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Art Deco cinemas celebrated by an artist's vision in paint.,
This review is from: Popcorn Palaces: The Art Deco Movie Theater Paintings of Davis Cone (Hardcover)
Most people who appreciate the architecture of movie theatres are focused on the fantasy or opulence that the auditorium provides, but here a skilled artist helps us appreciate the facades of some 80 Art Deco styled cinemas across America by means of extraordinarily detailed images in paint. It is always a pleasure to welcome an artistic achievement to the body of work in this subject, and this handsome volume produced in the long format (11 inches long by 9 inches high by one half inch thick) and printed in wonderful color on satin-coated paper stock, with color photos on both film-laminated hard covers, will be a welcome addition to most libraries. Even the end papers and chapter heads are dyed a happy yellow to set the tone of the book. Unlike "Silent Screens" which is in the same format, "Popcorn Palaces ..." is nostalgic without being depressing, even though the writers make clear that many of the subjects have passed away and continue to do so. In that sense, this too is a `necrology' of sorts. It is completed with a detailed Index and Bibliographies of the artist and his art, as well as theatres.
Within the 144 pages the authors, Messrs. Kinerk and Wilhelm, succeed in giving a good history of the rise of these theatres and also a story of how the talented artist Davis Cone found his subjects and brought them to life. Unlike "Silent Screens" and other efforts, this publisher selected experts in theatre history and architecture (one of them a member of the Theatre Historical Society of America) to create an authoritative and factual text to frame the pages of artwork.
To be sure, the book is really about the artist, Mr. Cone, and his `photo-realistic' style and achievements; so the book is not primarily about the theatres, yet it does usually list the name, date of construction, address, architect and the date of the painting of most of the theatres. This thoroughness does give the book an historic value, even though most of the theatres are not individually profiled apart from those facts. It is not a `theatres book,' but a book about paintings, which happen to be of theatres and the remarkable artistry and foresight of one man: Mr. Cone. As the authors bring out, however, the subject was not a whim, but an integral part of the artist's life and sympathies.
Within five chapters the authors cover the artist, the era, the style, the technique, and the "Epilogue - Curtain Call," for the era which created these charming examples of Americana has passed. If we confine ourselves to only examples of the Art Deco style, one could find no better mirror to the past of such cinemas. Perhaps in future Mr. Cone will stretch to also record those non-Art Deco theatres in larger cities. The only criticism an architectural historian might make is that there is no exposition of the interiors of these mostly smaller, neighborhood show houses, but then it must be admitted that few of them had really notable interiors, and getting permission to photograph interiors can be very difficult as the photographers of "The Last Remaining Seats" have disclosed in an article about that book. These paintings are not of the `palaces' of the big cities, but these fantastically detailed paintings do capture the significance of the facades and their marquees to the smaller urban landscapes.
For those who want more history plus the artistry of architectural interiors, there are other books (all here at Amazon) such as: "The Best Remaining Seats ..."; "American Picture Palaces"; "Great American Movie Theatres"; and "American Theatres of Today" among others. Each of these captures in photos the wonderful era of such fanciful designs, but none of them feature the "Hyperrealistic" stylings of masters such as Mr. Cone. May his paintings inspire the saving and restoration of many of these examples of our theatres heritage, for then I believe that the artist will be truly rewarded for his work.