The addition of two aisles in Jones Hall, completed in June, improves traffic flow and social distancing. The change was made in cooperation with Houston First, the Houston Symphony and Society for the Performing Arts. (Houston Symphony photo)
When Jones Hall opened to high acclaim in 1966, the sweeping red velvet rows were considered quite chic. (Houston Symphony photo)
The original Jones Hall seating chart reveals the sweeping rows that were a challenge for those seated in the center. (Houston Symphony)
Jones Hall lights up in red in honor of the entertainment industry. (Houston First photo)
When the curtain eventually goes up on full-fledged performances in Jones Hall, whenever that might be, theater-goers will find a new and improved theater, thanks to a redesign of seating that allows for better flow and increased physical distancing for patrons.
What a relief for those of us who have spent years climbing over far too many seats to get to our plum center-row positions in Jones Hall. The original Jones Hall setup was a grand idea in 1966, when Caudill Rowlett Scott‘s theater opened with its glamorous sweeping expanses of red velvet seating uninterrupted by center aisles.
In 2020, practicality and COVID-19 health concerns have prevailed. So, with little fanfare, Houston First Corporation, in cooperation with the Houston Symphony and the Society for the Performing Arts, reconfigured the seating, adding two aisles and removing 206 seats on the orchestra level.
In past years, patrons seated in the center of a row had to traverse as many as 30 seats to reach their post. The visuals were something of a Jack in the Box as theater-goers on the edges were up and down repeatedly while those with better seats plowed across them. It was a particularly interesting challenge during black-tie performances when long gowns were in play.
Under-the-radar word of this change first came in a Houston Symphony press release on the 2020-2021 classical music season.
“Also, Houston First has recently introduced upgrades to Jones Hall in accordance with its Houston Clean initiative … Upgrades include the creation of new aisles in the auditorium.”
This is no small change — and it introduces a grand new reality.