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  • Jeff Windmeyer

Affordable Solutions for a High End Look: Movie Theater Exterior

In the movie theater world, we create a high-end and custom look while using very common materials and methods of construction. Theaters are just giant boxes, with big, straight, flat exterior walls, making it difficult to create excitement economically.

But we are excited by a challenge. And through our work on theaters, we have come up with some go-to practices to make those boring exterior walls more exciting. Check out these five practical, yet creative options:

First, we use concrete tiltup panels. In other words, we use giant walls of concrete that are poured on the ground and then are lifted up by a giant crane.

We use these walls for structure because they are extremely durable and strong. Also, they are an excellent acoustic system because concrete is dense.

Second, we use foam patterns. When we cast our concrete tilt-up panels on the ground, it gives us the opportunity to put reveals and forms into the casting bed. In other words, we can create a pattern in the concrete. Specifically to B&B, which is our bigger theater client, their image is reminiscent of the ‘50s art deco feel. Back then, a block building would have intricate inlays and reliefs all over the side of the building. By using the concrete tiltup system, we can lay a foam pattern into the poured the concrete, accomplishing the same effect.

Third, we use EIFS, which is Exterior Insulation and Finishing System. With EIFS, we layer foam, then reinforcing mesh, and then a stucco-like finish. The foam is extremely easy to carve. When we're not using concrete, we use EIFS. It is how Disneyland or any of the other theme parks create their structures. It looks like something from a movie. Only we're doing it in an actual commercial environment.

Fourth, we use all sorts of lighting effects. After creating patterns with reveals in our inexpensive building material, we start adding other patterns with lighting. Specifically to B&B, we embed LED ribbon lights into the reveals and wrap them around different elements. It helps make the building look like it’s older with neon lights.

Fifth, we use nicer resources intentionally. It is worth spending a little more in places where people will naturally come into close proximity to the building, for an extended period of time. Nicer resources that are durable and look good. These places could be outdoor patios, bars, or a front entry. We will spend more money for nicer material, workmanship, or whatever is needed in that specific area.

The above systems we use on the exterior create a custom yet inexpensive look. At a movie theater, you're not walking up close to most of it. You simply walk through the front doors, and you see the rest of it from a distance.

The work we get to do creates atmosphere and affects mood. We get to help design the structure and details that draw people in and create an experience that they can come and enjoy over and over. We help create the excitement of going to the movies.

If you are in need of custom yet inexpensive solutions to make boring structures come to life, contact us at 816.599.2350 or We look forward to hearing from you.

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