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Seeing Blockbusters in Style

Finding inspiration from home theaters to go back to the commercial ones — but only if it is a Dolby Cinema.

I’m a little obsessed.

When it came time to go back to a movie theater to see a film, I saw that my local AMC had added a Dolby Cinema to its arsenal. Ever since doing the story about how a Dolby exec and a Kaliedescape board member added a Dolby Cinema-like experience to their home, I was itching to try one out. So, off my wife and I went to check out In the Heights in promised Dolby Cinema splendor.

Wow! I was impressed. The sights, the sounds…it really added to the experience. It helped that the film was packed with vibrant colors and a bass-heavy score.

Prior to the movie, they played a short clip that spelled out what the difference was between a Dolby Cinema and a typical theater, and it had the desired effect as, a few days later, I heard my wife — who normally glosses over when I expound on such things — explaining the deeper blacks and enhanced sound to my kids. (It ends very cool, too, with a solid, very black screen when the words “Yes, the projector is still on” pop up in the center).

Naturally, when Black Widow opened a few weeks later, you know where we went. While In the Heights had a great look, we were anxious to try it out with the big, steel-crunching set pieces you get from a summer blockbuster — and Widow delivered that in spades.

Of course, part of that appreciation could be due to seeing a movie in an environment other than my living room for the first time in nearly two years. Also, in both cases, we were two out of maybe ten people in the entire theater, so we didn’t have to deal with the negative parts of the commercial theater experience — people disrupting the film.

Still, I know that whenever possible I will be going back to see movies in that Dolby Cinema, despite it being further away than my local, non-Dolby Cinema theater. It definitely made an impact on me, and I’ve been evangelizing it to those who seem interested (present company included).

I did watch In the Heights a second time at home before it temporarily left HBO Max. And while my system can’t match the Dolby Cinema, I did enjoy it from the comfort of my couch, and was able to notice some details that escaped me while I was enthralled by the big-screen spectacle. Pausing for bathroom breaks is another plus.

I know the current day-and-date home/theatrical release schedule causes some big issues in the movie industry and for theaters, but I have to say I love having the freedom to decide where I get to watch these films. And, as I’ve learned, the correct answer can be “both.”

With conditions as they are, it is no surprise that home theaters are having a moment. This issue’s cover story looks at some of the latest trends in the category, which not only reveal what is going on in technology and design, but also what’s going on inside the minds of our clients. Along with their popularity, the possibilities of what a home theater can be has also exploded. And while most of these creative home spaces will be used in conjunction with visits to commercial theaters, they sure make the “Where to experience this film?” question interesting.