Boston’s 180,000-square foot Emerson Paramount Theatre has
recently been restored to its former glory. The $92 million dollar renovation
project encompassed a live performance theatre, a smaller black-box
theatre, a state-of-the-art film and digital cinema screening room, plus
Working closely with the acoustic consulting firm Auerbach Pollock
Friedlander, Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) sourced and installed
sophisticated audio, film and video presentation equipment under an
extremely compressed timeline for all three theatre venues. The team’s
project management capabilities and installation expertise came in handy,
helping synchronize activities to meet the tight deadline.
To keep the project on track, BL&S prewired and tested eight racks of equipment at its staging center to ensure they would work properly once delivered on-site. BL&S then worked onsite to support and advise electricians and other trades, ensuring that all equipment was installed to exact standards.
To integrate with the restored vaudeville-era historic design of the main live performance theatre, BL&S installed a main loudspeaker cluster that is retractable when not in use and side column speakers that reside behind acoustically transparent decorative covers. For the black box performance theatre, BL&S installed overhead grid audio equipment and portable speakers, freeing the theatre director to rearrange equipment to adapt to various performance types and seating configurations.
BL&S was also charged with designing the theatre’s screening room. The team sourced and installed specialized dual-mode motion picture film projectors that enable the projectionist to exhibit both archival 35mm and 16mm film. The DCI-compliant digital cinema video projector and alternate content components support a wide array of video formats, including computer sources, Blu-ray, DVD and multiple HD sources. A state-of-the-art cinema surround sound system delivers incredible audio performance for both motion picture film and digital presentations.
BL&S integrated equipment together via multiple touch-screen panels that give the screening room maximum versatility and ease of use. For example, BL&S installed and programmed an interactive control at the podium location so the room can be used as screening room or presentation space. Using an intuitive wireless touch-panel, presenters and other staff can easily control the main system. They can display a PowerPoint presentation or video clip, activate microphones, and adjust the sound volume as needed.
The acoustical consultants and theatre owners have been extremely pleased with the craftsmanship and dedication of the BL&S team.
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander provided theatre consulting and sound, video, and production communication systems design for the redevelopment of the Paramount Center. The firm designed various systems within the three venues, including sound reinforcement and playback, assistive listening for the hearing impaired, production intercom, production video and projection, and show program monitor/paging/audience recall systems.
“Working within the existing constraints of the building was difficult, and BL&S coordinated with other trades to provide creative solutions that fit within the historical framework of the theatre. The project management that the team provided was excellent, and they handled all the day-to-day on-site issues with complete professionalism.
We also want to express our thanks to BL&S for their installation expertise with the cinema projection systems. They provided another successful job well done and we look forward to working with them again in the near future.”
The 4,400-seat Wang Theatre is a spacious, opulent hall typical of movie palaces built in the 1920s. To restore the hall to its turn-of-the-century detail, its owners undertook a $10 million renovation project encompassing preserving the intricate beauty of the ceiling murals, marble columns, and vast domed ceiling; developing a new seating configuration for greater intimacy; and enhancing overall acoustics. Even the most fundamental aspects of the renovation required a sensitive approach so as not to impact the hall’s unique decorative surfaces.
When Jaffe, Holden and Scarborough Acoustical Consultants designed a sound amplification and music playback system for the newly renovated center, the Wang Theatre chose BL&S to install and tune the elaborate system. The theatre sound system consists of a central cluster loudspeaker system along with balcony and under-balcony delay speakers and two large subwoofer cabinets built into the stage, allowing full sound coverage without detracting from the hall’s historic beauty.
The renovation project has received numerous awards, including a citation by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
Impressed with the team’s craftsmanship at the Wang Theatre, the theatre owners later hired the BL&S to design and install a new sound system at their smaller venue, the Shubert Theatre.
Originally opened in 1858, the Thalian Hall Center for the
Performing Arts in Wilmington, NC is one of the oldest and most beautiful
historic theatres in America. Thalian Hall produces its own concert series and
hosts everything from recitals to film festivals. The leadership of the hall set
out to enhance community engagement by continuing their popular film
programs. In addition, the industry phase-out of 35mm film necessitated a
move to digital cinema. To support this goal, they hired Boston Light & Sound
(BL&S) to design and install a new digital cinema projection system and
upgrade their existing sound system to optimize the audio performance
improvements that digital cinema offers.
