The historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City, was the natural choice for Universal Picture’s world premiere of the James Brown biopic Get on Up. While the theatre has held numerous musical events – many famous James Brown performances among them – showing a major motion picture event was a bit out of the ordinary for the theatre.
One of the major challenges lay in the fact that there was no usable
projection booth. To solve this challenge, BL&S had a custom booth built and
installed in the last several rows of seats in the orchestra. They then
installed a large truss structure that spanned the length of the orchestra on both sides to accommodate the necessary surround speakers, which could not be ground-supported due to egress needs.
Since the film featured so many great musical numbers, the premiere felt almost like watching the late great James Brown perform live again at the Apollo.
Everything went perfectly
“Everything went perfectly last night at the Get On Up premiere screening at the Apollo. Everyone loved seeing the movie there. The Boston Light & Sound team did a great job, as always.”
The Los Angeles premiere of “Catching Fire” at the Nokia Theatre was a huge production full of technical and logistical challenges. The American Music Awards team was already preparing for their live broadcast the next week, so BL&S had limited access to fly space and entry points throughout the venue. Additionally, the producers rightfully wanted to present the film in its original mix, Dolby ATMOS. The BL&S team worked closely with Dolby to find an ideal speaker layout, and installed more than 200 speakers to recreate the incredible mix in stunning sound and image.
Since part of the Warner Brothers crime thriller the Town is set in Boston’s Fenway Park, director and actor (and die-hard Red Sox fan) Ben Affleck was intrigued with the idea of premiering the film in the park. This was no easy feat, but Warner Brothers knew who to tap for the complex job. They brought in Boston Light & Sound (BL&S), known in the industry for delivering stellar film presentation in unusual settings. “We actually like going into places where people think you can’t do a good job showing a movie, and Fenway Park was one of those,” says BL&S’s Chapin Cutler.
Transforming a portion of the almost 40,000-seat ballpark into an intimate movie theatre setting is a complicated, multifaceted process. BL&S needed a presentation screen that would withstand the elements and highly unpredictable weather in Boston. They also needed to ensure high quality audio in a notoriously difficult environment.
The BL&S team had an extremely tight window of time to install, tune, and test equipment. Between the city’s noise ordinances and concurrent events being hosted at Fenway Park up until the evening of the screening, there were few opportunities to validate the audio system performance prior to the event. Moreover, the team faced an unusual quandary in bringing heavy projection and audio equipment in for the event: they weren’t allowed to touch the grass.
BL&S conducted several pre-site visits to determine the structural load, and the logistics involved with moving equipment in and out of the park according to the organization’s guidelines. BL&S then set out to find the right equipment for the venue. They partnered with Gulf Coast Sound, who helped engineer the Dolby 5.1 sound system designed to cover 2,000 seats of the park.
To present the film in this outdoor setting, BL&S installed a 22x50-foot screen over the visitor’s dugout facing the ballpark seats. They designed the screen structure with special dark-colored material that promotes air flow so it wouldn’t blow over in high wind, and created the optimum film presentation environment by blocking out extraneous light and the surrounding buildings from view.
The team’s creativity and diligence paid off. 2,000 lucky people walked into Fenway Park that beautiful September night to a real treat. The movie looked and sounded extraordinary. BL&S produced crisp audio and images of the action-packed film, becoming the first known company to present a film premiere at the historic park. “One scene where a minivan was blown up sounded so real it practically shook the park,” says Boston Light & Sound Production Manager Celine Larimer.
Doing the impossible
“We actually like going into places where people think you can’t do a good job showing a movie, and Fenway Park was one of those.”
Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) helped present the premiere of Miral in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations—the first time a feature film had been presented in the venue. The story of a Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war was sure to draw attention, and the client was intent on ensuring every detail was perfect.
The client knew BL&S had a reputation for delivering stellar film presentations amidst difficult circumstances and this project was no exception. The hall is a
The 35-person BL&S team set to work installing a 35mm projection system and building an elaborate freestanding truss structure up and over the rostrum for a large format screen. They then distributed audio using surround sound and line arrays to direct the sound to the audience.
Happily, their efforts paid off. Producer Jon Kilik and director Julian Schnabel were thrilled with the result. Mr. Schnabel even gave a shout out to BL&S during the panel discussion following the screening, proclaiming that the movie will never look as good as it does right now. Schnabel added: “It’s amazing what happened here tonight… I could lick the color off the screen!” It’s further proof that 35mm projection is as good as ever.
Warner Brothers selected Boston Light & Sound to present the 2013 world premiere of Man of Steel at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City. BL&S brought in bigger, brighter digital cinema projectors to augment the venue’s existing screen and sound system. The real challenge lay in the acoustics of the hall—terrific for orchestras but difficult for film dialogue. BL&S created a draping system to cover some of the hard wood surfaces in the room, such as the orchestra and balcony rear walls, to reduce the reflectivity that made the dialogue hard to understand. The end result was a bright, crisp image with considerably improved intelligibility.
When Sony Pictures Entertainment needed someone to stage a high-profile Hollywood world premiere of Memoirs of a Geisha in less than
two weeks, they turned to BL&S. The entertainment company has counted on BL&S for more than 15 years to transform various theatres into showplaces.
Sony was further impressed in 2005 when BL&S pulled off a successful
world premiere of the movie Hitch in a large tent on Ellis Island in the
dead of winter.
The firm’s reputation for grace under pressure served them well when
Sony Pictures found out on November 22, 2005 of a last minute venue change for the movie premiere. Memoirs of a Geisha was to premiere at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. It would be the first time anyone had run a feature film in the Kodak Theatre, which is traditionally the site of Academy Award and stage presentations.
The producers of Memoirs of a Geisha were very concerned about ensuring the integrity of the style and sound of this Academy Award-caliber film. The BL&S team had less than two week’s time to ship, stage, and install the equipment. This meant all aspects of the facility—from sight lines to acoustics to projection angles—needed to be tested and calibrated to exacting standards.
After accepting the challenge, the BL&S team quickly pulled all the necessary resources together. A site survey was conducted early the following week, while simultaneously, the projection equipment and screen was prepared for shipment from Boston. Less than a week after the initial site survey, the installation team arrived to begin equipment set up with all gear on hand. The team installed a redundant set of projection equipment so that in case of an interruption during the presentation the audience would never miss a frame.
BL&S’s use of exceedingly high quality film projectors and specialty film techniques paid off. “We pay particular attention to film alignment, making sure that every component is set up properly to produce the best results. Film aficionados truly appreciate the results,” said BL&S principal and co-founder Chapin Cutler.
The premiere was a huge success. The BL&S presentation system truly exhibited the film’s visual splendor. Everyone was impressed with the outstanding quality of the sound system and its ability to reproduce even the most subtle sounds recorded on the track. The audience was treated to the lush images and sound of this poignant film.
BL&S has lent their project design and staging expertise to some of the world’s most high profile movie premieres and screening events. Recent premieres, previews and screenings include:
“It looked and sounded exactly how I wanted.”
“When I got back home and saw my film in the State Theatre in Traverse City, it was like I was watching it at our sound mix in New York – only better. It looked and sounded exactly how I wanted. We’re lucky to have BL&S.”