The Dolby Theater was officially unveiled on May 18. The opening ceremony featured a lineup that showcased the theater’s complete range of functionality. Deke Sharon, Town Alum and “the father of contemporary a cappella” delivered the opening remarks.
Boys performed drums, acoustic guitars hand bells, hip hop routines, and modern dance. A short film on the life of Ray Dolby demonstrated the cinematic capabilities. The seating was retracted to clear the floor for the afterparty, which featured a live band (of Town School fathers), yet another performance type to test the theater’s acoustic capabilities.
It started out as a modest enough vision, borne out of the need to make limited athletic space do double duty for performing arts. You’ve all been in those spaces, they usually fail at supporting either activity well.
But luckily, parent David Dolby along with passionate Town School alumni, stepped in to take multipurpose to the next level. The 420-seat theater features a motorized telescoping seating system for student performances. During sports events, the seats retract to make way for a full-court gym complete with basketball goals, scoreboard, and athletic floor. A roll-up divider curtain mounted on the ceiling drops down to allow multiple groups to use the space at the same time.
The space is as audiovisually flexible as it is physically flexible. Construction required a team of experts that included Shalleck Collaborative, Charles M. Salter Associates, and Dolby sound technicians. An acoustic ceiling suspended below the structural one allows sound to dissipate, soundproofing the room from outside noise of the rooftop athletic field and city streets and preventing sound from leaking into adjacent classrooms and neighboring residences.
Adjustable acoustic banners mounted on the walls can be raised and lowered to optimize acoustics for athletics, live performance, events, and screenings. The LED lighting system is capable of color temperatures to suit any occasion; the projection system rivals that of a commercial cinema and is equipped with Dolby Atmos, the latest in surround sound technology.
Situated 35 feet underground, the 7,500-SF theater was literally carved out of the existing school site with a big dig that excavated of 175,000 CF of material. The subterranean construction solved for the school’s constrained location in an urban neighborhood that boasts some of the highest property values in San Francisco. The theater’s flexible features further maximize space utilization on the site.
The Dolby Theater promises to be more than just a venue for the school’s performing arts, music and athletics programs. It offers a real-world laboratory for boys to explore theater tech, sound production, or the physics of sound and basketball—a teaching tool to advance authentic, inquiry-based learning.