February 17, 2012
| by Lisa Montgomery
I’ve always wondered about theater seating: What makes it so different from regular everyday seating? How are they built? What types of materials are used? During a recent visit to Southern California, I stopped by Fortress Seating in Rancho Cucamonga for a behind the scenes look at the art and craftsmanship that’s involved in designing, constructing and customizing specialty theater seats.
Every seat a the 25,000-square-foot Fortress warehouse is built completely from scratch. Custom electronics (CE) integrators send their specs to Fortress. From this information, the Fortress team, which includes professional designers, carpenters and upholsterers, creates special, one-of-a-kind seating. As I learned from Gabi Wolper, vice president of sales, who kindly walked me through the entire chair-building process, there’s a lot that can affect the quality of a theater seat. For example, Fortress uses solid wood and metal-to-metal connections, which makes the seats extremely durable. This tougher-than-nails approach is part of the company’s lineage. In the 1930s Fortress built only metal desks and filing cabinets. It wasn’t until 1970 that it office furniture to its lineup, and later seats for health care industry. “In these environments, the seats were being used 8-12 hours a day,” says Wolper. “So they had to be extremely durable, and in the when used by dialysis and chemotherapy patients, very comfortable as well.” Fortress applied many of these same construction techniques to its theater seats, which it branched into in the 1990s, “however, we softened up them up considerably to look and feel more luxurious in a home setting,” says Wolper. Today, theater seating is Fortress’ main focus. The filing cabinet business has long been disbanded, and only occasionally will the company fill an order for office furnishings.
The styles and designs of the theater line run the gamut, from single rows of brightly upholstered seats, each with integrated armrests that flip up to convert the seating into one big couch, to contemporary leather seats with a hidden, motorized compartments that reveal a touchpanel (installed later) to operate a home theater system. “Whatever custom touches the client wants, we can make,” says Wolper.
Currently, Fortress offers 25 unique styles of seats and a huge assortment of upholstery. Wolper says it typically takes 10 hours to build one chair, and a typical order includes eight to 10 chairs.
Check out the slideshow for a tour of Fortress Seating.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.