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Orpheum Theater, Flagstaff AZ

Thomas S. Friedman • InstallationsOctober 2021 • October 11, 2021

The Orpheum comes alive with a new EAW rig. Photo by Molly Baker Media

When the Covid-19 pandemic first swept across the nation last year, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff, AZ. The closure came just after the town’s premier facility for concerts, performing arts and entertainment had upgraded its aging sound system with a new KF810P line array rig from Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW).

The stage left KF810P hang. Photo by Molly Baker Media

The Waiting Game

For the venue’s audio production manager Scotty J., this meant an agonizingly long wait before he could showcase the venue’s new P.A. system. Today, with restrictions easing as the Orpheum Theater re-opens, Scotty J. is thrilled to show off the new sound system. Working with Escondido, CA-based Sound Image, a full-service audio, video, theatrical lighting, control system, acoustic design and integration firm, Scotty J. selected the all-EAW KF810P line array and SB818P single 18” flyable subwoofer system.

While the Orpheum was closed, the theater still produced some virtual events including about 25 webcasts during 2020 from its indoor stage with the new EAW system. The venue also created an outdoor space in the parking lot, which was first used for a two-day Halloween/Grateful Dead event last October.

“As a multi-purpose music venue,” says Scotty, “we really needed a versatile P.A. that could handle different genres of music.” Scotty worked directly with Ben Davis from Sound Image who advised on the purchase and design of the rig. “Ben came out, looked at the room, took his measurements and discussed with us what was available within our budget. We looked at several different systems, and EAW was clearly the best option. I heard the EAW rig in a few different environments and it always sounded amazing. Through my interaction with the EAW team, I knew I wanted to work with them. Also, a lot of the acts/engineers that come through the venue know EAW, which added to my confidence in the brand.”

The theater doesn’t specialize in one type of music or event, and needed a system that could provide both a high degree of speech intelligibility, but also the decibel level required for hip-hop and EDM shows. “Numerous times, I was worried we had been pushing the existing P.A. to its last watt,” Scotty explained. “The older P.A.’s amplitude was never a problem as we could make it loud, but the coverage, due to the design of the theater itself and the number of boxes we had, just wasn’t adequate for the room.”

EAW SB818P single-18 subs add plenty of punch. Photo by Molly Baker Media

The New System

The new EAW system consists of 12 KF810P line arrays with six boxes on the left and right. There are 12 SB818P single-18 flyable subwoofers along with four RSX129 2-way self-powered loudspeakers for front fills. When spec’ing the system, Davis wanted to make sure the P.A. could generate enough SPL from the mains and didn’t want to rely too heavily on the subs. In addition, the venue is a long rectangular space with a balcony on one end, so ensuring even balcony coverage was another important factor.

The three-way KF810Ps are designed specifically for installation applications, featuring clean aesthetics, invisible wiring and concealed 3-point rigging. Each 90-pound box is just 32.9 x 12.6 x 17.4” (WxHxD). Under the grill are two high-power 10” woofers, four 5” cone mid drivers and dual 3” voice coil HF compression drivers. The output of these sources unites through an integrated horn that occupies nearly the entire forward face of the speaker enclosure, delivering up to 145 dB SPLs with 110° of horizontal pattern control down to 250 Hz.

“We are very excited to finally showcase the system as we start to host in-person events again,” adds Scotty. “We know we will really dazzle our audiences with the amazing sound quality and coverage of our new EAW system.”

A Happy Ending

While the Orpheum Theater’s original 18-year-old P.A. system’s coverage was no longer adequate for the room’s design, it wasn’t ready to be silenced forever. As a result, the Orpheum donated the system, which will be traveling to Africa where it will be used on a tour of the continent, beginning its journey in Cameroon with the band Kemit.

Originally built in 1914, the Orpheum Theater is located in the center of downtown Flagstaff. The classic 650-seat space (with additional standing room for up to 1,000 people), hosts major bands, plays, classical concerts, film screenings, community events and other events.

The Orpheum Theater, today…

The Orpheum Theater: Some History

A local landmark in historic downtown Flagstaff, AZ, what is now the Orpheum Theater was originally an old movie house originally named the Majestic Opera House. It was built in 1911 by John Weatherford, who owned of the Weatherford Hotel just up the street in the early 1900s.

Just hours after New Year’s Eve, in the morning hours of 2016, the roof and most of the walls of building collapsed under 61 inches of snow. Weatherford pulled his projector out of the ruins of the Majestic and the movies temporarily moved up the street into a building on east Aspen Street that was once a garage. Weatherford rebuilt the theater as an expanded, improved venue and renamed it the Orpheum, which opened in August of 1917, where it ran continuously until the late 1999. Three years later, after months of extensive renovation, The Orpheum Theater returned as a concert venue. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as one of the West’s most significant theater structures.

…And circa 1918. The older photo can be dated by the poster for director Sidney Olcott’s World War I drama The Belgian, which was released on January 10, 1918. This silent-era film is now believed to be lost.

Orpheum Theater

  • Capacity: 1,000 (650 seated)
  • Sound System: EAW KF810P
  • Integrator: Sound Image
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