How to Revive the Fixed Seating in Your Theatre

Evertaut News

14 Mar, 2019

The seats in theatres and cinemas are subject to rigorous wear and tear and will eventually reach the stage of needing an upgrade. Whether you’re responsible for an operational venue, or you’ve taken over an old building with an auditorium that’s been out of use for a while, it’s not always necessary to rip out the old seating and replace it with new. It’s often possible to successfully refurbish even the most worn looking seats and return them to their former glory.

Close up of worn seats in a theatre before refurbishment and auditorium with fixed seating after refurbishment

The chairs in this large theatre were in a very sorry state with threadbare arms and ripped seats but refurbishment made them beautiful again.

Even if you want to create a completely different look and feel in your auditorium you can still do this with your existing seats by choosing a different colour upholstery fabric. The traditional theatre auditorium pictured below was given a striking new look when the original seating was reupholstered in a completely different fabric colour. The original wooden arms were replaced with fully upholstered ones which were padded to improve comfort. New flooring and redecorating of the walls also helped freshen the look whilst retaining the original character of the room.

Curved theatre auditorium with blue fixed seating before reupholstery
Curved theatre auditorium with purple fixed seating after refurbishment
Close up of blue fixed seating in a theatre before refurbishment
Close up of purple fixed seating in a theatre after refurbishment

Why Refurbish?

There are many reasons why you might choose to refurbish your fixed seating rather than replace it. Budget is often a key factor in this decision as it can take years to fundraise for new seats or successfully apply for grants whilst refurbishment is usually a much cheaper option.

Long established theatres may still have the original seats which are in keeping with the heritage of the building. In such cases you may not want to lose the traditional character and style of the auditorium by installing seats with a modern design. If your building is listed, you may not even be permitted to do this and refurbishment may be your only option.

Or it may just simply be that you like the design of your existing seats and don’t want to change them.

Fixed seating in listed building Crucible Theatre following refurbishment

Evertaut refurbished the fixed seating in the world-famous Crucible Theatre which is a grade II listed building. We sourced new yellow fabric, colour matched to the original.

How is Fixed Seating Refurbished?

There are various options when it comes to refurbishment from basic reupholstery to replacement foams, shot-blasting metalwork, and the making of new castings to match the originals where ornate seat frames have been damaged.

It’s important to find a supplier who is experienced in refurbishing fixed seating in your type of venue, and in the case of listed buildings you need someone who understands the complexities of this process and is sensitive to retaining an authentic look.



The quickest way to transform your theatre seats is with reupholstery. If your seat foams are still in good condition a change of fabric may be all that’s needed. Following an assessment of the seats your re-upholsterer will determine whether they can be refurbished on site or if it’s best to take them away. It’s not usually necessary to remove the entire seat, often it’s easier to remove the seats, backs and arms, leaving the metalwork in situ. It will be a quicker process to refurbish all the individual components off site and then return to refit them. This method may also be preferable if you want to do the refurbishment in several stages, if you’re a theatre without any dark time.

2 people looking at fabric swatch books for fixed seating upholstery

With such a wide choice of upholstery fabrics on the market you can transform the look of your fixed seating with a new colour choice or different type of fabric. Your supplier will be able to show you swatch cards of what’s available and you can request larger size samples of any fabrics you like to help you make a decision.

Seat Foams & Arms

If your seats are really old, then it’s likely the foams will have started to sag and covering them with new upholstery will not disguise this. It’s easy to replace the foams as part of the reupholstery process and this will not only enhance the comfort for your audience but ensure your refurbished seats will give many more years of service before they need further attention.

Old theatre seats often have solid wooden arms which whilst robust, are not the most comfortable solution. These can easily be replaced with fully upholstered arms with integral foam pads. If you want to retain the originals then these can be sanded and varnished or painted.

Fixed seating in a small cinema auditorium with wooden back and seat boards
View from rear in small cinema room with fully upholstered fixed seating

Seat & Back Boards

If your existing seats have exposed wooden boards on backs and under seats these can either be sanded and repainted or varnished, replaced with new, or covered to give the seat a fully upholstered finish. Pictured below left, the seats in this small cinema have exposed wooden panels under the seat and on backs whilst the hotel cinema room on the right features fully upholstered seats.

Refurbished theatre seat with ornate metalwork
Refurbished theatre seat with pale blue velvet upholstery


Often a light sand and repaint is all that’s needed to refresh the metalwork as seat frames are generally very robust. For seats with original ornate castings which have been damaged or deteriorated over time, closer attention is required and it’s usually possible to make new castings to replace them.


Consider Refurbishment as an Option

So, whatever the state of your existing seats, if you’re thinking about replacing them, consider refurbishment as an option. If you can’t decide whether it’s the right solution for your venue then talk to your supplier and find out what level of work they would recommend is required. You can also ask them to quote for both new fixed seating and refurbishment so you can compare the costs.

Old unused theatre auditorium with dusty seats and same auditorium shown after full refurbishment of fixed seating

This old theatre had been out of use for many years; the traditional style seats were not only worn but covered in a thick layer of dust. When the building was taken over by another operator, they chose to refurbish rather than replace the seats. Thicker foams improved comfort, metalwork was cleaned and re-painted, reupholstery was done in a similar colour fabric to the original whilst new under-seat boards finished off the smart new look.

Find out more about Fixed Seating Refurbishment

Evertaut has worked on a wide range of refurbishment projects in venues across the UK and is experienced in working in listed buildings. To make an enquiry about seating refurbishment or to discuss an upcoming project, please complete and submit the contact form below.