The Paramount Theatre in Boston, renovated as part of the Emerson College Paramount Center and its performing arts campus, was five years in the making. “The whole building was in disrepair after being empty for many years,” says Steven Friedlander, principal-in-charge at Auerbach Pollock Friedlander (APF), theatre consultants for the project. “Very little historic fabric was intact. Some of the reliefs remained, but most of the murals were damaged and falling off.”

Originally opened in 1932, the venue’s biggest challenge was redefining the shape of the room, as the original was a narrow room and could not be expanded beyond the original footprint, requiring a creative approach to the stage and audience area design. Major changes were required to convert the original 1,700-seat movie theatre into a 596-seat proscenium theatre. In order to provide a stage with appropriate depth and fly loft-height for live performances, the original stage area was demolished, and the new stage was expanded toward the house. The balcony and rear of the theatre were reconfigured to improve sightlines, and the proscenium zone, including cheek walls and forestage ceiling, was rebuilt to join the remaining side walls and ceiling of the house.

In addition, state-of-the art lighting, rigging, and audio systems were installed. Robert Berens, supervisory consultant for Acentech, based in Cambridge, MA, notes that the main acoustical challenge was the room’s geometry, since it was originally very long with a shallow stage. A CATT-Acoustic architectural acoustics program was used for modeling and ray tracing, while a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital mixing console was installed along with a combination of Meyer Sound, Renkus-Heinz, and QSC speaker systems. The loudspeaker systems were modeled using the EASE software platform.

High Output in Canton, MA supplied a new ETC lighting system, including an ETC Ion 2000 console and a 2x20 fader wing, 166 ETC 2.4kW Sensor+ dimmers, Pathway Connectivity DMX repeaters, Linksys Ethernet switches, and Union Connector company switches. Lighting positions were integrated into the large crown molding at the rear corners of the house, and ceiling lighting ports were coordinated to work with the design of the ceiling mural. Front fill speakers were integrated into the design of the architecture of the permanent orchestra pit rail. Box booms, exposed on the side walls, are located in the least obtrusive places and painted to blend with the pilasters. These positions also have concealed fall protection systems built into their structure in the attic above. The proscenium valance was recreated directly from photographs of the original.

In order to address the challenges of working within the footprint of the original theatre while coordinating the new stage with other program elements in the building and keeping within the college’s budget, both manual counterweight and motorized variable speed rigging sets were also installed.
The wiring infrastructure throughout the Paramount Center provides fiber-optic and CAT6 cabling runs to key locations within each venue. This allows for connection of current and future technologies and formats via proper signal conversion boxes. Empty conduit trunks are routed between the equipment rack rooms, control rooms, and stage areas to allow additional cabling to be pulled in the future, if required.

Creative Team
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander (APF), Theatre Consultants
Elkus Manfredi, Architects
Acentech, Acousticians
High Output, Lighting Supplier
SECOA, Inc., Rigging System

ETC Sensor SR48+ Dimmer Racks
Yamaha M7CL-48 digital mixing console
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC-24A Loudspeakers
Meyer Sound CQ-1, CQ-2 Center Array
Meyer Sound UMS-1P Subwoofers
Meyer Sound MM-4 Stage Edge System
Media Matrix Nion N6 with CAB-4N Signal Processing
QSC RMX-850, RMX-2450 Power Amplifiers
26 SECOA 1,500lb. Capacity Counterweight Linesets
1 Vortek 16,000lb. Capacity Motorized Variable Speed Main Drape
1 Vortek 2,000lb. Capacity Motorized Electric
13 Vortek 1,600lb. Capacity Motorized Variable Speed Linesets
1 SECOA 1,000lb. Capacity Main Loudspeaker Hoist
1 SECOA Fire Curtain
1 1-Ton Grid Mounted Chain Hoist And Trolley