Abbreviated History of Movie Theater Air Conditioning and Cold Temperatures

Way back in the early 1900’s, before movie theaters had air conditioners, audiences were stuck using hand fans to try to keep cool in packed cinema houses. Then one day a guy named Willis Carrier convinced the owner of Paramount Pictures to install his A/C system in his movie theaters and the Summer blockbuster was born.

Ever since, throngs of excited people have lined up at the box office to cool off in a dark room full of cold air and big pictures.

But now it has become a science that keeps the crowds comfortable because the more pleasurable an experience, the more likely a customer is to return. However, given the costly nature of cooling, and the charge and care taken by corporate bean counters who run theater chains, the means by which to maximize effect while minimizing cost is also extremely important.

So what is the optimal movie theater temperature? According to a 2013 article in the Hollywood Reporter, the AMC chain sets its thermostats for 74 degrees in the summer, and 70 degrees in the winter. These choices reflect the many variables involved with the audience such as what they are likely to be wearing (more clothes in winter, less in the summer).
South Florida may be unique in its subtropical climate, but when it comes to air conditioning, we are probably greater experts than any other state in the country. After all, the refrigeration technology that the whole concept of air conditioning is based on was invented right here in Apalachicola, FL.
Our region is full of movie theaters, and an article in the Sun Sentinel reflects the particular obsession we have with cold air. In it, staff writer Tim Collie notes that “Cinemas seem to be among the coldest places in South Florida.”

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The article also notes that at least one local theater chain likes to set its temps at 73 degrees, which should be just the right degree level for about 80 percent of any given audience. The article was written in 2007, but even then it notes that some companies use  “a computerized system to regulate the temperature in each theater based on the number of tickets sold for each show.”
Obviously, technology has grown substantially even in that short amount of time. So this begs the question of where the industry of movie theater cooling is headed. We know that with services like Netflix and Hulu, more and more people are opting to skip out on the cinema experience all together. This means that every single cent of overhead spent by movie houses is more important than ever.
Companies like Trane, who specialize in the optimum performance of environmentally friendly and efficient cooling told the Hollywood Reporter that their “comfort systems” take into account feedback like advance ticket sales and manager input to base the settings that dictate the operation of their systems. And what it all comes down to is audience volume.

The more people in a room, the more power that needs to be exerted to cool them all, and the more times the door will close and open and change the dynamics of how to do so.

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Clearly, comfort is one of the most important metrics by which to judge the success of any experiential product, and as long as it gets hot in South Florida, movie theaters will be keeping their screenings cold enough to keep everybody happy.

Here at Direct AC, we follow the same ethos for all of our customers, and as Trane specialists we understand the needs for our community’s comfort, but also their savings. If you need professional A/C sales or service, contact us today!

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