Friday, March 15, 2019

Witchita Theater -- March 15, 2019

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
Beautiful House Built During War Marks Most Advanced Step in Construction and Equipment — Runs Pictures Exclusively, Although Fully Equipped to Present Dramatic Attractions

THE Peerless Theatre Company has given to Wichita, Kan., one of the prettiest moving picture houses in the west — -with distinctive features that make this enterprise a valuable accession to the country's architecture and industry.

It is a fine example of a building designed exclusively for moving picture exhibitors. Its cost, $150,000, indicates that the owners have "done the thing up right." And the comment of the owners, "We would have been willing to spend another hundred thousand on it," indicates that it pays to go to trouble and expense to surround moving picture presentation with artistic and suitable environment.

It is distinctive moving picture theatre architecture. The keynote of the design, the central idea in the interior arrangement and the most prominent feature, is seen in the clock in the proscenium arch. Every person who visits the theatre notices this clock; columns of articles have been written on it. The clock is not obtrusive. It exactly fits its place in the arch — and because it seems to belong there, the public comments the more enthusiastically.

The Clock and Its Purpose.

And this it is what makes the theatre seem so distinctively a moving picture theatre — the feature that establishes the Wichita theatre as an example of the new architecture. This clock is not put somewhere where it will be seen: it is there because that is the place for it. And all the surroundings harmonize with its settings, the entire interior seems built around the clock.

The Wichita Theatre, built in the summer of 1918— one of the few structures erected in Wichita during the war — was completed in November and opened December 23. It is concrete and steel, with terra cotta exterior; 50 by 140 feet, auditorium 45 feet high, full sized stage, full rigging loft; 1,350 seating capacity. The booth is outside the auditorium; has two Simplex machines ; is fully plumbed. Fire exits have concrete stairways.

There is a row of boxes level with the balcony, extending to the stage. The interior is Italian renaissance; walls, plastered, painted buff and gray, with quiet ornamentation of floral cartouches, the decoration producing a silk damask, effect.

Everything in Harmony.

The ornamentation is, also, distinctively "moving picture theatre effect." There are no such striking figures or pictures as will in themselves attract attention; but an atmosphere of artistic quality, carried out in every item, from the silk plush curtain of old blue and old rose with gold arabesque designs, to the metallic-pedestal candelabra with their church effect, and the gold-lettered "W" on the end of each seat-row.

Indirect lighting is through colored glass windows in the ceiling. On the end of each seat-row is a hidden light illuminating the Wilton-velvet carpets on the steps. The visitor meets one feature after another — nothing so radical as to be peculiar, but all exactly harmonious and satisfying, from the time he enters through the marble foyer. Domestic marble, because of the war — perhaps fortunate, for it is beautiful marble.

There is one novelty — goldfish swimming in the globes of the inverted lights of the foyer, which nobody forgets.

Wichita calls herself the "Peerless Princess of the Plains." And this new Wichita theatre is indeed a gem in her diadem! Its exterior is as distinctive as its interior — but more striking, for it is set in the midst of buildings of conventional, or modern business block architecture.

The exterior front is finished in terra cotta, Spanish Mission style, with red terra cotta gables, terra cotta facings, with windows that inspire thoughts of romance. At night, spot lights from across the street illuminate the front. There are no lights on the building itself to distract attention.

Perfection in Ventilation.

The ventilating system of the new theatre, while not peculiarly adapted to moving picture houses, finds its best use in such a house. Air is received from forty feet above street level, is washed by passing through sprays, goes into a heating chamber in winter where it passes over coils, and is distributed throughout the house, chiefly through mushroom ventilators under alternate seats. Foul air is drawn out through exhausts near the floor, and also through ventilators in the ceiling. The fans driving air into the auditorium and the exhaust fans, change the air every 10 minutes.

There is a lounging room on the second floor; from which small retiring rooms are open, for men and for women. There is no large smoking room — but men are allowed to smoke in the upper balcony, during performances. The manager's office opens from the lounging room. The chairs, made on original specifications, are most comfortable when one is sitting erect.

Straight Picture Programs.

All the fixtures, indeed every item in the building except the projecting machines, were made on special designs, developed by the officers of the company and Carl Boiler, the architect. The theatre has several sets of scenery; the screen is adjustable and can be moved about the stage.

The Wichita Theatre runs pictures only — seven reels, changing Monday and Thursday; occasional short features, occasional news reels, but no definite program. It holds itself open for seven-reel pictures, when such appeal. It emphasizes its music, a twelve-piece orchestra playing matinee and night.

The orchestra leader, Milo Finley, was formerly leader of the Shubert Theatre orchestra in Kansas City; his assistants are high class. For relief, violin, cello and piano are used. Concerts are to be given every Wednesday evening, between the first and second shows, lasting forty minutes.

The Wichita Theatre is owned by the Peerless Theatre Company, organized by J. H. Cooper. W. D. Jochems, of Wichita, an attorney, is president of the company, Mr. Cooper, vice-president; C. C. McCollister, secretary-treasurer and manager. Mr. McCollister formerly owned the Star, which is now owned by the Peerless company, and he continues to manage the Star with the Wichita. The Wichita Theatre has twenty-six employes. Its prices are 15 cents matinee, 20 cents night. It is full most of the time.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919

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