Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Musashino-kan Shinjuku Cinema Theater in Tokyo, Japan by Key Operation, Inc.
July 11th, 2017 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Key Operation, Inc.
Naito Shinjuku was established in 1699 as a stage stop along a major thoroughfare heading out of Edo (old name of Tokyo). Dropping the “Naito,” the district started to be called Shinjuku in 1920, the same year that saw the Musashino-kan Shinjuku emerge on Shinjuku-dori Avenue, which was also home to the Shinjuku Mitsukoshi store. Local merchants opened a 600-seat movie theater in the three-story wooden structure with tiled façades. In 1928, Musashino-kan Shinjuku relocated to its current site, a new cinema with 1,115 seats housed in a three-story concrete building. During the silent movie era, Musei Tokugawa was active as a narrator here. Later, an air raid over Tokyo caused a fire to burn the entire interior of the theater, but the building survived and became a symbol of post-war recovery. Cinema offered entertainment to the populace, and Musashino-kan entered the golden age in an alliance of more than 20 theaters. But the movie-going population peaked in 1958 at 1.1 billion tickets, and rapidly dropped to 1/3 of that patronage by 1965. Amidst a declining industry, the decrepit Musashino-kan was demolished in 1966 and rebuilt. Still standing today, the building initially consisted of a retail and dining complex seven floors aboveground and three floors underground. The first movie theater in this new building had 500 seats on the seventh floor. In 1994, the Cinema Qualite mini-theater opened. The seventh floor was closed in 2002, and the third-floor theater operations changed banners from Cinema Qualite to Musashino-kan Shinjuku. For the improvements made most recently, however, aseismic reinforcement work on the entire building prompted the Musashino-kan Shinjuku on the third floor to undergo a complete renovation.
The existing theater complex across the entire third floor occupied 880 m2 with the larger theater Screen 1 of 133 seats and the smaller theaters Screen 2 and Screen 3 each of 84 seats, and a lobby area between. Since the number and scale of these theaters were to be retained after the renovation, shear walls to withstand earthquakes were installed flush to the exterior walls and for the partitioning walls of the theaters. Pillars were added and reinforced with carbon fiber and steel plate. Adjoining theaters had previously been sectioned with ALC, which caused acoustic leakage. In the renovation the shear walls also served as soundproofing. To eliminate acoustic leakage, concrete walls were poured for partitioning that extended beyond the shear walls.
At the original building completion, retail stores occupied the third floor, which had no movie theater. The floor height was limited to 4,100 mm (in certain portions 4,730 mm), and presented difficulty in establishing an appropriate rise in the initial remodeling of the theater. The recent renovation followed the previous approach by installing the bulk of HVAC ductwork under the lobby floor, and created a ramp from the elevator landing to the lobby floor with an elevation of 430 mm. The theater exploited this elevation to arrange the rise for the seating. The former layout provided standing room at the rear, whose floor was only 430 mm above the lowest part of the theater floor. The new layout installed seating all the way to the rear, and ramped theater access to rise from the lobby floor to the middle of the theater, from which seats to the rear were raised further. This arrangement provided more slope overall than before. For Screen 2 and Screen 3, layouts of the existing seating were grid-lined, and could cause people’s heads to obstruct views of the screen for the audience seated immediately in back. As a remedy, the layouts were modified by offsetting the seat rows. Screen 2 and Screen 3 also had aisles running up the middle of their screens. To secure more seats with the best view, the aisles were moved to the wings for access from either side.
In a world today where even television programming is being eclipsed by streamed programs and movies over the Internet, movie theaters must offer a special experience unavailable elsewhere to maintain turnout. Large cinemas have turned to 3D and 4DX facilities; however Musashino-kan runs art films billed typically at mini-theaters that do not lend themselves to 4DX or extreme production elements. Here, the selective lineup has been frequently matched with detailed exhibits that are more than just illustrated panels. The revival showings of new Nikkatsu soft adult movies, for example, led to the reproduction of the small tatami (straw mat) room, including the futon bedding, which harked back to older titles set in such a room. Moviegoers were invited to tuck themselves into the futon and take their own photos. For a “B” movie about cannibals, the theater staged a spook house themed with cannibals in a jungle. Many moviegoers choose Musashino-kan to especially enjoy the exhibits, aside from the featured presentation.
Patrons typically arrive at a movie theater 15 minutes before the commercials roll on the screen to purchase drinks and brochures in the lobby. Notably, the sizeable exhibits at Musashino-kan invite many patrons to arrive even earlier. Consequently, creation of the new lobby focused on the time spent by patrons before viewing the movie.
After a featured movie ends, sometimes there is additional footage released that talks about how the movie was made. After enjoying the cinematic world of the feature, moviegoers often find the other side of that world also quite interesting, where the struggles of the production staff reveal how the fictional world of the movie was brought to life. A viewer can even feel like part of the crew by viewing the effort on screen.
The Musashino-kan, therefore, aimed to provide a space where cinematic fiction could be experienced both from the front and back. The refreshment counter for purchasing drinks and snacks, the small bookstore, restrooms, and smoking area were finished to look like a movie scene or set. The walls behind each scene, however, were framed plywood, a striking reminder that movie scenes are faked and merely surrounded by imaginary fixtures. The movie exhibits previously placed arbitrarily in an ordinary lobby could now now be installed like movie sets and create an imaginary world cut away from reality.
Musashino-kan Shinjuku has billed countless movie titles to large numbers of moviegoers since 90 years ago. The aseismic retrofitting work on the entire building provided an opportunity for a full renovation.
The three movie theaters utilize the augmented shear walls as partitions, which have improved the acoustic environment tremendously. The seating layout changes and improved seating gradient have made the screens much easier to see than before.
The refreshment counter for purchasing drinks and snacks, small bookstore, restrooms, and smoking area were finished to look like a movie scene or set. The walls behind each scene were framed plywood, a striking reminder that movie scenes are faked and merely surrounded by imaginary fixtures. The ambience is like a movie studio. The famed exhibits tied to the featured movies at Musashino-kan Shinjuku are now installed like movie sets.
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