NORTHRIDGE, California – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences (AMPAS®), known worldwide for its annual Academy Awards® ceremonies, recently completed a total remodeling of its East Coast showcase, the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International in New York City. The 220-seat auditorium was re-done in spectacular fashion, with an interior by renowned theater designer Theo Kalomirakis and an audio system including JBL’s 5732 ScreenArray 3-way high-power loudspeakers, 4642A dual-18-inch subwoofers, and VRX932LA Constant Curvature loudspeakers with VRX918S subwoofers.
Lighthouse International is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss, and its headquarters is host to the Academy Theater. The Academy financed and upgraded all projection and sound equipment according to its standards, while Lighthouse International board member Charles S. Cohen and his wife Clo, financed the beautification of the space. Digital Media Systems of New York, a specialist in providing projection and sound for the motion picture industry, was contracted to install the new audio/video system.
“Since the Lighthouse Theater is the Academy’s East Coast showplace, we knew the sound and picture quality had to be nothing less than the absolute best,” noted Gregg Paliotta of Digital Media Systems. “However, all the speakers had to be completely hidden. Designer Theo Kalomirakis understands the importance of great sound as a vital part of the cinema experience – yet was insistent that the speakers should not intrude upon the elegant interior design of the Academy Theater.”
“The installation is also unique in that it’s really two installations in one,” Paliotta pointed out. “The Lighthouse Theater is used as both a screening room for films and as a traditional stage for concerts, plays and other events. When films are being shown, the Microperf cinema projection screen rolls down from the ceiling. Then a motorized masking, scrim and house curtain system is engaged. When in final position, the stage has turned into an amazing screening room front end.”
“Our solution to accommodate the theater’s dual-purpose nature seems obvious in retrospect – we installed two separate audio systems. We went with JBL ScreenArray 5732 loudspeakers and 4642A subwoofers for movie screenings, and JBL VRX932LA loudspeakers and VRX918S subs for everything else.”
“The architecture wasn’t the easiest to work with, as there were ‘wings’ projecting from the walls on either side of the stage that had to be dealt with, but Kalomirakis and I came up with the solution of building the three VRX932LA speakers per side right into the wall with one VRX918S per side, and hiding the line arrays behind fabric.”
Placing the ScreenArray 5732 speakers and 4642A subwoofers required a little more ingenuity. Paliotta’s solution: “We mounted the ScreenArray speakers and subwoofers on wheels. The staff rolls them in behind the acoustically transparent perforated screen when movies are being shown, and rolls them out after the closing credits. Instead of figuring out how to locate and hide such massive speakers and subwoofers, we came upon the idea of just keeping them off the stage when not in use, and as a result, not having anything to hide in the first place!”
The result is optimized sound quality for all the Lighthouse Theater’s presentations. “It wasn’t ever not going to be JBL product,” noted Paliotta. “I’ve been a projection and sound supervisor for AMPAS for 10 years, and I know the capabilities of JBL. The ScreenArray 5732 loudspeakers are proven performers that are specifically designed for a cinema environment, and can be placed behind a perforated screen without adverse acoustic effects. The VRX932LA speakers and 4642A subwoofers gave us the coverage, clarity and low-end presence and articulation we needed in their respective applications.”
BSS Soundweb London processors are used as the digital crossovers for the speakers and subwoofers.