Performing arts centers

Theater type Performing Arts Center/Touring Broadway Road House

Project type Renovation and Restoration

Completed January 1995

Total project cost $17 million

Seat count 1,600 to 2,084

Architect  Ellerbe Becket Architects – Los Angeles

Theater consultant Theatre Projects Consultants

Owners representative  Gordon Davidson, Founding Artistic Director/Producer of the Center Theatre Group


Ahmanson Theatre Renovation

Los Angeles, CA

A $17 million renovation of the Ahmanson Theatre brought the venue’s balcony and mezzanine closer to the stage, lowered the ceiling and reduced the width of the auditorium, making the theater as suitable for intimate stage plays as it is for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and other mega-musicals. The major renovation was designed to enhance the theater’s acoustics, improve sightlines and allow for more flexible seating arrangements. As a result of the reconfiguration, the Ahmanson can now be instantly transformed from a 2,084-seat theater to a cozier 1,600-seat venue.



Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Denver, CO  |  September 2005

Opera lovers the world over flocked to Denver on Sept. 10, 2005, to celebrate the much-anticipated opening of the new Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The event—which brought to the Mile High City Renée Fleming, Ben Heppner and other international opera greats—provided the venue with its first acoustical test. The “Ellie” passed with flying colors and is already being heralded as one of the finest opera venues in the world.

Formerly called the Denver Municipal Auditorium Theater, the historic building underwent a $92 million renovation, designed to provide Opera Colorado, Colorado Ballet, The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company and other local performing arts organizations with an outstanding venue for unamplified performances. The renovation required gutting the interior of the building—the exterior of which has been awarded National Landmark status—and crafting an entirely new 2,268-seat performance space within the existing structure.

The project was funded in part by a $25 million bond issue that passed by an overwhelming voter margin and by private donations, including a $7 million gift from the Caulkins family in honor of the theater’s namesake.

Our Work: In designing the acoustics for the new venue, Robert F. Mahoney & Associates and the project’s lead architectural firm, Semple Brown Design, turned to the premier opera houses of Europe for inspiration: La Scala, Covent Garden, Opera Garnier and the Vienna Staatsoper. The two firms carefully developed a theater configuration, characterized by a tall volume, shallow balconies with little overhang and side boxes, to produce outstanding acoustics for opera and ballet.

Because the Ellie was created to pay tribute to the vocal arts, Mahoney and Semple Brown’s Peter Lucking painstakingly crafted every aspect of the venue with one goal in mind: to ensure the utmost clarity and warmth of vocal sound and a proper balance between singers onstage and the orchestra in the pit. To help achieve this Herculean task, Mahoney sculpted virtually every surface of the theater to give each seat the transparent acoustics demanded by the most discriminating listeners—regardless of where they choose to sit. One of the project’s groundbreaking innovations is the pit’s movable upstage wall—which allows the conductor to mute the brass and percussion sections as necessary, providing yet another way to ensure vocal clarity throughout the opera house. The Ellie is the only opera venue in the world to feature this type of flexible orchestra configuration.

Acoustically, the hall is a natural marvel. You would expect that from a theater carefully designed to glorify the unamplified human voice.
— Marc Shulgold, Rocky Mountain News Music and Dance Critic

Theater Type Performing Arts Center 
Project Type Renovation and Restoration
Location Denver, Colorado
Completion September 2005
Total Project Cost $92 million
Seat Count 2,268
Architect Semple Brown Design
Theater Consultant Public Assembly Consultants, Inc.
Owner’s Representative Rodney Smith, General Manager of the Denver Performing Arts Complex


Theater Type: Performing Arts Center/ Specialty Broadcast/Touring Broadway Road House
Project Type: New Construction
Total Project Cost: $615 million
Seat Count: 3,500 
Architects: The Rockwell Group, Altoon & Porter and Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn
Theater Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants
Owner’s Representative: Doug Curtis, TrizecHahn


Kodak Theatre

Hollywood, CA  |  November 2001

The Kodak Theatre is the permanent home for the Academy Awards® ceremonies and the main attraction of the Hollywood & Highland project, a landmark $615 million entertainment complex on historic Hollywood Boulevard. Opened in November 2001, the theater has one of the largest stages in the country and can seat up to 3,500 in a flexible configuration that includes three balcony levels and 24 private boxes.

Our Work: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hired Robert F. Mahoney & Associates to design the Kodak Theatre’s acoustics to meet the highest technical standards of the Academy for acoustics, sound isolation and noise control. In addition to world-wide television broadcasts, the Kodak hosts touring Broadway productions, rock ‘n’ roll concerts and specialty award shows.

