The Grand Lady of Market Street has been a landmark in Wilmington for nearly 140 years. Opened as the Grand Opera House in 1871, The Grand has led a storied history hosting operas and symphonies, vaudeville and burlesque, movies and live performances.
In its early years, performers including Ethel Barrymore, Buffalo Bill Cody and John Philip Sousa graced its stage. For most of the twentieth century the 1,208-seat hall operated as a movie theater, eventually falling into disrepair and closing its doors in 1967.
After an extensive restoration, The Grand reopened as a live performance venue, and has become a nexus for the city's downtown revival. Along with the smaller 300-seat Baby Grand next door, the building hosts more than 300 events per year, ranging from symphony orchestras and ballets to rock and contemporary artists, comedy and performance art.
Like many theaters built during the late 1800s, the Grand's architecture was designed to enhance the unamplified performances of the day. But those same acoustics can wreak havoc with modern music, and proved to be a challenge for many of the auditorium's high-volume shows. The audio systems of both rooms are outfitted with new systems that include loudspeakers from Community Professional.
The main stage in The Grand is covered by four Community ENTASYS three-way column line arrays and one ENTASYS low-frequency column to the left and right of the proscenium. Four VLF-212 and four VLF-218 subwoofers provide low end power and punch, and ten M-12 monitors are shared between the Grand and Baby Grand stages. A Soundcraft K2 console covers Front of House.
"The ENTASYS speakers sound fantastic, with full fidelity all the way down to where the subs take over," says Howard Fulton, Audio Engineer for The Grand. "Horizontal coverage is great, and it projects all the way to the farthest seats, 85 feet away. And with the ENTASYS' low profile, even these 19-foot tall columns virtually disappear from view, ending line-of-sight issues for any seat in the house."
Next door, The Baby Grand is outfitted with a Community iBOX system, including a pair of iHP-3594 three-way boxes on either side, augmented by two i2W8 speakers as front fills. Bottom end is covered by two TLF218 subs, and two iHP1296 speakers are positioned as stage monitors. A second Soundcraft K2 console covers FOH in the Baby Grand.
Fulton says the smaller Baby Grand presented its own unique challenges. "The room is a little wider than it is deep," he says, "and coverage has always been a bit spotty and uneven. We were looking for good sounding, compact boxes that could be flown under the proscenium, and the iBOX really fit the bill."
"The Community systems have made a world of difference in the sound of both rooms," says Fulton. "The intelligibility in the main room has dramatically improved, and the coverage in the Baby Grand is great to every seat in the house."