Replacing the existing 35mm film projection system with a digital cinema projection system posed interesting challenges. The original film projector had been installed in a projection booth located high in the upper balcony, but they couldn’t simply replace it with a digital cinema projection system, since the newer DCI systems can’t be tilted down in the same manner. BL&S brought a creative solution to the problem. They custom built a periscopic first surface mirror assembly to re-position the digital cinema projection beam from the lens onto the screen. This allowed them to incorporate digital cinema without making major modifications to the booth.
The new digital cinema projector is also backward compatible, making it easy for the theatre to support all kinds of content, including legacy video, Blu-Ray, HDCAM, etc., in addition to running digital cinema files. The BL&S team chose a 2K projector that’s upgradable to 4K, enabling the theatre to play future exhibition formats as needed. The team also installed an auxiliary input panel, making it easy for the theatre to switch back and forth between any type of content they need.
To augment the existing sound system, BL&S upgraded the theatre to full discrete channel Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound and installed state-of-the-art surround loudspeakers and amplifiers, while retaining the existing screen loudspeakers. This upgrade provided the theatre with better sound integrity from its existing equipment.
The theatre staff was ecstatic with the results. Thalian Hall is excited to be able to provide the very best movie viewing experience available to its patrons. They were also amazed by the dramatic difference in sound quality they achieved. The leadership of Thalian Hall is dedicated to keeping this historic theatre in the best state of operation in terms of equipment and technology. “We believe that is the best way to ensure that Thalian Hall is as viable today as when it was built in 1858,” said Executive Director, Tony Rivenbark.
“We believe that keeping equipment and technology in the best state of operation is the best way to ensure that Thalian Hall is as viable today as when it was built in 1858”
Designed as a modern film house with the flexibility of presenting stage
shows, the Plaza Theatre in El Paso, TX opened in 1930, and became a
fixture in the lives of theatergoers for generations to come. Its size,
elaborate decor, and technical innovations made it stand out. No expense
was spared in creating this elaborate building, designed in the Spanish
Colonial Revival style of architecture.
After a period of neglect in the 1980s, the theatre nearly fell victim to demolition to make way for a parking lot. Spurred by a groundswell of community support, the El Paso Community Foundation—with support from actress Rita Moreno—raised the funds for a major renovation. Having been returned to its original splendor, the theatre was donated to the City of El Paso in 1990.
The Plaza’s main theatre is the 2,000-seat Kendle Elizabeth Kidd Performance Hall. Also contained within the Plaza complex is a 191-seat performance venue called the Philanthropy Theatre, the Bernice Dittmer Donor Salon, the elegant Betty Moor MacGuire Hall, plus a wonderful rooftop garden and reception area called the Alcantar Sky Garden.
While the theatre remained a popular venue for live concerts and plays, it hadn’t served as a movie house in years. In 2007, the city hired Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) to change all that. First, the BL&S team set to work creating a state-of-the-art screening room for the beautiful Philanthropy Theatre. Prior to this project, this venue was most commonly used for community performances, recitals, and corporate meetings. The theatre’s production staff wanted to incorporate video projection and high performance, multi-channel audio playback, while still maintaining the room’s ability to accommodate live performances on the stage.
Since the room was already 90 percent built out when BL&S came on board, retrofitting a high performance video projection and audio system was a creative challenge. It was imperative that the equipment would not detract from the aesthetics of the room. BL&S designed and installed a motorized lift system for the video projector that retracts into the ceiling. Working alongside the general contractor, BL&S made sure that the finish work on the equipment matched perfectly with the theatre’s ceiling.
Next, the team designed a motorized roll-down screen with custom masking curtains to accommodate multiple film and video formats. BL&S also provided custom fabricated portable speakers. Thus, all the theatre needs to do to present a movie is lower the screen and roll the speakers into left-center-right positions behind the screen—ensuring the proper soundstage for cinema audio playback.
The BL&S team also integrated a touch-panel automated control system for ease of use. With this novel setup, the stage crew has the flexibility to run the show from backstage or from the lighting console at the back of the house.
Based on the success of this project, the city engaged BL&S to develop a more ambitious projection system for its main theatre. This included designing a custom framed screen and masking system built on a line set controlled by a counter-weight system. This enables the stage crew to simply lower the entire projection screen and side masking system fully intact to prepare for “movie night.” BL&S put additional masking panels in place, giving the theatre the classic look of an old movie house. When a live performance follows a cinema showing, the crew simply raises the line set above the stage and stores it out of sight.
