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Friday
Oct102014

Podcast #656: Movie Theaters Enter the Fourth Dimension

It will come as no surprise that the HT Guys will opt to wait for the Blu-ray version of popular movies so that we can enjoy them in the comfort of our own homes. We know that we are not alone, many of our listeners are doing the same. As our hobby grows, people are setting up relatively inexpensive home theaters that provide a quite enjoyable experience. Others will spend a little more money and create an experience that rivals what you get in the cinema.

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Movie Theaters Enter the Fourth Dimension

It will come as no surprise that the HT Guys will opt to wait for the Blu-ray version of popular movies so that we can enjoy them in the comfort of our own homes. We know that we are not alone, many of our listeners are doing the same. As our hobby grows, people are setting up relatively inexpensive home theaters that provide a quite enjoyable experience. Others will spend a little more money and create an experience that rivals what you get in the cinema.

 

Some History

Back in the day the only way to see a blockbuster the way it was intended was in a movie theater. At some point the movie would find its way onto network television but imagine watching “The Sound of Music” on a 25 inch 4:3 SD television with a small 3.5 inch speaker. Not quite what Director Robert Wise had in mind. No, the only way to really watch a movie was in theaters.

Another argument for watching in theaters was that TV dramas were quite frankly amateurish in comparison to the cinema. The movies had bigger budgets, better actors, and higher production values. This resulted in Hollywood producing a better product for cinemas vs television.


Quality Gap Narrows

Today many of the differences between the home and cinema have been eliminated. Television and movies have similar aspect ratios, HDTVs provide better picture quality, low cost 7.1 receivers provide similar audio experiences, and Hollywood is producing cinema quality television. In some cases television has better content than all the remakes and sequels Hollywood wants to charge you $11 a ticket for. Its no wonder people are staying home and saving their money.

Ara put his theater together for about $15,000, Braden spent less than $10,000. Perhaps a bit pricy but everyone who watches a movie in our rooms comes away wanting to do the same in their houses. You don’t have to spend that much either. Each year we put together our Ultimate Home Theater in a Box systems which are not entry level systems but they go for about half the cost of our projector setups. These systems will provide an experience that is superior to that of the cinema. This year Braden spec’d out a 80 inch, 7.2 system with a Blu-ray player for less than $6200!! Ara’s was a bit smaller, 65 inch, 9.2 audio, with Blu-ray for $7,800. When you consider that you can enjoy your home system every day! That makes the upfront cost a little easier to justify. Especially if you love watching sports!

With a home setup that provides a technical experience that is equal or nearly equal to that of the cinema what does going to the movie theater offer that you can’t get at home?  Well how about high price ticket and concession prices, noisy inconsiderate people texting and posting selfies to facebook, and twenty minutes of commercials and trailers. Yeah… we can’t wait to go to a movie theater. Its no wonder people are staying away in droves. The three to six month wait for a movie to hit the home market is goes by very fast. How many times have you said, “That’s already out??” If release windows for home distribution keeps getting smaller the multiplex may be a thing of the past.

 

What can be done?

Its clear that the cinemas need to do something to draw people back. We say cinema because filmmakers can choose to ride the wave and go straight to home. Whether it be physical media or streaming, Hollywood can deliver their content to the people who want it. This problem is really a cinema operator problem. Well, good scripts may draw a few more people to the cinema but not enough to stem the tide in our opinion.

Theaters need new tech that is not available in the home. They need a way to differentiate themselves from our living rooms. And it has to be tech that improves the experience. We don’t think 3D was that tech. Plus it was available in the home at the same time.  Some theaters are experimenting with a 4D experience. Think sensurround from the 70’s. In this case theaters are looking for ways to further immerse the viewer into the story.

One way is bigger screens that wrap around you. Yes some Imax theaters have this and if you lived in southern California in the 60s and 70s you could have gone to Disneyland and watched Wonders of China on Circle Vision. Circle Vision would be a bit too gimmicky but adding screens to the front sides for 50 or so feet would open up the picture and provide a more immersive experience. One that would be more difficult to create at home.

Better seats with motion actuators could provide a feeling of motion and deeper bass. It would be nice if there was an override switch for those who get motion sickness so they can turn off or dial back the effect. They could also provide speakers in the seats that would provide a more intimate experience than surround speakers way at the end of the auditorium.

For the full effect theater rooms can be built with misting systems that can provide a rain effect and fans that can provide wind. While we are at it why not add scents to heighten the experience.  These features would need to be used judiciously so as not to burn the viewer out. But if used correctly it could really help with the experience. The best example of “Smellovision” in use today is on the simulator ride called “Soaring over California” at California Adventure in Anaheim.  When you fly over the orange groves you can smell oranges or pines as you fly through Yosemite. The effect is subtle and it does enhance the experience.

Some theaters offer higher quality food and alcohol with ninja like wait staff to bring it to you. But can you really enjoy a good steak while watching a movie? Drinks sure! This type of arrangement appeals to a minority. The one thing that can really help the experience is to have a zero tolerance for chatty patrons and those that text. Maybe offer a texting and non-texting viewing. If you text in a non-text room you will be asked to go to the screening room where texts are allowed.

While filmmakers can help get people in the seats by creating better movies, we still think its the movie theater experience that needs to be fixed. Let us know what it would take to get you to go spend $50 to watch Hollywood’s latest blockbuster?

 

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