The Bright Future of Movie Theaters (Literally)

Collection Tech Obsessed

With the appeal of Netflix, streaming movies and mobile entertainment growing strong every day, movie theaters have had to up their game to stay competitive with consumers. Equipped with more sophisticated projections, massive displays, immersive sound and a variety of unique effects, movie theaters aren’t going down without a fight. Here are some of the amazing new technologies coming soon to a theater near you:

4DX offers rumbling seats, smells and rain

The days where you could sit still in a seat and enjoy a film in peace might be coming to an end. With 4DX technology developed by Seoul-based company CJ 4DPLEX, movie theaters across the country are being equipped with technology that makes seats rumble, sprays viewers with water, creates fog, blows wind and subjects viewers to unusual smells. Last March, Adam Epstein writing for Quartz went to New York City’s 4DX cinema to watch Batman v Superman and summed up the experience as something that “resembles an amusement park ride, not a movie experience. For some people, that’s fine. That can be fun in its own right.” While this kind of technology can be an exciting way to get an adrenaline rush during an action-packed showing of next Avengers movie, it’s conceivable that getting sprayed with water or having rumbling seats might not make sense for all genres.

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Dolby Cinema: A new standard in sound and image quality

Dolby Cinema hasn’t pushed for quite as many extreme effects as 4DX, putting its emphasis on maximizing the sound and image quality of the movie theater experience instead. With Dolby Cinema at AMC Burbank 16 near Los Angeles, moviegoers can get a taste of a vivid futuristic movie theater of tomorrow, today. The seats do pulsate a bit, but that’s not the selling point — it’s the projected image quality that’s 500 times the contrast ratio of standard cinemas due to a dual 4K Christie-laser projection system. This makes for a significantly brighter, richer, more colorful movie experience than just about anything out there. Additionally, Dolby Cinema presents its audiences with Dolby Atmos; an immersive surround sound system containing 128 tracks. It’s able to create a truly 3D sound experience, capturing the sounds of individual objects as they are seen on screen with spectacular clarity. The Dolby Atmos sound system comes with five speakers inside the screen itself and an additional 48 surround sound speakers, along with four subwoofers hanging from the ceiling. Brian Tong from CNET gave the Dolby Cinema a rave review back in December, describing it as “the definitive movie-going experience right now,” and as being “hard for me to go to another theater after the Dolby experience.”

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VR movie theaters

Virtual reality has without question been rapidly changing the entertainment landscape. With everything from virtual reality-equipped rollercoasters to immersive gaming and movie experiences, it was only a matter of time before the movie theater industry would begin looking at the implications of VR as well. Rather than the traditional movie theater experience of sharing a screen, VR hubs would provide each viewer with their own experience in their own soundproof rooms. Just this month, IMAX opened its first VR hub in LA with plans to expand. It isn’t quite as cost-effective as moviegoing just yet though, costing $10 for a seven minute gaming or movie experience. Currently, the hubs will be using the HTC Vive. In an interview with Fortune, IMAX’s CEO Richard Gelfond describes virtual reality not as something that needs to compete with movie theaters, but as a potentially complementary technology, explaining, “I think they can both exist side-by-side. If there's a blockbuster movie, you're going to want to see it in IMAX, then you'll see it in your home. If it's not a blockbuster, you might skip an IMAX and just see it in your home.”

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