As I was leafing through my collection of theatre books–125 or so and counting–I discovered some rather seveel omissions from my last list–which everyone seemed to enjoy. So, without further adieu, here are a few more books deemed worthy to be called “essential” for anyone interested in the history of theatergoing and classical movie theatre architecture.
1. The Shows Starts on the Sidewalk–by Maggie Valentine. Ms. Valentine’s book discusses move theatergoing in the 20’s and 30’s, with particular attention to the theaters of S. Charles Lee–who designed the Tower and Los Angeles theaters in downtown L.A., the demolished Fox Phoenix in, yes, Phoeniz, and my personal favorite of his–the late Fox Florence–a Spanish style theatre reminiscent of the Fox Arlington in Santa Barbara. Although it reads like a graduate thesis, the book hands plenty of very nice pictures and properly chronicles the career of one of the golden age’s principal theatre architects and designer.
2. Shared Pleasures by Douglas Gomery: less a picture book than a history of the movie presentation in the United States. Gomery traces the development of the moviegoing “habit” and places special emphasis on Chicago’s Balaban & Katz chain for their “standardization” of movie house management, which indirectly led to the rise of the Fox, Loew’s and Publix chains. A very interesting read and a MUST book.
3. Lost Broadway Theatres by Nicholas Van Hagstrooten. A gorgeous book focusing on New York City’s Times Square theatre district. A good mixture of photos and history–most endearing for the last photos of the much-mourned Deuce theaters (that’s 42nd Street for those not in the know) prior to their demolition. Very drool-worthy.
4. The Last Remaining Seats by by Robert Berger and Anne Conser. Another gorgeous photo book depicting the theaters on South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Beautiful, wistful photos of now shuttered movie houses that make you wish for things that used to be.
5. American Theatres of Today, Vol 1 and 2. A 1927 history–quite possibly the first–of the theatre up to that date. Forward by S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel (more on him and his namesake theatre in the future) with plenty of photos and floor plans for a wide number of theaters–most of which you will never have heard of before. Obtaining an original copy of this book used to cost a fortune. I own the Vestal Press reprint from the mid-70’s–which was a bit pricey–and there is a newer reprint from the Theatre Historical Society which is much more reasonable if you think this is your cup of tea.