The classic Tampa Theatre is a landmark in the Uptown District of Tampa,
Florida. Known for its Greek revival interior and pre-show Wurlitzer organ concerts, the theatre has been home to classic movies as well as periodic
The theatre owners wanted to add digital cinema capabilities to exhibit the new digital format movie releases, while maintaining their 35mm equipment
to show legacy prints. They faced several limitations, and needed a way to integrate the latest technology without taking away from the room’s ornate decor.
Additionally, there was limited space to incorporate digital cinema alongside the dual 35mm film projectors. The theatre was also looking for a creative way to make this upgrade in a cost-effective manner with minimal disruption to their performance schedule.
To smoothly integrate digital cinema, the theatre hired Boston Light & Sound (BL&S)—a company well known for its innovative approach to designing and installing digital cinema and film projection systems.
BL&S faced an unusual challenge. The only way to conceal the digital projector was to install it in the existing projection booth, yet it was next to impossible to display digital cinema images through the small film port window. Since the booth is high in the balcony, the digital projector could not be tilted the same way the 35mm film projectors can.
Fortunately, the BL&S team found a creative solution. They installed a new Christie CP-2220 Digital Cinema projector, and created a periscopic mirror arrangement to reflect the digital cinema images from a mirrored lens onto the screen below. This way, they could incorporate digital cinema capabilities without making major changes to the room.
To optimize the picture quality, they also needed to prevent the mirror array system from vibrating. Any vibrations would cause jittery images on the screen. To keep images stable, BL&S fabricated a projector frame and affixed it tightly to the projector.
BL&S then installed a new, high directivity screen channel loudspeaker array behind the screen, precisely directing sound to every seat in the house, while minimizing reflected sound in an already reverberant auditorium. They enhanced the surround sound field, providing discrete channels that did not previously exist. To help keep the costs of the project down, they were able to use existing speakers for the bass, while replacing the mid- to high-range speakers that have more of a bearing on voice intelligibility. This provided 5.1 surround sound with improved audio quality.
To give the theatre added flexibility, BL&S installed an audio processor that is capable of accepting signals from everything from legacy analog AV sources to digital AV sources such as Blu-ray. The BL&S team also custom designed an input panel, making it easy to adapt to film festivals, corporate meetings, and community presentations. The system supports auxiliary or guest inputs, giving the theatre the flexibility to present nearly any input signal. For example, they can easily jack-in occasionally used sources such as HDCAM and rental decks, rather than purchasing expensive, yet seldom used equipment.
BL&S was able to install and configure the new equipment while keeping the 35mm film projectors running. This way, the theatre had no interruption in its show schedule during the digital cinema installation.
The renovated theatre opened to rave reviews. Theatre owners and theatregoers alike were thrilled with the result.
Movie critic Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay Times exclaimed, “What their senses experienced was nothing the Tampa Theatre has offered before – no small feat for a place with such a storied past. Images on the screen were crisply detailed and vibrantly colored, without the faint flutter or scratches of film projection. [In the opening-night screening of Samsara] you could detect the fine-point richness of an Asian temple’s design, a sunset’s layers, or the wrinkles of a sleeping child’s fingers. Even better was the audio system, with speakers stationed behind the screen…aimed at seating areas with precision.”
Read more about the project in the Tampa Bay Times article “Historic Tampa Theatre goes digital beautifully”, Tampa Tribune article “Sounds, sights upgraded as Tampa Theatre goes digital”, and HispanicBusiness.com article “Tampa Theatre moves to digital films”.
Our patrons are very pleased.
“Our patrons are very pleased. On opening night, it was a treat to speak with longtime Tampa Theatre attendees who were faithful to us over the years in spite of sub-par sound, and to hear them gushing in astonishment at the quality of the sound and picture. We can’t thank you enough for a terrific job.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, Inc. is a member-funded, non-profit arts organization dedicated to screening the best in independent films, movie classics, documentaries, and world cinema. Last year more than 12,500 patrons joined them to watch 70 different films.
After years of presenting films at less-than-ideal locations across the
Vineyard, the society began an ambitious fundraising campaign to create a theatre of its own. After hearing Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) present on a panel at the Sundance Film Festival about achieving optimum image and sound quality from digital cinema systems, they reached out to the firm to design their new system.
To create a gathering place for the island community, the society also wanted the new theatre to support multiple presentation formats, including digital cinema and HD video sources commonly used in independent film venues such as Blu-ray DVD, HDCAM, computer content, etc. In addition, to protect donors’ generous investments to the new theatre, the society was looking for a presentation system that could easily adapt to their future needs.
Thanks to generous donor support, the society was able to build a new theatre to meet its needs. BL&S needed a creative approach to installing the DCI-compliant digital projection and 7.1 surround sound system into the new space. Unlike a typical theatre with a traditional film projection booth, the theatre had limited space for equipment. Additionally, the digital cinema and audio equipment needed to be installed in a way that wouldn’t detract from the theatre’s elaborate decor.
