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For decades, commercial cinemas remained the only destination capable of delivering the grandeur of true movie magic, easily eclipsing home theater performance in nearly every category imaginable. The home theater realm seemed suspended in an everlasting game of catch-up and imitation, handcuffed by the limitations of existing technologies. The tables were turned, however, in the early 2000s with the introduction of high definition (HD) screens and media. In a matter of years, the masses were given access to radically larger displays, improved projector images, crystal clear picture clarity, and ear shattering HD audio codecs…all in the comfort of their own homes.



Dolby has a futuristic vision of what commercial cinemas will offer.


The intrusion of in-home AV quality and convenience into commercial cinema's future plans has been undeniable, illustrated by the fact that box office attendance numbers have been on the decline for the last 12 years. Because eyeballing a ticket sales chart to support an assumption is tantamount to treason in the statistical world, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a multitude of other factors might have influenced this trend. That being said, the raw numbers are hard to ignore and one could naturally assume that home AV improvements are largely to blame. Having only purchased a handful of box office tickets in the last few years (myself), it’s hard to shy away from the notion that staying home is not only more comfortable, but an overall better experience. After all, who wants to deal with sticky floors, a row of strangers blocking your path to a bathroom, obnoxiously inflated concession prices, paltry elbow room, out-of-focus video, and audio that’s running uncomfortably hot? Okay…some of those are an exaggeration, but you get the point.

In response to declining attendance numbers, commercial cinemas have been forced into a reactionary mode. We’ve seen hundreds of AMC theaters rip-out their old seats in favor of giant plush power recliners, production companies have reanimated 3D from the grave, IMAX has been reinvigorated, higher frame rate and 4K digital projectors have been introduced, and new audio tech (like Atmos) has been developed. They’re improvements, for sure, but with the exception of true IMAX and massively oversized screens, most of these new technologies have trickled into our homes. For this reason, Dolby’s recent unveiling of a newly styled cinema experience caught my eye. At the most basic of levels, I’d love a solid experientially driven reason to hit the theaters again (I’ve become frighteningly adept at waiting for desirable titles to find their way to Blu-ray). But I’m also curious to see if Dolby has another Atmos trick up its sleeve, perhaps a new technology that is sure to be the darling of the home theater world in the coming year?



Dolby Cinema will offer optimized seating options and a screen-centric front end.


Dolby’s new theater experience is called “Dolby Cinema,” and aspects of its design are slated to begin appearing in 2015. According to a sparsely detailed press release, Dolby wants the experience to begin before moviegoers sit down, with an atmospheric entryway of “dynamic audio and video” complete with snazzy-looking walls, “sensory way finding audio,” and path lighting. What lies at the end of the entryway is where Dolby says audiences will be treated to the crème-de-la-crème of commercial cinema. The physical design inside of the theater has faceted acoustic panels, a wall-to-wall-to-ceiling floating screen with halo lighting, and sight-line optimized premium seating (no sign of recliners in the press release); each detail is meant to draw the audience deeper into the experience.



Angled wall treatments will aid an advanced audio presentation, says Dolby.


Of course, Dolby Atmos will be fully integrated into the Cinema for dynamic and immersive audio. On the projector front, Dolby is installing a Dolby Vision projection system that promises a high contrast color rich experience with balanced brightness. This means that blacks should appear inky and whites should pop – Dolby says nothing like it has ever been deployed commercially. The projectors will be laser based and capable of 4K resolutions, high frame rates, and 3D.

Evident in released CAD images, Dolby is obviously gunning for an entirely new environmental appearance (which, in itself, is promising) and an audio/visual presentation to match. These will all be accepted with open arms. But where’s the revolutionary advancements in tech that will influence the future of our home theaters? Perhaps it's the newly designed angled acoustic treatments…or a shift to laser-based projectors? If huge arrays of Atmos speakers garner attention on the commercial front, is it possible that radically different home Atmos speaker products will be born (large ceiling-mountable multi-speaker panels that are easy to install and offer large arrays)?

How do you see the future of home theater taking shape? If you’ve given-up on commercial cinemas, will Dolby’s vision win you back? Let us know!



Image Credits: Dolby
 

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Well, I'm all for cinema advancement. After all, you are correct that is has been responsable for driving the HT market. These new advancements are the kind of things that will entice us into the commercial theaters. I'm betting however, that there will only be a few theaters with the upgrade, as is usually the case. Here in Tallahassee, years later, we still don't even have an IMAX 3D HFR capable theater! So I fear this Dolby Cinema will not be available for everyone.

As far as HT speaker upgrades. I'm still floored that nobody is maketing a "true, on-ceiling, Atmos version." People are continuing to experiment to find a "best match" and posting in forums where we all pay close attention...

It does make me wonder what a new platform would look like. Continuing to add speakers seems a bit unrealistic. Maybe something like, large electrostatic panals (I'm talking 8 ftX 2 ft/or customizable to the room size) & mount multiples of them around the room/ceiling with proprietary software to controll the sound field. Different parts of each panel could directed to control different aspects of the sound. I could even see a rail system that could flex the panel to help aid panning. I wonder if anybody has considered trying eletrosatic panals on the ceiling yet. Might be the ticket. Dispersion shouldn't be an issue. Cost no object of course. But maybe this is just an expansion of the "non-existant, Atmos speaker rant."

