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Better than the movie theater experience?

Tomorrow afternoon at CEDIA Expo in San Diego, a three-part series of discussions entitled The Home Cinema Experience kicks off with the first installment ‘Better-than-Movie-Theater-Experience’. With moderation by founder and president of ISF, Joel Silver, the panel will include Dennis Erskine, president of The Erskine Group, Anthony Grimani, president of PMI, Ltd., Luc Guillaume, MD at Wisdom Audio, Robert Keeler, VP, Stewart Filmscreen, and Cheena Srinivasan, founder and CEO of Kaleidescape.

According to CEDIA and sponsors Kaleidescape, in this first session the panel will discuss a ‘Golden Age of Home Cinema’ which we, as consumers, are evidently currently enjoying. With 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos object-based audio, there has literally never been a better time to upgrade or install a home cinema that can rival or surpass the capabilities of the best commercial theaters. The panel will also look at their own individual processes for designing systems around these new standards, how to explain the concepts to customers who may have been disappointed by the lack of 3D, and what one needs to bring the cinema experience to life in multi-use entertainment rooms that can now surpass customer expectations in performance, ease of use and enjoyment.

The three sessions overall will cover topics ranging from recreating the cinematic experience at home to the differences in 4K UHD quality. Attendees will hear multiple perspectives from Hollywood directors, cinema designers, and audio/video manufacturers on how luxury home cinemas are surpassing the convenience, audio/video capabilities, and available content of both movie theaters and streaming services alike.

I, for one, would love to be in that room to hear the panel speak, and we’ll monitor whether the meeting is recorded and/or broadcast with links here, if so. What do our members think of today’s home AV experience? Is your home theater such a draw that it stops you going to the local fleapit? Have 4K and OBA technology improvements at home cemented that decision? Let us know your thoughts below…

 

 

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Martin Dew

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22 Comments

  1. As a home theater fanatic since 1997 (I bought my first DVD player in May, as Los Angeles was one of the test launch cities for the product), and having joined this forum not long afterwards, I've seen many threads extolling the virtues of a home theater and even stating its superiority to the movie theater experience.

    To be sure, there were always benefits to watching at home: no noisy kids (unless they're your own), an always clean environment (assuming you are clean), the ability to pause the movie and take breaks as needed, no overpriced refreshments, etc.

    But even back in LD/DVD days, there was no way 330 and 480 lines of resolution on a 27"-36" TV (along with early ProLogic and DD/DTS receivers) were ever going to measure up to a good cinematic experience.

    Now, with 4K HDR, Atmos, high quality receivers and speakers going up to 7.1 and higher, and 65" 4K LED TVs costing less than my first 40" RPTV (not even adjusting for inflation!), the argument for the home theater potentially surpassing the movie experience is, for the first time in my opinion, actually a valid one. And I look forward to that panel's discussion on it.

    To be sure, nothing at home will ever match the majestic field-of-view-filling experience of our best movie theaters. But in terms of clarity and resolution, a well authored and mastered 4K disc on a capable 4K HDR screen can bring the viewing quality home on a smaller screen. And I'll put up my 7.1 Atmos setup at home against most "average" theaters in terms of the ability to accurately reproduce the movie's soundtrack at a space-filling volume (given that my living is much easier to fill than a theater).

  2. Great comments, Carlo. Amazing that TVs of ever-growing sizes are cheaper than inflation-adjusted 4:3 sets of yore. Plus, our homes have an inherent advantage acoustically with small rooms, carpets, bookshelves and furniture. Interesting that many theatrical exhibitors claim they're not even competing with home cinema anymore – they're pitching themselves against other leisure activities like gyms, clubs and theme parks.

  3. In my case, my home theater is almost always superior to a commercial theater. Why? Because the movies I most watch 1930's-40's BW mono can pretty much only be seen on the big screen in my theater. I just wish we could get more BD copies.

    I realize that is somewhat cheating the question but isn't that part of the joy of HT. We show the great movies of the past. Unless you are lucky enough to live near a major city with revival stuff – it's the only game in town.

  4. "Better than the movie theater experience" is a pretty low bar these days.

    My HT is better than the bulk of my local screens. I actually drove to the theater last week to see Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Found a nice parking space right in front of the theater door. Walked into the lobby and found the movie was screening in the smallest crackerbox theater in the building (about eight rows deep, aisle in the middle with two seats on one side, three on the other, screen may be 6-8 feet wide), and turned around and walked out.

    I'd rather wait for the blu to watch on my HT.

  5. I agree with what everyone has said. For me, there are only two reasons to go to the theater, versus wait for it on home video.

