Located on Monterey Street in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, the 865-seat Fremont Theater is a surviving—and now thriving—example of the Streamline Moderne style favored by West Coast movie theaters and performance halls when it opened for both roles in 1942. As its entertainment appeal gradually waned over the decades, the facility dodged various attempts to modernize it as a multiplex cinema, and then to be razed altogether. Thankfully, a new group of partners, the Fremont Theater Entertainment Group, have invested in restoring the theater’s visual and acoustical charm while also modernizing its technical facilities. A key part of that effort was the addition of an L-Acoustics Kara loudspeaker system, originally installed in 2018 and then re-flown with a new truss system installed earlier this year.
“We knew from the very start that we wanted an L-Acoustics sound system because they’re simply the best, and we chose Kara because it fit the venue so well both sonically and physically,” explains Bill Gaines, owner of Bill Gaines Audio (BGA), who did the sound system design and installation—and, in an unusual twist, is also one of the venue’s six new partners. “We knew that the original installation,” which used a temporary telescoping-type system that was unable to support flown subs, “was going to be replaced with a much more suitable aluminum truss, but we wanted to start having shows in the theater as soon as possible. Once the new truss went in, we simply reinstalled the Kara system to it.”
Gaines notes that Kara was the perfect choice because its smaller form factor still provides the power and pattern control to put pure, clear SPL right on the audience area, keeping it off of the reflective surfaces in the venue. The present system comprises two arrays of eight Kara loudspeakers per side, each topped by a pair of SB18 subs. Four additional SB28 subs are ground-stacked below, while two more SB18 are available as sidefills or drum monitors, as needed. Furthermore, two self-powered 108P speakers deliver stage lip fill to the front-most seats, while the rest of the system is powered via five LA8 and one LA4X amplified controllers.
“With its compact size, 110-degree coverage, and range down to 30 Hz with the subs, Kara gave us the flexibility we needed to be able to use the theater as soon as possible, build up our reputation, then let us quickly reconfigure the sound system when the new truss went in,” explains Gaines, whose company, BGA, purchased another two dozen Kara enclosures, eight SB18, and eight KS28 subs as part of becoming an L-Acoustics Certified Provider for rental (CPr) last year. Complementing those systems are Kiva II for lipfill/outfill use, SB28/ARCS II sidefills, a generous quantity of 14 X15 HiQ stage wedges, and LA12X (housed in LA-RAK II) and LA8 amplified controllers to power everything.
As for the Fremont Theater, word is out that it’s now the place to play in San Luis Obispo. “The band engineers and artists coming in all love it,” says Gaines. “On one of the first big shows with the new PA, the drummer came out front to listen as his drum tech tuned the kit, and he was all smiles. That’s when we knew for sure that we got it right.”