To solve these challenges, BL&S custom-designed a ceiling enclosure for the digital cinema system, complete with remote controls, and planned access for ease of maintenance. To help keep the digital cinema system running smoothly, BL&S designed the enclosure to provide proper ventilation that keeps the equipment cool without making any noise that would otherwise disturb the audience. They then incorporated surround speakers right into the theatre’s decorative pillars to hide unsightly wires and components.
Independent film exhibitors like the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society often work with alternate video content. For these needs, the BL&S team designed and installed a presentation and audio system that supports multiple formats, carefully tuning the system to optimize audio-visual quality. In addition, they installed a front-house curtain that moves along a curved track to conceal the screen during live music presentations or lectures. For further ease of use, they provided an intuitive touchpad. Theatre staff only needs to choose the source (i.e., digital cinema, video, etc.) and any format switching is done automatically.
For greater convenience and mobility, BL&S also installed Crestron Control, making all controls available via a dedicated panel or iPad from anywhere in the theatre.
In addition to designing and installing the digital cinema system, BL&S worked closely with the building architect and multiple trades, including HVAC professionals and electricians, to ensure that the design intent was carried forward. This helped the project come together seamlessly.
BL&S specified a scalable digital cinema system as well as upgradable switchers that give the film society the flexibility to upgrade to future capabilities such as 4K and higher frame rate content. This ensures they won’t need to redesign their presentation system as the theatre’s needs grow.
As with many theatre projects, there was a short timeline to complete the job. BL&S worked furiously through the summer to ensure the system was completed in time for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival in September.
The society can now present more diverse programming, including first-run independent releases as well as beloved classics. The client was very impressed with the presentation quality. “Boston Light & Sound was phenomenal, installing our Christie projector, Dolby D-cinema server and QSC amplifiers, and JBL speakers,” said Richard Paradise, founder and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society. “They put it all together for us, perfectly.”
They put it all together for us, perfectly.
“Boston Light & Sound was phenomenal, installing our Christie projector, Dolby D-cinema server and QSC amplifiers, and JBL speakers. They put it all together for us, perfectly.”
One of only two theatres on the island of Nantucket, the original Dreamland Theatre was carefully deconstructed in 2009, preserving important historic elements. It was rebuilt in 2012 using some of its original characteristics while bringing the structure into the 21st century with state of the art technology and systems. The board of directors for the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation had a vision to bring digital entertainment and education to Dreamland while retaining its historic significance as one of America’s oldest theatres.
The facility includes the 318-seat Founders Hall, designed to provide everything from first-run movies to presentations, plays, and live musical performances; and the more intimate 100-person Studio Theatre, designed for smaller movie screenings (indies, documentaries and foreign films), as well as special events. The foundation turned to Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) to deliver exceptional audio and visuals that worked in harmony with the theatre’s historic architecture.
The BL&S team enthusiastically signed on to the project, designing and installing digital cinema capabilities, presentation systems, a PA system, and more for the unique space. This would not be an easy project, however. BL&S had just two months to complete the installation work, with many physical constraints. Transporting all the equipment, tools, vehicles, and crew to the small island required a good deal of coordination. The team also needed to find inventive ways to fit new equipment into a small footprint. Additionally, they were performing the installation without the luxury of elevator service or permanent electricity. Not to be deterred, the BL&S crew hand lifted heavy equipment into the theatre. They then hired a crane so they could install a 400-pound screen on the second floor of the theatre.
Founders Hall is designed to present everything from first-run movies to lectures, concerts, and more. The BL&S team installed a top-of-the-line Christie Digital Projector and Dolby 7.1 sound system to provide exceptional audio and visual experiences to theatregoers. To accommodate multiple format and presentation types, they custom designed and installed a motorized 24-foot wide screen and masking system, providing maximum versatility for the space.
This 1,932 square foot multi-function room serves as a second screening room for first-run movies in the height of the season and independent films year round. In addition, this room highlights the historic elements of the original Quaker Meeting House, including trusses, re-purposed floorboards, and original windows.
BL&S installed a new digital cinema system, a 17-foot motorized screen, as well as a full 5.1 surround sound system, mics, and associated equipment to accommodate various presentation types. Working around the theatre’s historic architecture required creative thinking. The theatre’s open beam ceiling meant equipment couldn’t be hidden there. To solve this problem, the BL&S team worked closely with theatre architects, designing a custom cabinet to house projection equipment and cables. They were able to provide advanced functionality in a way that seamlessly integrated with the theatre’s aesthetics.
The BL&S team’s hard work paid off, bringing presentation capabilities beyond what the Foundation expected. BL&S screened movies for Foundation members and theatre employees, giving them a preview of what was to come. All agreed that Nantucket’s Dreamland has been transformed into a world-class cinema.
Unconditional, collaborative support
“Boston Light & Sound contributed unconditional design, technical, and collaborative support from the outset. The Dreamland Theater is a thriving, multi-functional theater because of their work.”
