The Show Starts on the Sidewalk: An Architectural History of the Movie Theatre, Starring S. Charles Lee

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9780300055276: The Show Starts on the Sidewalk: An Architectural History of the Movie Theatre, Starring S. Charles Lee
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From the 1890 penny arcades and the opulence and ornate movie houses of the 1920s and 1930s to the drive-in theatres of the 1950s and the multiplex cinemas of today, movie theatres have provided an environment where millions of Americans learned about life, culture, politics, romance, and sex. This book - as entertaining and lively as its subject - documents the history of the American movie theatre, tracing its evolution and exploring its role in American culture and architecture.
Maggie Valentine focuses on the career of architect S. Charles Lee, who designed more than three hundred theatres between 1920 and 1950, mostly in California, and whose buildings became prototypes for movie theatres all over the country. She vividly re-creates the sights and sounds of Lee's theatres, with their huge interiors, crystal chandeliers, Art Deco motifs, and majestic organ music. She describes the colorful terrazzo patterns that set off the theatre entrance and the marquee that formed a canopy over it, design elements exploited by Lee, who insisted that the sidewalk, indeed, was where the show started. Valentine discusses how glamorous motion picture theatres helped define and vary the skyline of America, changing the shape of commercial streets in cities and towns. Examining theatres as products and symbols of their time, she presents with dramatic flair both how they influenced and were influenced by architectural trends and the economic, social, and political forces of the era.
The book, richly illustrated with period photographs, will be mandatory reading for anyone who has ever reveled, popcorn in hand, in the luxury of an old-time motion picture theatre.

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About the Author:

Maggie Valentine is assistant professor of architecture and interior design at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

From Library Journal:

S. Charles Lee designed more than 300 movie theaters between 1920 and 1950, mostly in California. Over his long career, he incorporated architectural elements from Beaux Art, Spanish Baroque, Art Deco, Streamlined Moderne, and almost any other strong design theme that he thought would please clients and draw audiences. Valentine has done a good job of setting the cultural tableaux of Lee's world. With ample illustrations, she limns Lee's four decades of building bold, sometimes outlandish movie houses and honors him for making monuments where the fantasy world of film was at home. The book is strongest when Valentine describes the importance of Moderne design: sleek yet powerful, optimistic in hard times and, best of all, providing great impact on a low budget. A valuable, though specialized, addition to a growing body of work on American movie houses; recommended for libraries with large architecture collections and libraries in California, where Lee's theaters are still a presence.
David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., Ct.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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