The Theaters of S. Charles Lee
The movie theater is an eminently modern building type, invented only after the birth of the film industry around 1900. By the 1920s, as the public’s appetite for feature-length movie entertainment reached a fever pitch, the demand for venues designed for film screenings skyrocketed, and with it the search for architecture that expressed the excitement and imagination of this new medium.
S. Charles Lee (1899–1990) was one of the most prolific architects of movie theaters in North America, designing more than four hundred of them between 1920 and 1950, mostly in California and Mexico. A Chicago native, Lee was a master at creating dramatic, flashy, sleek façades and interiors for theaters, many of which are still in use as movie palaces. One notable exception is the Miami Theatre of 1946–47, Lee’s only work in South Florida, which no longer exists. The presentation drawings in this exhibition, selected from The Wolfsonian’s collection, represent some of the highlights of his work.