JBL Line Array at Oscars
JBL VerTec® Line Arrays powering the Academy Awards Ceremony

As the 93rd annual Academy Awards ceremony brought together the biggest names in the movie industry to recognize the most outstanding cinematic achievements of the past year, one star was certain to shine.  JBL Professional loudspeakers were used to provide sound reinforcement for the ceremony’s thousands of guests and nominees at the art deco Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, on April 25, 2021.

Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscars® are not only one of the world’s most respected entertainment awards ceremonies, but also the oldest, having begun in 1929. This year was not JBL’s first Oscars® appearance; JBL has long been a key part of the star-studded ceremony, having supplied VerTec line arrays and a multitude of other components for the event’s massive sound system for more than 15 years, including the 85th and 88th editions, as well as at the annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Party in 2017. 

Technology and JBL’s sonic cinematic legacy
With JBL celebrating its 75th birthday this year, the brand’s legacy of cinematic audio excellence is nearly as old as the Academy Awards themselves. In fact, JBL’s role in cinema stretches back to the brand’s very origins—and even earlier still, when “talkies” were taking the movie industry by storm. JBL’s founder James B. Lansing played an instrumental role in developing the Shearer Horn system, a resounding success that was recognized with a Scientific Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy in 1936.

In the early 1940’s, Lansing created the “Voice of the Theater” cinema speakers, which set a new standard for the motion picture industry and continued to develop cinema speakers after founding JBL in 1946.

Samuel Goldwyn Theatre JBL Pro Sound
JBL in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater

In the early 1980’s, JBL engineers developed a system concept that was new to cinema: the JBL Bi-Radial® constant-directivity horn technology, which grew to become the JBL 4675 system and set a whole new industry standard. The system was installed in the industry’s reference theater—the Motion Picture Academy’s Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills—and was also selected as the first THX® Approved speaker system. And innovation didn’t stop there. During the next decade, JBL introduced the first modern 3-way screen channel system, the JBL 5674, which was installed during renovations of the Goldwyn Theater in 1996 along with custom JBL surrounds and subwoofers, delivering incredible impact, detail and clarity to every seat in the house.

JBL even won its own Oscar®! In 2002, three JBL engineers were presented with two of the most prestigious honors that the Motion Picture Academy can give for technical achievements in loudspeaker technology: a Scientific and Engineering Award “for the concept, design and engineering of the modern constant-directivity, direct radiator style motion picture loudspeaker systems,” and a Technical Achievement Award “for the engineering and design of filtered line arrays and screen spreading compensation as applied to motion picture loudspeaker systems.”

Humax Cinema Japan JBL Pro
Sculpted Surround System at Humax Cinema in Japan

Technology and innovation propel JBL’s sonic cinematic future
Engineered to invoke emotion and meet the demands of the moment, whether they’re reproducing a quiet, intimate scene or an aggressively loud action sequence, JBL’s cinema sound excellence continues unabated to this day, with JBL products found in 40% of movie theaters around the world, including the majority of Dolby® equipped theaters. JBL speakers also appear in Warner Brothers, Technicolor and Dolby® screening rooms, as well as The Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

JBL is always thinking about the future of how audiences will experience Oscar®-nominated films. Engineers at JBL recently worked on developing a custom Sculpted Sound solution for Samsung’s groundbreaking new Cinema LED technology called “Onyx” that are being installed in theaters around the world.

“Today, JBL is among the most trusted names in cinema sound, as our role in the 93rd Academy Awards demonstrates,” said Dave Rogers, President of the Lifestyle Division. “After decades of collaboration with the movie industry, JBL’s expertise has grown and evolved alongside the silver screen, ensuring that generations of movie-going audiences around the world continue to experience jaw-dropping cinema sound.”