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Auditorium Upholstery Woes

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by tdtastic, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. tdtastic

    tdtastic Active Member

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    Occupation:
    Technical Director/ Designer
    Location:
    Alabama
    This one's for my facilities folk:

    So your theatre has had butts in the seats for twenty years and the seats are starting to show it. Rips and tears, people. I'm talking rips and tears. Now, it's not quite time to start thinking about re-upholstering the whole damn auditorium just yet. And god knows the powers at be won't even CONSIDER the expense of that....having still not fixed the leaking stagehouse roof. And we certainly can't have each chair being a different color - if you were to recover each seat as they rip open.

    So what do you do in the meantime?!? Looking for ideas/ advice on how you've dealt with this issue, if that's ever been your headache. Patches? Slipcover? Replace them with metal folding chairs? Make patrons bring their own dam chair? How have YOU dealt with that half dozen seats that have seen better days.

    There is only a small number of companies that will come and recover an an entire auditorium -- and it costs a crap ton of money.....
     
  2. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Theatre Consultant
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    Oak Park, IL (708)983-5792
    I have simply observed that most institutions - high schools in particular - simple replace the entire chair. It's not like the paint is not chipped, the plastic or wood not marred, and so on. And restoring a chair generally costs as much as new, or more, and only worth it of there is some particular historical and/or design reason to keep it.

    Sorry - no solutions. I see tape used to patch tears, not a solution I want to recommend. Perhaps it does have the effect of motivating the powers that be that the chairs need to be replaced and better start budgeting for that.
     
  3. seanandkate

    seanandkate Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Occupation:
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    How hard would it be to remove the objectionable ones and swap them out for seats that are rarely sold / used? Or are they in grouped units that would make that impractical?
     
    JohnD likes this.
  4. techieman33

    techieman33 Well-Known Member

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    We have plenty of spares, so I just pull the ripped/stianed fabric off, and put the new fabric on. Can your seat manufacturer provide you with matching material?
     
    RonHebbard likes this.
  5. NickVon

    NickVon Well-Known Member

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    To piggy back on @seanandkate We have a number of extra chairs in our basement, that as chairs and seats have broken/or upholstery been badly damaged, I swap out components as needed. Might check in the deep recesses of your space to see if that's the case for you? This of course can only go on for so long. Most seating is modular though so If you know you have 15 bad seats through out the house get 15, reupholstered and move the "refurbished seating to edges or back rows so you primary seating isnt' dotted with different colored fabrics.

    In a situation like this I would look for a complementary new color, rather then trying to actually match to the same color/shade of blue or red.
     
  6. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Don't overlook that in most installations there are 2 or 3 different width backs and seats, and different pieces to get in between sizes. Between the standards they are not all the same. Different manufacturers do it differently but most make 19 to 23 inch seats - usually 3 molds or dies and two hinges and backwings to achieve 6 widths.
     
    JohnD likes this.
  7. tdtastic

    tdtastic Active Member

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    Occupation:
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    yes, all of our seating is in sections of multiple chairs and of varying widths. Replacing even just one of them would not be an option, as the company that manufactured and installed them is no longer in business.....cause, of course not. has anyone ever explored an adhesive fabric patch type idea?
     
  8. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    May I ask who the manufacturer was? Some chairs deserve keeping and restoring, others don't. You indicated you were put off by the cost to have them all reupholstered. I'm curios what kind of estimates you were getting. A full restoration - if warranted - which usually means removing, completely restoring, and reinstalling ought to be in the 100-150 per chair range. I have heard of folks that come in and do it in place for much less, but have not heard positive comments.

    I thought about iron on patches and such but I am leery to believe they will wear well at all. Maybe that's the way to get someone's attention that a more serious project is required.

    I have a kind of philosophy about allocating budget for various parts of a building - and generally don't cheapen things people come in contact with - seats, door hardware, toilets, and such. For the non-theatre person, the powers that be and such, a good quality comfortable seat in a painted cement block room is I find more tolerable than an uncomfortable seat in a wood panels room. Toilets speak for themselves.
     
  9. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Although time intensive, a theatre that I worked at had this issue as well. Especially because every show didn't sell out and even more so - the location of the tech table, there were seats and rows that wore far faster than others.
    So although time intensive, a couple techs took a seating plot from the ticket office, found the 3 sizes of chairs and made 3 jigs to measure with. Then went through the entire 785 seat theatre and wrote if the seat was size A, B or C on the seating plot.
    From there it was easy for them to slowly move the worst worn of the A, B and Cs into the back row of the balcony.
    Then they took one of the (removable) handicap seats and brought the seat to the costumer. She figured out how they installed the fabric and did a test. Then after making a jig for the 3 chair sizes, cut out a bunch of fabric to keep at hand.

    Even though there were tons of seats in the theatre, they did every other row with new fabric and it gave them 4 more years until the scheduled carpet and seating grant came through. So 2 guys and 2 hours to do 8 seats isn't efficient, but the fabric fit into the costumer's budget and sidework was part of the tech's normal 40 hours. The fresnels were just a little extra dusty that summer.
     
    TimMc, tdtastic and RonHebbard like this.

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