LAFF 2012: Oscars' Theatre to Make Noise With New Dolby Sound System
This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Hollywood's Kodak Theatre is getting a major makeover in time for the world premiere of Disney/Pixar's Brave, which the Los Angeles Film Festival is hosting on June 18. Gone is the name Kodak itself, a victim of the Eastman Kodak Co.'s bankruptcy filing. Instead, the theater will carry the name of Dolby, now that the audio company Dolby Laboratories has secured naming rights for the next 20 years.
It's inside the theater that most of the changes are taking place. Dolby has installed a new 60-by-32-foot screen, Dolby 3D system and two Christie 4K projectors. But it's not what moviegoers see, it's what they will hear that will be dramatically different.
Dolby is installing Atmos, its new immersive sound system that uses a total of 77 speakers, in the theater, which also serves as home to the annual Academy Awards show. It's a big job, since the rechristened Dolby Theatre contains 180,000 square feet and boasts an 86-foot-high ceiling. "It's gigantic, so getting audio coverage is challenging," says Dolby's David W. Gray. "In the most simplistic form, the challenge is to ensure the dialogue is correct everywhere people are seated. You want to hear the left surround speakers if you are sitting on the right -- and that is a very big room."
And there's an even bigger hurdle: Six days a week, the Cirque du Soleil currently performs its show Iris at the theater, where performers fly out over the audience. Fortunately, while 22 speakers will be suspended high above the orchestra on two specially-designed 50-foot, 1,400-pound trusses, the trusses also can be moved when the high-flying aerialists are performing -- so there won't be mid-air collisions a la Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.