Once upon a time, movie theaters were truly palaces, and few were equal in design and texture to Loews five lavishly designed “Wonder Theatres” built in and near New York City between 1929 and 1930. While there are efforts underway to restore several of these opulent octogenarians that have been in and out of commission over the years, Loews 175th Street Theatre—today known as United Palace—has remained in almost constant use since day one and now has a new L-Acoustics sound system that will carry the venue into its next century.
Located at West 175th Street and Broadway in upper Manhattan, the 3,400-seat facility continues to stay busier than ever hosting church services, theatrical productions, and music concerts. United Palace is also home to two non-profit cultural centers: United Palace House of Inspiration (UPHI), an all-inclusive spiritual center, and United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA), an independent, nonprofit arts and cultural center.
In September 2017, Boston's Audio Spectrum installed an L-Acoustics system in the theater comprised of 20 K2 array elements and six K1-SB subs divided into two flown arrays, eight SB28 ground subs, four X8 coaxials used as front-row fills, and an even dozen LA8 amplified controllers to power them all.
Jed DeFilippis has been the technical director and production manager at United Palace for a little over 18 months, but, in that time, has soaked up its history as well as its technical needs. “It was repurposed as a church in 1969, after Reverend Ike [Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II] bought it,” he recalled. “But after he stopped preaching, they began to bring in promoters and events to help support the building. It had a tiny PA system—only good for a single person speaking—so most of the promoters were bringing their own sound systems and rigging with them.”
The Palace wasn’t the only thing evolving. The entire neighbor, once regarded as rough-and-tumble, has been gentrifying, pain the way for a renaissance with the Palace as a gem in its crown.“The perception of the Palace is changing, being increasingly regarded as a great concert venue, and by bringing a rider-friendly PA, we’re helping promote that perception,” said DeFilippis.
After this arrival, DeFilippis suggested just that-bring in a rider-friendly PA. He wanted something they could rent to concerts producers, “getting return on that investment and making it easier on the event producers, who wouldn’t have to rent outside systems, and on the building, which wouldn’t have the wear and tear that bringing in rental systems can cause.”
Robert Way, the venue’s COO, was agreed, and the two immediately put together ROI research to consider the upgrade options, and the L-Acoustics equipment was chosen.
The now-installed K2 system solved another issue for the venerable venue. Its massive balcony, divided into an upper and lower loge, and a main balcony, hovers over a huge swatch of the orchestra-level seating.mThe rear sections of both levels were difficult to reach for sound.
K2 and L-Acoustics’ PANFLEX system, a horizontal-steering technology that combines mechanically adjustable fins with DSP algorithms effective from 300 Hz, quickly resolved that issue. Narrowing or widening the horizontal directivity of the adjustable fins can serve many purposes, including, in this case, adapting the throw to fit long- and short-distance coverage/SPL requirements, while also avoiding reflective surfaces.
“Now, we get the sound all the way to the back wall of both levels, clearly and evenly,” says DeFilippis. “And L-Acoustics’ engineer came in and did the tuning in a matter of hours after it was installed. Amazing.”
Rafael Jaimes, principal at Audio Spectrum, said the K2 arrays are well-suited to United Palace’s specific needs: “We used L-Acoustics’ Soundvision modeling program, and its predictions were very accurate—we knew we’d be able to cover the rear seats of the orchestra and balcony areas completely and consistently.”
Jaimes was still pleasantly surprised the system installation took well under a week and was ready for the first system’s first show, Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out Live! on September 8, 2017. “The K2 has a ton of horsepower, and can reach way back, but it’s also a very straightforward system to install,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s about the sound, and the K2 always sounds great.”