How can I find/build cup holders for vintage theater chairs?
August 19, 2005 10:25 AM   Subscribe

We just installed 75 amazingly cool, original condition, low-back, heavy-duty aluminum chairs in our theater... the only problem is, they don't have cup holders!

To further compound the issue, the chairs are located over a refinished terrazzo floor and the majority of our beverages will be served in either a glass bottle (beer and soda) or a somewhat sturdy glass (wine). Terrazzo and glass don't mix, obviously, so I need to figure out a way to retrofit the chairs with some cool cup holders.

Unfortunately, the chairs don't bare a manufacturer's label, so I can't go down that route. I've searched through our cinema buyer's guides, but they only list one cup holder vendor, and their website doesn't seem to want to display their products. My Google-fu is also coming up empty handed.

So, what should I do? Build my own cup holders? How would one even go about doing that? Should I just build a prototype, cast it with silicone, and start churning out plastic cup holders (like they do in Make magazine)? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
posted by bjork24 to Media & Arts (22 answers total)
A digital photo of the arm of these chairs might help get some ideas flowing.

Additionally, and alternatively, I've been in many "beer theaters" that don't have cup holders but do have a long foot-deep table installed between each row of chairs. Of course this limits the number of seats, but allows for a more pleasant place to put your pitcher or slice of pizza than on the floor.
posted by pwb503 at 10:32 AM on August 19, 2005

I like the table idea too. Alternatively, maybe automotive- or boating-oriented cup holders will work somehow, but I can't think of specific kinds without some idea of what the chairs are like!

I should also mention in case it wasn't obvious: Movie theaters of the vintage of those chairs didn't have cup holders, so the original manufacturer probably won't be able to supply "replacements". You put your popcorn between your knees and your drink on the floor when you weren't holding onto it, and those drinks on the floor were why movie theatres were infamous for having sticky floors.
posted by mendel at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2005

Response by poster: Here are a couple pictures of the chair. Now that they're installed, another option would be to place the cup holder between two seats on the back side. So if you're sitting in a row, the cup holder would be on the back of the chair in front of you. Of course, the front row would be out of luck...

I like the idea of the short ridge table in front of the seats (ala Alamo Drafthouse in Austin), but we don't have the room, or auditorium slope, for that.
posted by bjork24 at 10:47 AM on August 19, 2005

How about something you hand out with the drinks/food that is like a drive-in tray that hangs on to the chair in front? When you are done you could just take it off.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2005

Wait, you want to put cupholders on these? Sacrilege! Are you sure your customers won't understand that a vintage movie theatre just doesn't have them?

But yeah, it'll have to go on the row in front if you really need them. The armrests are too short to be usable when terminated by a cup. The front row has a lot easier access to the floor. (Also, if the wine is served in stemware, be sure to see if cupholders are useful at all for stemware! I know boat ones sure aren't.)
posted by mendel at 10:57 AM on August 19, 2005

Response by poster: I know, I know... I hate to mar the vintage elegance of the chairs by tacking on a plastic cup holder, but glass breakage is a serious concern, and liability, that modern theaters can't ignore. Maybe a lap tray would suffice... ?
posted by bjork24 at 11:01 AM on August 19, 2005

Happ Controls is a supplier for arcades, they sell a cup holder designed to be screwed onto just about anything. You might be able to fit it to your chairs somehow, possibly with a metal "L" bracket.
posted by bondcliff at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2005

Hooking them onto the backs of the armrest in front sounds like the way to go (unless you are in the front row, in which case you're hating life anyhow). I can imagine something simple made out of strips of galvanized sheetmetal or aluminum and some rivets (you could then dip these in tool-dip if necessary). You could have a cupholder-making party with some friends and probably knock out a couple hundred in a day.

I'm vaguely reminded of the seats in lecture halls when I was in college. Those had flip-away micro-desks. Probably too late to consider something like that, but if they were available as an add-on for the seats your using, that'd be a thought.
posted by adamrice at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2005

Ooh! I know, to amend my earlier drive-in tray idea, you could mount a bracket on a tray and have it slide into a slot you build on the back of each seat. That way there is no spilling down anyone's back.

The front row could just have a table.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2005

Maybe these these or these or these will inspire some ideas...
posted by jeanmari at 11:28 AM on August 19, 2005

I'm very excited about this....!
posted by sourwookie at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2005

I think you could design a cupholder to be fabricated out of aluminum which you could attach to the front of the arm. It could either screw into the front of the arm or it could get fastened between the arm and the aluminum bracket the arm sits on.

I would try to design something that could be lasercut from a flat piece of aluminum, and then folded or formed into shape. Maybe the aluminum could be bead blast finished to give it a soft satin look to match the design of the chair.

email for more info, as I am a product designer and could help you this. (email in sig)
posted by alball at 11:49 AM on August 19, 2005

maybe something like this . Find a local shop to do some custom wirebending (which should not be prohibitively expensive in my limited experience). 75 o-rings, 150 (fairly strong) magnets, and you would have a non-marring, removeable holder that could handle evrything from a wineglass to a pint-glass to a beer bottle. In addition, the holder would not extend beyond the seat cushion, so no accidental spillage from people tring to move past each other... Just a thought.
posted by Chrischris at 11:53 AM on August 19, 2005

if glass breakage is a concern, could you serve the beverages in something that isn't glass?
posted by clarahamster at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2005

If the beverage holder is attached to the back of the chair in front, won't hair/coat collars/etc get in it?

I'd go with clarahamster's non-glass solution.
posted by tizzie at 1:23 PM on August 19, 2005

A custom made plastic or aluminum thing that goes on the arm really sounds good to me. Aluminum sounds best, it would be most clearly a mere addition and wouldn't disturb the original design.
posted by abcde at 1:52 PM on August 19, 2005

Are those seats big enough to accommodate the growing, ahem...assets, of today's obese American?
posted by camworld at 2:44 PM on August 19, 2005

chrischris, the magnets wouldn't work if the chairs legs are aluminum. Otherwise, awesome idea. I guess they could be bolted on.
posted by zsazsa at 3:20 PM on August 19, 2005

You could have some sort of clamp type thing like this.

We use them at my work to attach gear to I-beams. Then just screw a cup holder into it.
posted by jackofsaxons at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2005

What about messing with the seat layout? I don't know how authentic you want it to look, but it looks like you have quite a big room for 75 seats, so why not put a small side table in line with them... Two seats one table two seats one table.

To save money it doesn't have to be a table of course, just a 12" wide x18" deep board fastened to the seats on either side with a clip, perhaps like the one jackofsaxons linked to...
posted by Chuckles at 4:12 PM on August 19, 2005

Okay, maybe the room isn't that big, I can't really tell... Still, I would feel pretty good about having a bottle of beer on a side table beside me. Elbows might wreak havoc on stemware though...
posted by Chuckles at 4:19 PM on August 19, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions guys!
posted by bjork24 at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2005

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