The Kodak Theatre has succeeded from the start, winning a prestigious award for great acoustics and design and filling up with 207 bookings last year, including concert dates by Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand.
— Newsweek

Kirk Douglas Theatre

Culver City, CA  |  September 2004

Opened in September 2004, the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, provides the renowned Center Theatre Group with something it’s desperately needed for years: a mid-size theater space dedicated to experimental plays and actor training. The new venue, located in a 1940s movie theater in the heart of downtown Culver City, houses CTG’s play development program and complements the group’s other two performance spaces: The 750-seat Mark Taper Forum and the renovated 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre. The new theater is also home to the Taper’s youth program P.L.A.Y. (Performing for Los Angeles Youth).

Dedicated to assisting rookie stage actors, legendary film actor Kirk Douglas donated $2.5 million to help fund the $12 million renovation of CTG’s new theater. In transforming the venue into an intimate theater space, CTG has provided the entire Los Angeles community with a sanctuary for experimental art and a place for young people to hone and prove their skills as actors, writers, directors and producers.

Our Work: Robert F. Mahoney & Associates—which was the lead acoustical consultant on the renovation of CTG’s Ahmanson Theater in the mid-1990s—was hired to design the acoustics for the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Renovation of Culver City’s historic movie house entailed overhauling the interior of the former cinema to create a flexible, 300-seat performance space. Because the theater is used to perform small and developing works, the goal was to convert the former cavernous movie house into a more intimate location for dramatic performances. In addition, the theater’s balcony area was converted to a rehearsal studio and classroom. The building’s exterior, which has been designated a historic landmark, was preserved.

Mahoney & Associates also oversaw the acoustical upgrades for Culver City’s Ivy Substation. Located a few blocks from the old cinema, the Ivy was refurbished to host the Mark Taper Forum’s New Work Festival until the completion of the Kirk Douglas Theatre.


Theater Type: Performing Arts Center 
Project Type: Renovation and Restoration
Location: Culver City, California
Completion: September 2004
Total Project Cost: $12 million
Seat Count: 300
Architect: Steven Ehrlich Architects
Theater Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants
Owner’s Representative: Anthony Byrnes, Center Theatre Group Associate Producer

There’s just something magical about a theater this size, where even the seats in the last row are terrific. [Such a venue] makes the theater-going experience even more of a communal event.
— Gordon Davidson, Founding Artistic Director/Producer of the Center Theatre Group


Theater Type: Performing Arts Center
Project Type: Renovation and Restoration
Location: Seattle, Washington
Completion: March 1999
Seat Count: 900 (Great Hall); 300 (black box cabaret)
Owner’s Representative: David Brewster, Town Hall Seattle Founder and former Executive Director 
Web Site:

Town Hall Seattle

Seattle, WA  |  March 1999

Located in Seattle’s historic First Hill neighborhood and housed within a Roman-revival-style church, Town Hall Seattle is a cultural center that encourages democratic community conversation and supports a wide range of local arts and community organizations. Founded in 1999 by David Brewster, former publisher ofSeattle Weekly, and a consortium of other civic-minded activists, Town Hall has found a niche as a mid-sized, affordable cultural arts venue and has been steadily booked with music, lectures, literary readings and other artistic events since its opening.

Our Work: Robert F. Mahoney & Associates designed the acoustics for Town Hall Seattle’s 900-seat Great Hall so that the auditorium could accommodate live music, spoken word and other performances. The firm also helped to transform the building’s basement space into a 300-seat black box cabaret.

The stately acoustics of Seattle’s Town Hall provide a perfect setting for a singular musical experience that is both stimulating and contemplative
— Earshot Jazz

Other performing arts centers of significance

Actors' Alley  North Hollywood, CA  |  Month YYYY

Arvada Center Expansion (Phase III) Arvada, Colorado  |  Month YYYY

Colorado Ballet Denver, Colorado  |  Month YYYY

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Colorado Springs, Colorado  |  Month YYYY

Dittman Center for Art and Dance St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota  |  Month YYYY

Flint Barn Centerville, Delaware  |  Month YYYY

Ivy Substation Culver City, CA  |  Month YYYY

Kenneth King Academic and Performing Arts Center Denver, Colorado  |  Month YYYY

New World Symphony Sound Space Miami Beach, FL*  |  Month YYYY

Playwrights’ Center Minneapolis, Minnesota  |  Month YYYY

Royce Auditorium Grand Rapids, MI  |  Month YYYY

University of Southern California Bing Theatre  Los Angeles, California  |  Month YYYY

World Trade Center Performing Arts Complex  New York, New York  |  Month YYYY