A couple of weeks ago someone asked me whether the exterior exit doors for a movie theater required panic hardware, and in my opinion, the answer is a resounding YES!  Movie theaters are considered assembly occupancies, and the occupant load is well over the limit (50 or 100 occupants depending on the code) that would require panic hardware.

I took the kids to see Megamind last week (BTW…there are several doors swinging the wrong way in that movie), which reminded me to write a post about the exception for the interior doors from the lobby to the movie theaters.

According to the IBC, door assemblies in corridor or smoke barrier walls need to have a fire rating as prescribed by Table 715.4.  However, in all editions of the IBC there has been an exception for the interior doors leading from the lobby to the movie theater (see exception 3 below).  This exception is not necessary for most current applications (but you may run into it on existing theaters) now that the code requires sprinklers in multitheater complexes, and the corridor walls do not need to be fire rated.  The exception was originally intended to allow the rated doors to the individual theaters to be supplied without latching hardware to reduce the noise of the door’s operation.

715.4.3 Door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers.

Fire door assemblies required to have a minimum fire protection rating of 20 minutes where located in corridor walls or smoke barrier walls having a fire-resistance rating in accordance with Table 715.4 shall be tested in accordance with NFPA 252 or UL 10C without the hose stream test.


1. Viewports that require a hole not larger than 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter through the door, have at least a 0.25-inch-thick (6.4 mm) glass disc and the holder is of metal that will not melt out where subject to temperatures of 1,700°F (927°C).

2. Corridor door assemblies in occupancies of Group I-2 shall be in accordance with Section 407.3.1.

3. Unprotected openings shall be permitted for corridors in multitheater complexes where each motion picture auditorium has at least one-half of its required exit or exit access doorways opening directly to the exterior or into an exit passageway.

4. Horizontal sliding doors in smoke barriers that comply with Sections 408.3 and 408.8.4 in occupancies in Group I-3.

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