As we’ve grown fatter, the designs around us have changed in all sorts of subtle ways: Chairs have become wider. Strollers now support heavier kids. Cups and dinner plates have grown to massive proportions–ever notice how small vintage plates and glasses are?
And now a new study conducted by Theater Projects Consultants–who help theaters design their spaces–finds that theaters now spend 30% more on building space than they did in 1990, as a direct result of having to accommodate fatter patrons.
That sounds like a bit of PR sleight-of-hand–after all, couldn’t theaters simply be spending more money, because their in some kind of arms race to outdo each other and attract audiences? But the details are pretty damning.
To wit: Americans have grown 15% heavier between 1960 and 2000. As a direct result, an inch has been added to average theater-seat width since 1990, bringing typical seats up to 22 inches wide.
And that, in turn, has a cascading effect on the buildings that house those seats: With wider rows and fatter furniture, the average theater is now 50% less dense than in 1900; since 1990, the size of auditoriums has grown by 30%, as has the cost to build them.
The mind boggles. Theaters have long been struggling financially; that’s mostly due to declining audiences. But this study, and especially its density findings, also suggests that it’s harder to make money on a theater simply because people are fatter.
And then you wonder: How else is the growing obesity of Americans affecting our ability to design for them?