Enhancing the audience’s audio experience, BL&S installed a Dolby Digital audio system that patches into the theatre’s left, center, right, and subwoofer loudspeaker arrays, and set the equalization to comply with industry standards.
To support the theatre’s need to run everything from 35mm film prints to newly released digital cinema presentations, BL&S installed two identical Kinoton Film Projectors, allowing reel changeover capability to run archival films. The team also installed a state-of-the-art digital cinema DLP Projector and D-Cinema Server, conforming to the exacting standards for resolution, clarity, and color space required by Hollywood studios for digital cinema showings. This configuration enables the theatre to run any type of video or film media with the best possible presentation. This customized system also supports computer-generated presentations, controlled via an intuitive touch-panel system that walks users through the system operation.
Today, audiences enjoy not only renovated aesthetics but also optimal presentation of movies of all kinds under a striking dome ceiling emulating the night sky in El Paso. BL&S worked carefully to implement high performance projection and audio systems while maintaining the integrity of this beautiful theatre.
Recommendations for present
“We engaged BL&S for two projects: a small theatre with diverse screening needs and a renovation of our large, historic movie palace. In both instances, their attention to detail and recommendations based on real-world experience were perfect, and the systems handily accommodate our present and future needs. Our only concern was that we couldn’t find Mexican food spicy enough to satisfy these guys; they are dedicated to the pursuit of authenticity on all fronts.”
The 1,600+ seat historic venue is among the most prominent pre- and post-Broadway theatres in Boston.
When the theatre trustees embarked on a theatre renovation in 1997,
they decided to add a sound system that would satisfy the needs of local performances as well as augment the road equipment of traveling shows.
Based on their experience working with BL&S at the Wang Center, the
trustees hired the team to design and install the Shubert’s new theatre
(Photo: Tim Morse and Bill Fish, Morse Photography. Info at www.wangcenter.org)
First, the BL&S team installed a basic loudspeaker cluster that could stand alone during local performances and allow touring companies to tie in. They installed proscenium loudspeakers with under- and over-balcony delay speakers, as well as digital sound processing to properly tune the house.
Tuned specifically for the unique acoustical characteristics of the Shubert, the new system offers a level of sound consistency throughout the theatre. With the integrated sound system, the Shubert can appeal to larger touring shows as well as small local companies.
The Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College is a historic
landmark in the heart of Boston’s theatre district. Built as an opera house
in 1903, this intimate venue serves student, community, and professional
Seeking a sound system that could grow with their needs, the theatre
of the stage to fill in the first few rows below the coverage pattern of the main cluster. This provides even sound coverage throughout the theatre.
BL&S sound engineers tuned the theatre sound system, eliminating feedback and equalizing the sound inputs for the room’s unique characteristics. The team established multiple input and preset capabilities, enabling the theatre to easily integrate temporary road equipment. The system includes permanent wiring flexible enough to accommodate events ranging from a few microphones to productions using up to 24 mic lines.
In 2003, the theatre trustees set out to restore the Majestic to its original splendor in celebration of its 100th anniversary. They hired acoustical consulting firm Auerbach Pollock Friedlander to design a complete sound amplification and playback system that would direct sound to the newly reopened second balcony, fill in under-balcony sound, and enhance the production intercom and paging systems.
BL&S sound engineers worked alongside Auerbach, installing upper balcony and lip speakers as well as a mixing console that tied in to the existing cluster and fill speakers. They also enhanced the intercom system with new house control and followspot positions and added stage audio monitoring for the new dressing rooms, offices, and public spaces. Theatergoers now enjoy a richer sound experience throughout the entire venue.
In December 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored Emerson College for its restoration of the landmark theatre. The theatre’s architectural importance earned it a place in both the Massachusetts and National Registers of Historic Places.
Our partner in making Emerson’s facilities world-class
“Boston Light & Sound has professionally recommended, provided, installed, and maintained the audio and projection equipment in our five theatres and screening room, meeting the demands of public presentation required by ArtsEmerson, and providing Emerson students working laboratories in which to hone their art.
BL&S goes the extra mile: measuring acoustic requirements while planning, and then, carefully tuning and troubleshooting these systems during installation to insure top performance. For the magnificently restored Cutler-Majestic, the reinvented Paramount Theatre, the exciting Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, the state-of-the-art Bright Family Screening Room, the versatile Semel Theatre, and the intimate Greene Theatre, BL&S had been our partner in making Emerson’s facilities world-class.”