Anyway, the botton line is that the commercial theaters are in bad need of attracting more customers. It seems to me they have to offer something worth while/better than at home. I say, bring it on! Cause some movies really do need the BIG SCREEN!!!
 

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I'm all for advancement also. My last theater experience was at a nice AMC IMAX joint...for Interstellar. Yes, the screen was HUGE, but the image was blurred, bright lighting from the entry hallways leaked onto the lower corners of the screen (especially visible during space shots), and the audio was so loud that it distorted during more dynamic moments.

I left with a half-drunk barrel sized "Medium" diet Coke and a splitting headache. :devil:

It drives me CRAZY to think that my experience was shared by 50 or so other folks...and that the theater could take very simple steps to optimize the experience.


I agree with your question about Atmos speakers...I recently watched a video review of Atmos modules that was FAR from flattering. It leads me to believe that in-ceiling speakers will be the only way to go for most enthusiasts. I like your idea of a rail system...or panels. Flatness and ease of installation are going to be key.
 

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Yeah, the on-ceiling speakers will have to be small enough to be unobtrusive. So in-ceiling will probably fill most peoples bill. That said, I have always felt Chane stands the best shot at an on-ceiling model. Their split gap woofer reduces the size significantly which puts it into a doable package. Haven't seen any movement...perplexing! I started a thread on their website...got very little responce. Maybe most people are really not interested. I'm in the group buy for the new A5's, maybe I'll ask Jon what it would cost to build me a custom set...with say a pair of 3" split woofers flanking their tweeter. That's what I'm wanting anyway.
 

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it would be interesting to see the age group most responsible for the decline in theater attendance. as a baby boomer i have a number of complaints that keep me away . no 1 unintelligible dialog. i realize this is an age related problem, but if you want to cater my age group, find a way to fix it. my home theater receiver can do it why cant you. no2 by the time i get thru the seemingly endless barrage of commercials and previews im ready to go home. and by the way i can hear the vocals just fine on these. i really enjoy and can appreciate a great sound system and imax screen, and the lounge chairs are a big improvement. but until my complaints are addressed i will continue to enjoy my home theater , the sound is great the screen is big, the lounge chairs are comfy,the popcorn is cheap,and the movie starts on time and stops when needed if you get my drift.
 

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I love going to the theater for movies. It is nice ot get away from the kids and have a date night, that being said. I usually wait mainly because I'm cheap. No Excuses just cheap.
 

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As one of the elder statesmen of movie going, I can without hesitation say I do not go BECAUSE of the audience. I do not like to be interrupted by chatter, cell phones and inconsiderable people walking about or wearing hats they will not remove. The popcorn and butter is actually neither and the prices seem to be inching toward the stratosphere with no let up in sight.

These things coupled with the possibility of a bad experience as fleshed out by Todd above, has convinced me to Just Say No. Now when one adds in the possibility of a bad movie, the odds and costs seem to make the decisions easy.
 

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Savjac, I have to agree with a few things here. I love the screen(size) and( much of) the experience. But when surrounded by the inconsiderate, thoughtless, selfish _____'s, I want to pour cherry coke on all their heads. The only reason I've been to the theater in recent years is my oldest son and I have started an annual bonding experience.
 

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I'm not sure how many AMC Prime theaters are out there but that's the way to go. The seating is spaced out and very comfortable (recliners). The people are usually mature and respectful of those around them. The A/V is top notch and it's just a very polished and enjoyable experience. We don't go often because I still prefer watching at home but if we do that's my preference.
 

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I make it a point to go to an early Matinee showing at least a week after a movie has been released. Usually there are very few people in the theater, so I get to sit in the "sweet spot".

Unfortunately, we don't have any of the high-end theaters within at least 100 miles: no Atmos, no Auro-3D, no IMAX and no AMC Prime :(
 

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As one of the elder statesmen of movie going, I can without hesitation say I do not go BECAUSE of the audience. I do not like to be interrupted by chatter, cell phones and inconsiderable people walking about or wearing hats they will not remove. The popcorn and butter is actually neither and the prices seem to be inching toward the stratosphere with no let up in sight.

These things coupled with the possibility of a bad experience as fleshed out by Todd above, has convinced me to Just Say No. Now when one adds in the possibility of a bad movie, the odds and costs seem to make the decisions easy.
Agreeable to me on many points, except that instead of "just saying no," I'll roll the dice on the audience in order to experience a good movie. Those dice rolled clean off the table once after asking a fellow patron to kindly keep their voice down. Their response: "It's a free country." :rolleyesno:
So much for suspended disbelief and respect for others.
 

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Yes indeed its a free country but there are rules that are agreed to the moment one steps into a movie theater. Free country is correct, buta free country with some regulations.
 
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