Classic Cinemas is a family-owned business, founded in 1978 and based in Downers Grove, Illinois. Today the Johnson family operates 15 locations and 130 screens. Many of those locations were acquired by Classic Cinemas in a state of disrepair and were meticulously restored to their original splendor while updating to the latest technology. The family belongs to several preservation societies, including the Theatre Historical Society. The company received the Landmark Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Stewardship in 2011. Their newest location, the Meadowview in Kankakee, Illinois, is a newly expanded seven screen movie theatre with luxury heated recliner seats, 7.1 surround sound, and 4K digital projection. The Meadowview expansion was supervised by TK Architects International, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. I recently spoke via email with TKA principal Theresa English about the challenges of renovating an older cinema. Here is our conversation:
TK Architects International
As the motion picture business slowly but surely rebounds from the worst of the pandemic, there are signs that many exhibitors are rethinking the design and configuration of their theatres. Should they permanently remove some seats in case pandemics prove to be a recurring event? Should they tailor some auditoriums for games or eSports or other specialized content? New-builds and renovations often present different challenges but they all have one thing in common: seats. To understand the current state of seats and cinema design I recently spoke by email with Theresa English, principal at TK Architects International. The company has designed hundreds of cinemas and this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary in business. For English, any conversation about cinema design starts long before the house lights are dimmed, or the first movie ticket is sold. “The focus,” she says, “is on the patron and the seat.”
Resiliency is not a new term for the cinema industry. The industry has faced adversity in the past but economically has always survived. Cinemas are no longer just a place to go and watch a movie. They are entertainment destinations catering to increasingly diverse patron expectations.