Help on the way for one of the most uncomfortable places to sit in Richmond

Byrd Theatre

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Byrd Theatre in Carytown is one of the best places to watch a movie in Richmond. Just not one of the most comfortable.

“Sitting in the existing seats during a two- hour plus movie is a testament to your love for cinema in general and the Byrd specifically,” Byrd general manager Todd Schall-Vess said about the theater’s 80-year-old seats. “It’s not the most comfortable experience in Richmond.”

That is one reason why movie lovers should be happy to hear the Byrd is in line to get new seats, well, new to them at least.

The Grand Théâtre Lumière in France plans to give the Byrd its old seats after this May’s Cannes film festival, Schall-Vess said.

WATCH: Video tour of the Grand Théâtre Lumière

Schall-Vess said the Byrd did not lobby for the seats, rather Cannes organizers were aware of the Byrd’s seat issues due to its involvement with the French Film Festival in Richmond.

“They are not donating the seats to the Byrd because the Byrd hosts the French Film Festival,” Schall-Vess said. “They recognize the Byrd is a singular movie-going experience.”

While a lot has to get done before the seats can be shipped from France and installed in Richmond, Schall-Vess said best-case scenario would be to have the new seats in place by the Byrd’s 86th birthday in December.

The Byrd would ultimately like to buy brand new seats designed specifically for the theater, using historic elements from its old seats, but Schall-Vess admitted that could be a decade or more away. He said other renovations need to be addressed first.

The Byrd Theater opened in 1928. It is listed as Virginia Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

8 comments

  • Gerry

    Sadly this past year the seats (originals?) have gotten much worse, there are some that look like they have been vandalized. We always try to carry a light to check the seats before we sit. This will be a great relief. If the Byrd needs help with the shipping and installation, all they need to do is open up to paypal donations or kickstart!!!

    • Todd A. Schall-Vess

      The seats themselves are all original….the balcony seats still have the original coverings, while the downstairs ones were recovered in the 50s. There is occasional vandalism, but the biggest enemies are simply time and traffic.

  • moses

    Well its needed to make folks sit comfortably while watching a movie or show. Next the prices will probably be going up. Oh well i had many fun years at the Byrd theater and Carytown.

  • TerryMcRatliffe

    The worst seats award goes to the Westhampton on Grove

    Someone installed the rows so close together you can’t sit without squishing your knees against the seat in front of you. Also no cup holders!

    I don’t know why they just don’t rip out every other row of seats. Theater is never even half full so why not implement this easy fix?

    • Todd A. Schall-Vess

      Actually that isn’t true….just this past weekend we have had crowds for individual shows of 650, 700 and 815 people….not capacity, but certainly half or better. And we often have special events, like the recent Downton Abbey screenings with true capacity crowds.

  • Eric Futterman

    They are two completely different issues. Pretty much all the money that goes into the Byrd is private donations and funds made on tickets and concessions.

    Having said that it’s a great economic engine; bringing people to Carytown so the businesses can stay strong and employ a lot of people.

    The tragedy of Jackson Ward came when the interstate ripped the neighborhood from it’s neighbors in Richmond. Just like Harlem was bisected in NYC.

    Jackson Ward was making a comeback until the Bush Administration slashed funding for RRHA and their ambitious housing program that helped people train for future jobs, save money, and eventually purchase a renovated home or a home built on property that had been vacant for many years.

    But none of this has anything to do with the Byrd.

  • l

    Just this weekend my entire lower half went completely numb after watching The Hobbit in those seats. So glad the Byrd is getting an upgrade in that department. My husband and I love to take our kids there for family night.

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