Quick-Thinking Theatre Manager Averts Panic
A theatre manager in Livingston Manor, N. Y., is credited with averting panic and possible disaster by some fast thinking and persuasive talking when fire threatened a Saturday night crowd recently.
Leonard Thompson, manager of the Manor Theatre and a Livingston Manor Fire Department member, was notified that a fire had been discovered in a building next door and that the flames were already coming out of the windows into the alley where the theatre’s emergency exits were located. Ordering the projectionist to shut off the film and turn on the house lights, Mr. Thompson calmly walked down the center aisle, asked the audience’s attention, and announced that an unusual test was to be held right then.
He instructed the entire audience to exit, using only the front doors, and to turn right when they reached the street (by turning right the patrons would be walking away from the fire). Thompson explained that return tickets would be given to all, and that the show would resume when the test was over.
The manager-fireman has been noted for his talents as a side show barker at volunteer fire department carnivals. Bringing all his showmanship into plan and in his best midway manner, he soon had the crowd moving toward the doors. Keeping up a continuous line of chatter, he talked and prodded the patrons out of the theatre. As they emerged, police took over and kept them moving away from the danger scene. Inasmuch as the flames were not visible in the front of the building at the time, many were completely unaware of the fire until mutual aid companies began arriving.
When the flames burst into the sky, the movie patrons were given a show far more dramatic than the film they had been watching. At the same time they became aware of the diplomatic manner in which the manager had emptied the theatre. Many of them thanked Mr. Thompson for his efforts in saving them from possible injury or death.