192.
Purcell, A. T. (1984b), “Multivariate models and the attributes of the experience of the built environment”,
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol II, pp. 193-212.
Purcell, A. T. (1984c), “Esthetics, measurement and control”, Ekistics 307, July/August, pp. 379-387.
Rapoport, A. (1982), Meaning of the Built Environment: A Non-Verbal Communication Approach, Beverley Hills: Sage.
Rapp, G. and C. W. (1923), article on, Exhibitor’s Herald, Vol.16, May 26, Better Theatres Section, p.xi.
Robertson, H. (1924), Principles of Architectural Composition,London: Architectural Press.
Rothafel, S. L. (1925), “What the Public Wants in the Picture Theater”, Architectural Forum, XLII, 6, June, pp.361-364.
Royal Commission of New South Wales (1887), “Construction of Theatres, Public Halls and other places of
Public Amusement and Concourse”, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly 1887.
Schanger, B. (1931), “Motion Picture Theatres of Tomorrow”, Motion Picture Herald, February 14, Better Theatres Section, pp.12, 13, 56.
Sexton, R. W. and Betts, B. F. (1927), American Theatres of Today,New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company.
Sharp, B. (1982), A Pictorial History of Sydney’s Suburban Cinemas, Strawberry Hills NSW: Barry Sharp.
Sharp, B. (1983), A Pictorial History of Cinemas in New South Wales, Strawberry Hills NSW: Barry Sharp.
Sheridan, P. (1981), Penny Theatres of Victorian London,London: Dennis Dobson.
Simon, J. G. ed.(1979), Conflicting Experiences of Space: Proceedings of the 4th International Architectural Psychology
Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve: Catholic University of Louvain.
Thorne, R. (1971), Theatre Buildings in Australia to 1905: from the time of the First Settlement to arrival of cinema, UniversityofSydney: Architectural Research Foundation.
Thorne, R. (1974a), “Perception and the Architect”, A Short Course in Architectural Psychology, University of
Sydney: Architectural Psychology Research Unit, pp.27-44.
Thorne, R. (1974b), “Perception of the Architects’ Space”, A Short Course in Architectural Psychology, University ofSydney: Architectural Psychology Research Unit, pp.45-78.
Thorne, R. (1976), Picture Palace Architecture of Australia,South Melbourne: Sun/Academy.
Thorne, R. (1981) Cinemas of Australia via USA, University ofSydney: Department of Architecture.
Thorne, R. (1997), “Community Opinion of City Architecture: A Qualitative Study”, People and Physical Environment Research, No. 52, pp.28-48.
Thorne, R., Diesner, M., Munro-Clark, M. and Hall, R. (1980), Consumer Survey of Housing Demand, Sydney: 18-39 Year Age Group,University ofSydney: Ian Buchan Fell Research Centre.
Weaver, W. R. (1921), “A Visit to the Tivoli” (Chicago), Exhibitors’ Herald, Vol.12, April 2, pp.86-91.
Wilson, A. E. (1954), East-End Entertainment,London: Arthur Barker.
Young, W. C. (1973), Documents of American Theater History, Vol. I: Famous American Playhouses, 1716-1899,Chicago: American Library Association.