In some ways, the Prytania Theatre in New Orleans harkens back to a bygone era. It has been in continuous operation as a neighborhood movie house since 1914, and it is the last remaining single-screen commercial theater in the South. But while the interior décor evokes the mid-20th century heyday of Hollywood, a recent technology upgrade has launched the Prytania Theatre into the future with 4K laser digital projection and Dolby Atmos® immersive audio powered by Meyer Sound cinema series loudspeakers.
The Prytania Theatre was purchased in 1995 by Rene Brunet and is currently owned by his son, Robert Brunet. The Brunet family has operated theaters in the New Orleans area for more than 115 years, a tradition that now spans four generations.
Although the family’s deep roots in vintage cinema are reflected in the interior décor and twice-weekly showings of classic films, dedication to offering patrons the very best cinema experience prompted the upgrade to a Barco SP4K 15C 4K laser projector and the Dolby CP950A Dolby Atmos audio system comprising 51 Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers. The entire technology renovation was entrusted to Omaha-based Strong Technical Services.
“We had put in a new Dolby CP650 7.1 system after hurricane Katrina in 2007 and it worked fine,” reflects Robert Brunet, “but after the pandemic faded, we really wanted to offer our patrons something special — the best of the best. We knew Atmos was the way to go, and we also wanted a speaker system with the power and punch to take full advantage of the format. I was familiar with Meyer Sound equipment for live performances, and when I found out they had cinema systems I knew that would be the winning combination. It certainly did not disappoint.”
The first showing with the new system was Top Gun: Maverick. The sonic improvement was startling, according to Brunet.
“Our post-Katrina system was quite good but the new Meyer Sound system just blew it away,” he recalls. “What I heard with that movie pushed every button. When the jets flew by, the building literally shook, yet you also heard every detail with clarity and pinpoint positioning. It was very impressive.”
The clarity and dynamic range also enhanced quieter scenes, says Brunet. “A lot of times a powerful system can be too bright in scenarios with mainly dialogue. But the Meyer Sound system was clear and natural, never fatiguing. When you need it to bang it will do it, but with dialogue, the accuracy and fidelity shine through.”
While Top Gun: Maverick showcased special effects, two later showings — Elvis and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody — shifted the emphasis to musicality. “These days, when we play a movie like Top Gun or Elvis we get a lot more positive comments,” says Brunet. “‘The sound is really great,’ they’ll say. ‘What did you do in here?’”
The screen channels for the system employ three Acheron® Studio cinema loudspeakers, with four X-800C™ cinema subwoofers driving the low-frequency effects (LFE) channel. The Atmos surround channels are carried by 32 HMS-10™ and two HMS-12™ surround loudspeakers, bolstered by two USW-210P™ subwoofers for bass management. Fill speakers for the balcony, configured in two zones, are eight MM-4XP™ miniature self-powered loudspeakers.
Spearheading the project on behalf of Strong Technical Services was Director of Sales Travis Henning, who coordinated design and commissioning efforts in consultation with Meyer Sound Program Manager for Cinema and Residential Jay Wyatt.
Before taking over the reins of the family cinemas from his father, Robert Brunet was involved extensively in the promotion of live concerts and electronic dance music (EDM) events, and today he continues as a principal partner in the promotion company, Amps Events.
“I’ve been a big fan of Meyer Sound concert systems for decades,” he says. “I was always impressed with the power and fidelity of the sound at venues with Meyer loudspeakers, but I was not familiar with the company’s cinema systems. When I heard about the cinema line, it was an easy decision to go down that road.”
Brunet is confident that the new Meyer Sound system will not only showcase the sounds of today’s cinema but also add new life to past classics. The Prytania Theatre is in the process of restoring 35mm and 70mm film projectors to offer screenings of vintage film masterpieces in their original format.
In addition to first-run and classic films, the Prytania Theatre also hosts special events, including regular presentations of the cult phenomenon, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Classic Movie series, with daytime screenings every Sunday and Wednesday, hosts features such as Singing in the Rain, Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, and The Searchers.
Strong Technical Services (STS) has deep roots in cinema technology, extending back to the 1930s when it was created as a service provider of sound reproducers for film projectors. Now a wholly owned subsidiary of Fundamental Global Holdings (FGH), STS employs a staff of more than 85 with business across three operating segments: Equipment Sales, Managed Services, and Field Services.