Located on the Trinity College campus, Cinestudio is a popular destination for classic and independent film enthusiasts. They’re known for presenting rare foreign films, limited print archival footage, as well as new independent movies. The theatre wanted to add digital cinema to augment its 35mm and 70mm film presentation capabilities.
The owners of independent film theatre Cinestudio are purists when it
comes to movie presentation. Thus, when they investigated digital cinema
they wanted technology that would provide the audience with the best picture quality. Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) recommended a 4K digital cinema system with an integrated media block. This would give Cinestudio state-of-the-art digital image resolution, as well as the freedom to adapt to higher frame rates in the future.
BL&S integrated digital cinema system into the projection room, mixing film and digital through the same sound processor and amplifiers. This makes it easy for the theatre to switch between movie formats as needed. The BL&S team also added preview capabilities so they can switch between film and video seamlessly, and preview the video content they’re about to send to the screen. This allows for a seamless transition from video image 1 to video image 2.
BL&S added more flexibility to the environment. For example, most theatres find it time-consuming and expensive to accommodate equipment for special events. To resolve this challenge, BL&S set up an intuitive guest panel that makes it easy to “plug and play” a wide variety of video formats. In addition, they automated digital film presentation, enabling the theatre to control digital content remotely via wi-fi connection.
Cinestudio has been very pleased with the results. They now have a way to present digital cinema, and can easily scale the system as new technology emerges.
Spectacular in every way
“For more than 40 years, our serious film fans have come to expect the very highest standards of cinema at Cinestudio, so there was only one place to go for our 4K digital cinema installation – Boston Light & Sound!
Lonny Jennings and Rob Harris have stayed with every little detail all the way, bringing us the stunning images and sound we need for the future – and then making it all work seamlessly with our elaborate legacy 35mm and 70mm film equipment. Spectacular in every way!”
One of Brookline’s treasured landmarks, the fully restored art deco movie palace has three distinctive theatres: the main 600-seat theatre for presenting independent films, classic revivals (including 70mm), and a
selection of world cinema; and a 250-seat stadium for 16 and 35mm films
as well as live musical performances and other special events; and two
video screening rooms.
The Coolidge’s theatre owners pride themselves on offering the best film presentation around, so when they embarked on a major upgrade
of their cinema sound and projection automation systems, they chose BL&S for the job. Installing equipment to support such diverse product can be challenging; each theatre had two projectors, so the automation systems and sound systems required customization.
The BL&S team installed and tuned state-of-the-art Dolby cinema sound systems in both theatres, enabling the Coolidge to present a wide variety of product and support live performances. Finally, they installed custom automation systems, enabling a projectionist to automatically run both theatres.
BL&S also assists the Coolidge with its special presentation needs. In June 2005, BL&S sponsored its first ever 3D film festival. “We consider this an opportunity to give something back to our client and our community,” said Chapin Cutler, principal of BL&S. “Besides, this is the fun part of what we do.”
“BL&S has brought our historic 1933 theatre up to the standards that our film audience wants and expects in today’s tough competition to survive in the movie industry,” said Joe Zina, Executive Director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation. “...we now offer a superior theatrical experience in picture and sound, thanks to the upgrades that BL&S designed specifically for our theater.”
During the summer of 2015, BL&S served as Coolidge Corner's supporting partner, screening a 35mm print of The Birds for the theatre’s free film series on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. Learn more about the free screenings here. View the event video here.
A superior theatrical experience
“BL&S has brought our historic 1933 theatre up to the standards that our film audience wants and expects in today’s tough competition to survive in the movie industry. We now offer a superior theatrical experience in picture and sound, thanks to the upgrades that BL&S designed specifically for our theater.”
Often considered one of America’s most important living filmmakers, Martin Scorsese has directed more than 25 films. He is said to find inspiration
for his own masterpieces in older films. In addition to screening answer
prints during film productions, he often screens movies from his extensive archival collection.
Based on its strong relationship with Universal Pictures, BL&S was hired to
install Mr. Scorsese’s personal screening room at the company’s facility in Manhattan. The BL&S team interfaced with architects and consultants to
ensure every detail met the company’s and Mr. Scorsese’s exacting standards. This required reconfiguring projection, sound, and control equipment to integrate well with the design elements of the room. The system also is equipped for use in small audio post production operations.
When Mr. Scorsese’s organization decided to move the screening room to their new facility more than a decade later, they entrusted BL&S with the complex job of shoehorning the 16mm and 35mm projection equipment into a smaller space. The team collaborated with architects, contractors, and electricians to ensure that every detail of the room, such as angular correction for many formats in several projectors, was perfected for optimal picture and sound presentation.
The company continues to provide service and periodic upgrades for the screening room, still located in midtown Manhattan.
BL&S served as consultant for the design and implementation of a high-performance screening room at the New England Institute of Art. The room features multi-source high-definition content, an automated touch-panel control system, and a state-of-the-art Genelec active audio system. The Media Arts Department was thrilled with the results; the new screening room is in constant use as both a screening venue and an interactive teaching space.