Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Broadway's Newest Photoplayhouse -- January 16, 2018

Moving Picture World, 05-January-1918
I have never seen the word "photoplayhouse" before.  Samuel Rothafel (changed from Rothapfel during the war to sound less German), known as "Roxy" owned and operated several theaters in New York.  The Roxy was his most famous.  The Rialto was torn down in 2002.  

Rivoli Opens to Public December 27 Description of Great Photoplay House Erected by Sol. Rothapfel
Last Word in Motion Picture Palaces

ON Thursday evening, December 27, the eyes of the amusement community will center with uncommonly keen interest at Broadway and Forty-ninth street, where the Rivoli, the latest and greatest of picture play theaters, will open in all its stately splendor and make its first bid for popular approval. The building of this superb structure proves beyond need for further discussion that the motion picture, artistically presented in conjunction with a program of high-class music, has become the most popular form of entertainment now being offered to the American public. In other words the Rivoli marks the triumph of what has come to be known as "the Rothapfel idea," for it goes almost without saying that S. L. Rothapfel, originator of that type of amusement associated with his name, will direct the destinies of the new institution.

As thousands of people who have noticed the classic façade of the Rivoli are already aware, it is with one exception the most imposing theatrical edifice in the city. Its Grecian purity of line, its towering columns, the finely modeled figures in the triangular pediment -- these and the gleaming, marble-like whiteness of it all assuredly give promise of something surpassingly beautiful within. Those who have seen the interior know that this promise will be more than fulfilled. To say that the general scheme of decoration is Italian Renaissance, that the dominant colors will be dull gold, ivory and black, that the carpet will be gray and the seats upholstered in tapestry conveys but an indifferent idea of what the architect and the decorator have accomplished. There always remains to be considered the enchantment which Mr. Rothapfel can weave over the place with his flexible system of illumination in color.

This method of handling color through a system of indirect lighting permits of effects in the Rivoli which are beyond the imagining of those who have not seen them. At the Rialto Mr. Rothapfel first essayed this particular form of wizardry, with results that were amazing, to say the least, but the lighting plant there was in a measure experimental. It was installed in a theater which was rebuilt as a motion picture house before the artistic value of Mr. Rothapfel's ideas on lighting had been demonstrated. Profiting by the popularity of the "color symphonies" for which the Rialto has become famous, the builders of the Rivoli took into consideration that feature from the outset, with the result that the place is equipped from floor to dome with all the wiring, the masked lamps, and other ingeniously concealed sources of light requisite to flood the auditorium with any color or combination of color desired.

Another and in this case an entirely novel feature of the Rivoli will be the introduction of perfume to supplement the appeal made to the other senses. Several thousand dollars have been expended on a newly devised compressor plant which operates in connection with an intricate system of atomizers and by means of which any delicate odor desired can be wafted instantly to all parts of the house; incense for oriental scenes, clover and new mown hay when the stage setting reveals a country landscape at dusk, a myriad variety of floral scents if a garden is to be suggested, and any other blending of odors so long as they be aesthetically possible and have a definite suggestive value.

In the way of stage setting and scenic effects, Mr. Rothapfel will have far greater scope for his ingenuity than he has had heretofore. For the opening of the theater the stage setting will be known as "The Conservatory of Jewels," a masterful creation from the Lee Lash Studios which promises to make even blasé Broadway open its eyes. It will consist of a dome within a dome, each studded with huge crystal gems after the manner of the celebrated Tower of Jewels at the Panama Pacific Exposition. These will flash with kaleidoscopic effect when the light plays upon them from in front and will glow softly in their several colors when another set of lights is brought into play behind them. The base of the inner dome will be incrusted with a fine jeweled mosaic, and at the rear of the scene the eye will be led away in perspective down a magnificent avenue of palms. The brightest jewel of all, of course, will be the screen, and this will be arranged so that it fits in as a component part of the stage picture. There will be two sets of curtains, a screen curtain and a tableau curtain, thus adding another innovation to houses of this character.

Pageant for Opening Week. 

The entertainment in the "Conservatory of Jewels" will be an elaborate variation of the combined program of music and motion pictures on which Mr. Rothapfel founded his reputation. For the opening week the introductory number will be a modified pageant which has been styled "The Victory of Democracy." This will enlist the services of Forrest Robinson, the actor, and Mary Lawton, dramatic reader, together with the full orchestra, a chorus of thirty voices, and a boy soprano. The verses for the spectacle have been prepared by Charles Keeler, of the Bohemian Club, San Francisco, in collaboration with Professor Brian Hooker, of Columbia University, widely known as an authority on history. The musical score is the result of collaboration on the part of Mr. Rothapfel and Hugo Riesenfeld, his musical director. Without disclosing too much concerning this number it may be said that it traces the progress of democracy in this country from the time the Pilgrim Fathers landed until the United States entered the present war to make the world safe for the principles on which the nation is founded.

The remainder of the program will be made up of selected soloists, film novelties of every sort, orchestral numbers, and a miniature ballet, each presented in a manner quite different from anything of the sort which has been attempted heretofore.

The feature picture which will comprise the second half of the Rivoli program during the opening week will be Douglas Fairbanks' latest Artcraft production, "Modern Musketeer." Fairbanks was the feature of the opening week at the Rialto; he was the chief attraction again on the Rialto's first anniversary bill last April, and now his latest comedy-drama has been chosen to open the Rivoli.

