Just how does one go about modernizing the speaker system of a Los Angeles area entertainment and architectural landmark that has been beloved by audiences since 1925?
LA ProPoint, provider of design, engineering, fabrication and installation of stage and show systems services, completed the installation of a new speaker rigging system in the historic Alex Theatre located in downtown Glendale.
About 10 years ago, the public areas of the theatre were restored to their earlier days of grandeur, the backstage area was expanded, and the original theatrical rigging and drapes were replaced. However, by 2007, the building’s speaker system was not quite meeting the demands of modern-day performers and theatre-going audiences. Administrators decided to hire LA ProPoint to upgrade the rigging of the center speaker cluster and the entire front of the house speaker system.
“We entrusted LA ProPoint with the task of suspending two speaker systems—each of which weighs more than 1,800lbs—from an ornate, preservation-worthy ceiling and directly above the heads of our guests,” explains Jack Alaway, director of theatre operations at the Alex Theatre. “It was not a job that we could rightly contract to just any company. The LA ProPoint team completed the work with sensitivity—and before the start of our busy summer season.”
First, LA ProPoint installed more than a ton of new steel beams in the attic of the Alex Theatre to support new winches rated for overhead lifting. Next, crews lifted the winches and other hardware to the attic and transported the equipment across the topside of the ceiling in a way that did not damage it. New motors and hardware were then installed on the structural steel. Finally, the crew cut penetrations in the 82-year-old ceiling to install liftlines to support the weighty speakers and power cables.
“Working in spaces with established cultural significance always involves unique challenges. The Alex Theatre called on us to integrate heavy equipment into a fragile historical ceiling,” explains Mark Riddlesperger, founder and president of LA ProPoint. “The expertise of our planning and design personnel, the help of our supply partner, JR Clancy, and the careful work of our talented crew made it all happen with efficiency and professionalism.”
To allow for maintenance, the new hoist systems can lower the speaker clusters to the auditorium floor for maintenance. LA ProPoint’s on-site installation time was approximately two weeks with minimal disruption to the theatre’s operations. The company completed rigging installation on June 22 and audiences will begin appreciating the Alex Theatre’s improved sound system when new speakers are suspended from the rigging in mid-July.