Vintage Cinema Chair, 1890s, Designer unknown, various (1890s to 1960s)

Why the Cinema Chair matters

As the Oscars approach we take a look at how feature films spurred the production of comfier seating

Celluloid, folding seats and industrially bent plywood were all inventions of the second industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th century - an era marked by immense change that also delivered the internal combustion engine and the telephone network.

And, while early modern movie-goers enjoyed the visual properties celluloid film offered, they also, less consciously, appreciated the ergonomic, comforting curves of mechanised, moulded ply, as our new book, Chair: 500 Designs that Matter, explains.

"Vintage cinema seats date from as far back as the end of the nineteenth century, and were often made out of moulded plywood on cast-iron frames, with optional upholstery ranging from velour to leather, which was filled with cotton- and coconut-fibre batting," the editors of the book reveal.


Chair: 500 Designs that Matter
Chair: 500 Designs that Matter

While you'd balk at a cinema offering such basic seating today, you can't help but wonder if those cheap-to-produce, relatively comfortable seats had not existed during the 20s and 30s whether feature films would have found so willing and patient an audience. One thing's for sure they're certainly enjoying a second life among well-heeled hipsters wanting a little velour clad retro-romance for their living space. For more on this and 499 other seating options get a copy of Chair: 500 Designs that Matter.