So far as music is concerned, interest in the new theater centers largely around the orchestra. Mr. Rothapfel announces that it will consist of approximately fifty musicians, under the general direction of Hugo Riesenfeld, though except on special occasions Dr. Riesenfeld will continue to conduct at the Rialto. Unusual interest has been stimulated by the announcement that once each week the orchestras of the Rivoli and the Rialto will be combined in what is to be known as the Rothapfel Symphony Orchestra, of a hundred or more pieces, which will render a popular symphony concert in the new theater.

The grand pipe organ at the Rivoli is the largest and most complete ever installed in any theater in the world. It was built by the Austin Organ Company, of Hartford. It is equipped with every attachment known to the organ builder's art and will supply adequate musical atmosphere for those performances at which the orchestra is not present.

Mr. Rothapfel has selected the following musicians to serve as his musical staff for the Rivoli and the Rialto: Hugo Riesenfeld, director in charge; Erno Rapee, Nat W. Finston and George Rubinstein, conductors; Arthur Depew, Uda Waldrop, Dr. A. G. Robyn and Professor Firmin Swinnen, organists; William Humiston and Edward Falck, composition and arrangements; M. Borodkin, librarian; Alfred Saenger, assistant librarian.

Eight Columns Striking Feature of Facade.

From an architectural point of view the Rivoli offers a number of novel features which will be of interest to theater builders and to the playgoing public in general. Viewed from Broadway it suggests an art museum or public library rather than a theater. The façade is constructed of an extremely light-colored stone, so light that when illuminated at night by the indirect lighting system which is to be employed it will have the effect of white marble. There will be no electric signs on the building above those used on the marquee to announce current attractions. Searchlights and arcs will be disposed in such a way as to throw the severe outlines of the building into bold relief.

The most striking feature of the façade is its row of eight towering Doric columns. These extend from a point above the level of the marquee clear up to the entablature, with nothing to relieve their severity save the leaded glass windows set into the wall behind them. Crowning the entire façade is the broad triangular pediment, adorned with sculptured figures in deep has relief. These figures are symbolical of music and the arts in general, as befits the nature of the entertainment offered within.
There is an Egyptian note in the slanting lines which frame the main entrance to the theater, but otherwise the scheme is pure Grecian. Credit for the architecture of the building goes to Thomas W. Lamb.

Coming to the interior construction of the Rivoli, the most novel and interesting feature is found in the elaborate precautions which have been taken to insure the expeditious handling of large crowds. Taking advantage of the fact that the building extends through the block from Broadway to Seventh avenue, the architect designed a series of superimposed passageways of generous width which parallel the auditorium on both sides and run straight through the structure from front to rear. Not only are the orchestra and mezzanine floors cared for in this manner but each cross aisle of the balcony has its own corridor as well, so that patrons in any part of the house will find themselves but a few steps from a doorway at which they can turn either to right or to left and pass directly to the street most convenient to them, without interference from incoming crowds.

This system of entrances and exits bears a marked resemblance to the one used in emptying the Coliseum at Rome of its eighty thousand occupants during the days of the gladiators, a process which historians say could be accomplished in from fifteen to twenty minutes.

Seating Capacity 2,500 Persons.

The whole structure is built with similar ideas of spaciousness. The lobby will hold three hundred people comfortably; the foyer is wide enough to give easy access to the orchestra seats; there will be an extensive promenade on the mezzanine, flanked by capacious lounging, smoking, and retiring rooms; and the auditorium itself will seat approximately 2,500 persons.

As an instance of the advanced ideas in theater equipment which have been embodied at the Rivoli it is worth noting that one room off the first mezzanine has been lined in white tile and fully equipped as an emergency hospital.

The Rivoli is extraordinarily well equipped with facilities for its musicians, its individual artists, its ushers, and its general staff. The musicians have a large lounging room to themselves, with locker room and shower baths adjoining. The dressing rooms have showers and there is another lounging room for the soloists and other individuals on the program. The ushers and the stage crew are cared for in like fashion, each in a separate portion of the building, so that no member of the huge organization will have the slightest excuse for being in any part of the theater where he does not belong. There is a communicating tunnel in the cellar which leads from the front of the house to that portion known as "back stage," thus permitting instant access from either end to the other without the necessity of passing through the auditorium or going out of doors.

The executive offices will be on the second mezzanine, at the front of the theater, excepting the office of the manager, which will be just off the orchestra floor.

Mr. Rothapfel's executive staff will' consist of the following: Hugo Riesenfeld, musical director; C. C. Stewart, manager; Hamish McLaurin; director of publicity; Edwin Mocsary, treasurer; Joseph La Rose, master of effects; Charles C. Reis, superintendent; Lester Bowen, chief operator; George Larbig, chief electrician, and Edward M. Berry, in command of ushers.

For those whose inclination runs toward figures it may be stated that the theater is 100 feet wide by an average depth of 138, and is 70 feet from the sidewalk to the peak of the pediment. It cost in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to construct and the job was completed in six months almost to the day. This is close to a record on this sort of construction.

In booking pictures for both the theaters Mr. Rothapfel will adhere to the open market system. His feature pictures will be the products of no one concern and his sole aim will be to get the best photodramatic production available for each house each week. The entertainment he will provide will be entirely institutional in any event, and it will be a case of going to the Rivoli to see the show -- not going to see a certain picture at the Rivoli.

With reference to giving the patron his money's worth, an idea of the sort of show Rothapfel has in mind for the Rivoli may be gleaned from the fact that the regular price of loge seats there will be $1. Prices for the other parts of the house will range from 30 to 60 cents, as at the Rialto, but for the first time in the history of motion picture presentation, an effort will be made to provide an entertainment of such superior quality that a dollar will be considered a reasonable price for the choice seats.

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