Historic Alex Theatre Upgrades With L-Acoustics

Built in 1925, the historic Alex Theatre is a landmark on Glendale, California’s Brand Boulevard. The Theatre’s magnificent 100-foot-tall Art Deco neon column is topped by a glowing starburst towering above the street. The Alex’s interior design is a marvel as well—its “atmospherium” auditorium with open-air illusion and Greek and Egyptian motifs creates a unique ancient garden-like environment. Several restorations over the years have kept up the interior and exterior décor of the Alex, which is now a performing arts center. The latest addition is an L-Acoustics Kudo™ line source array system, installed in July to optimize the venue for musical performances.

Originally a vaudeville theatre and silent movie house, the Alex became a premier venue for movie screenings in the 1940s and later a public favorite for blockbuster movies due to its particularly wide screen and early surround sound system. In the early 1990s, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency acquired the Alex Theatre and put it through an extensive restoration. At that point, according to Jack Allaway, the Alex’s director of theatre operations, a center speaker cluster was installed.

Since that last installation, Allaway recalls, “Over the years, it’s evolved that we’re doing more concert work, and the center cluster system just wasn’t adequate to handle that. We previewed several systems in the theatre—we flew different speakers and brought in live musicians to demo them. This was about a two-year project, and we did as much homework as we could. The L-Acoustics Kudo system worked best for this room sonically and aesthetically.”

Between its orchestra level and second tier, the Alex Theatre seats almost 1,500. It was the shape of the room—its curved side and back walls—that presented the challenges in this speaker choice and install, says Allaway. “The big advantage of the Kudo system is that they have adjustable louvers, so when L-Acoustics did the survey of the room, they determined what would be the best angle placement of the louvers in each cabinet so that we didn’t have sound bouncing off the walls and back to the ceiling. It’s a 1925 building—they didn’t build them for high SPL back then.”

Given the ornate environment, aesthetics were especially considered in the sound system design at the Alex. Allaway appreciated the relatively compact size of the Kudo arrays. Working with Jim Kinkella and Dan Palmer at L-Acoustics, Allaway spec’d two vertical arrays left and right of stage, with eight Kudo boxes per array, and each array divided into three zones for full-room coverage. After first making some reinforcements to the ceiling/roof structure and adding necessary attach points for the arrays, Allaway notes, “With the adjustable louvers, we were able to install them at a perfect distance from the wall.”

Allaway opted not to replace the Alex’s existing subwoofer enclosures due to the fact that the new Kudo arrays are now very capably providing full-frequency sound coverage from first row of the orchestra section to the back of the second tier. “The system performs so well that for the type of music we do here, we really didn’t need subs,” he shares. “But when we tuned the system, we rented L-Acoustics subs and we recommend that, if there’s a need, people rent them; the system’s been EQ’d for them.”

Since installing the L-Acoustics system in August, the Alex Theatre has hosted just a few shows, but its busy season is fast approaching. “We’re anticipating a lot of dance performances with orchestra, several world music events, and more musical theatre,” says Allaway. Upcoming shows include the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, The Nutcracker performed by the Los Angeles Ballet with orchestra, and presentations by the Alex Theatre’s resident companies, including the Alex Film Society, Glendale Symphony Orchestra, and Musical Theatre Guild.

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