As operators of entertainment venues continue to enhance their offerings to tempt visitors and keep them coming back, independent theatres face increasingly strong competition. With a growing number of entertainment options available both in the home and out, if your facilities start to falter audiences could look for alternative venues or even just choose to stay at home!
If the seats in your theatre auditorium have seen better days you will eventually need to take some action to improve them, for the benefit of your audience and your business. Today’s premium cinemas offer plush sofa style seating whilst luxury recliners are becoming standard features offered by the big brands. With a plethora of other leisure experiences also on offer, it’s more important than ever to ensure your facilities are maintained to the high standards customers now expect.
The auditorium is where audiences will spend most of their time whilst in your theatre, so it goes without saying that the seats need to be comfortable and provide a clear view of the stage. Beyond this basic requirement the look, style and condition of your auditorium seats can have a big impact on the ambience created and how welcoming the auditorium looks.
Threadbare seats, broken arms and worn carpets do not create a good impression and whilst audiences may not see these things once they are engaged in watching a performance, they do negatively impact the overall audience experience.
If you’ve decided it’s time to do something to improve your auditorium seats, where do you start and what’s the best plan of action?
Generally speaking, you have the choice to either refurbish your existing seats or replace them with new ones, but how do you know what’s right for your venue? Here we take a look at the two different options and show you some examples of UK theatres who have taken each of these different paths to give you some insight and help you decide which is best for you.
New auditorium seats are available in traditional and modern styles whilst vintage auditorium seats can be restored to their original grandeur
Replacement Auditorium Seats
The style of your existing auditorium seats is often a determining factor in whether to replace or refurbish and it doesn’t necessarily follow that traditional seats should be replaced and more modern ones refurbished.
When the committee at Formby Little Theatre had funds available to upgrade their auditorium, their 64 seats were over 30 years old, having been in use since the theatre first opened. Unlike the ornate seats found in much older theatres which retain an everlasting style, these seats from the 1980s were neither modern or traditional and the choice to replace them was an easy one.
The foam in the seat and back pads had deteriorated over time, there were no arms to aid comfort and support or delineate personal space and the fabric had become worn in places.
The theatre auditorium underwent a full revamp with a new tiered floor structure, new carpeting and new seats as well as a complete repaint of all the walls and ceiling. The before and after shots below show just what an impact new seats had in this intimate theatre space and feedback from audiences proved what a success the transformation had been. You can read more about this project here.
Audiences at Formby Little Theatre now enjoy a much more comfortable theatre experience thanks to wider auditorium seats with deeply cushioned seats, higher backs and padded arms
New auditorium seats are available in both traditional and modern styles and you can choose from a wide range of different fabrics from basic plain weaves to luxury velvets to help create the style you desire. Whilst red is still the most popular colour for theatre seats you can also differentiate your auditorium by opting for an alternative hue.
These theatres chose something different than the classic red upholstery fabric most commonly found on auditorium seats
Installing new seats also gives you the opportunity to change your seating layout and potentially increase capacity (or in some cases reduce it if your existing seats are very compact). With new seats you can also make better provision for wheelchair users with the inclusion of removable banks of seating (a bank of 3 removable seats can be seen on the front row of the auditorium with purple seats pictured above).
Refurbishing Auditorium Seats
If the seats in your theatre are of a traditional design it often makes sense to refurbish them to maintain the original style in keeping with the heritage of the building. There are many historic theatre buildings still in use across the UK with their original seating still in situ. Even seats over 100 years old can be beautifully restored.
It’s possible to manufacture new castings to match original ornate detailing which may have been damaged, and with new foams, reupholstery and cleaning and painting of metalwork, old auditorium seats can be given a new lease of life.
This theatre building had stood empty for many years, the seats were covered in dust, threadbare and dirty but refurbishment brought them back to their former glory. A thorough clean-up operation, new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint also helped transform the venue for new audiences to enjoy.
The traditional seats in this theatre were looking very dated and worn when its operators decided to commission a full renovation. In addition to the refurbishment of the seat frames and under-seat boards, a completely different colour upholstery fabric was key to making a really noticeable impact.
Refurbishment is not just for vintage auditorium seats
The option of refurbishment is not just applicable to vintage auditorium seats, if you have more modern seats and you’re still happy with the design and style then refurbishment is often a lower cost way to revamp your auditorium.
Depending on the quality of your seats, it’s sometimes possible to keep the original foams and just reupholster them. Where foams have deteriorated or sagged over time they can be replaced with new.
If the seat frames are still in good condition then the seats, backs and arms can be removed for refurbishment, leaving the metalwork in situ. This also reduces costs if the whole seat structure doesn’t need to be removed.
Budgeting for seating
When it comes to replacing or refurbishing your auditorium seats, cost is usually a critical factor in determining when the work can be done. Many theatres undertake fundraising activities and rely on grants and donations to fund such work. There are also specialist companies who provide finance for auditorium seats which is tax deductible against profits so this is always something to consider.
Often there may be a significant number of seats still in good condition whilst others are worn or damaged. In these cases and particularly if you’re working to a tight budget, you could just look at getting the damaged seats repaired or have the refurbishment work carried out in stages as funds allow.
If you’re still unsure what’s the best route to take with your auditorium seats then you can always keep an open mind and look at the costs and implications of both options. For advice and further information, or if you would like a no-obligation quotation for replacement or refurbishment of your auditorium seats, please complete and submit the short form below.