The Show Starts on the Sidewalk by Professor Maggie Valentine
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.

About Professor Maggie Valentine

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Maggie Valentine is assistant professor of architecture and interior design at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Published May 25, 1994 by Yale University Press. 288 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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