    • The field-of-view-filling experience that the largest/well-maintained screens can give. Sure some day maybe I'll be able to afford a 4K HDR projector and a 12' screen at home, but that time hasn't come.
    • The social aspect of going out to the movies, whether it's a first date, or a tentpole experience (aka Marvel movies, Star Wars, Avatar, etc.). Some movies need to be seen on a big screen at least once. Sure I enjoy my Avengers Infinity War 4K, but I sure am glad I saw it on a 60' screen first.

    Oh and I guess a third: sometimes it's just nice to get out of the house. 🙂

  6. I find the 3D experience of any movie shown in Real 3D, much better on my home system, even though my home system is very modest. Mind you, I am sure the sound system is vastly superior in the movie theatre, since I do not have atmos etc.

    I was heavily into “Stereo/Hi-Fi” in the early 1970’s when I first had my own money, but as I get older, I care less and less. Now I want a good 3D image and really don’t care if the sound is mono!

  7. I have what would be considered a more modest home theater compared to some of the more impressive setups here – just a 100 inch screen and a 5.1 surround system. I'm very happy with it but I recognize that it's not the biggest and best that there is.

    So when I say that I'm often more satisfied with my home setup over going to the theaters, which I'd still consider my favorite hobby, that's saying something.

    The biggest reason that home viewing is becoming better than theatrical viewing, in my view, has very little to do with the increase of quality for home gear (although it's impressive what innovations we've had in a relatively short time period) and everything to do with the declining quality and rising cost of the theatrical experience.

    Where I live, a standard digital projection non-frills 2D ticket costs anywhere from $16.50 – $17.50. Screen sizes are frequently small, sound frequently bleeds in from one auditorium to another, fellow patrons are frequently rude and disruptive, projection quality is often poor, and theater management doesn't care about any of it in the slightest. If you can catch a movie on its opening night or opening weekend, it is possible to see a movie on a bigger screen than average and to perhaps have an attentive crowd that pays more attention to the movie than their phone. But I feel like a movie is "over" after it's been out that first week. For the second week, showtimes get moved into smaller auditoriums, and audience behavior declines further. This places an enormous pressure on me to either see a movie right away, or not see it at all.

    One thing MoviePass did for me, when it was working as originally advertised, was to demonstrate that theaters are not providing an experience that's worth $17 a ticket. I was happy to go to more movies than I had in a long time, but I walked out of pretty much every MoviePass screening thinking, "I'm glad I didn't pay for that." And since they pretty much pulled the plug on MoviePass, I haven't really been back.

    I do think that theaters are stepping up with their premium offerings, but I think the standard they apply towards the premium showings should be constant across the board. I also think the pricing for those premium auditoriums is far too high, with Dolby Cinema and IMAX commanding $24-28 a ticket here. While I appreciate seeing a film on the biggest and best screens, that's still an extraordinarily high price to charge. Especially if you don't know in advance whether or not you'll like the movie. AMC must realize this on some level as they've been pushing their "A-List" subscription program hard, which costs less for one month than a single premium ticket costs.

    On Monday, I went to see the new movie "Operation Finale". It was playing on a small screen in a poorly designed auditorium which had the screen very off-center compared to the room's layout. Sound from neighboring auditoriums could be heard during quiet parts of the film. Patrons kept using cell phones during the movie. Ushers came in and observed the situation but did nothing to stop it. How is that worth $17? Meanwhile, if I had been patient, I could have waited three months and rented it from iTunes for $4, and watched it on a 100 inch screen where the only sound would have been the sound from the movie, and the only light would have been the light from the projector.

    In short, I don't think the home experience is inherently better; I just think the quality of the theatrical experience has fallen so far that it's just so easy to find a more enjoyable experience at home.

  8. I just don't like the experience anymore. In my youth and really up til about 10 years ago, I used to see a movie every week in a theater.

    I've now been to a theater exactly 3 times since 2012….Skyfall, Spectre and The Incredibles 2.

    I took my daughter to The Incredibles 2….she was 5 when the original came out and it's always been our favorite Pixar movie. We went to the movie, had a soda each and shared a popcorn. Total cost: $37. Plus, dealing with obnoxious people in the lobby, some gang activity in the parking lot, and being able to hear the adjacent theater's sound during our movie (it was a Regal Stadium multiplex). Seeing it with my daughter was special, but other than that the experience was totally lacking.

    Last Saturday, she didn't have work, so she, her mom and I watched Frozen. Blu-Ray cost me $13 used on Ebay, and our drinks and food was maybe $15 (we shared a pizza and a 2-liter). Total cost: $28, plus no mileage or parking, no obnoxious people, no gang activity and the only sound was from my soundbar.

    Going to the movies is just not worth it anymore.

  9. atfree

    I just don't like the experience anymore. In my youth and really up til about 10 years ago, I used to see a movie every week in a theater.

    I've now been to a theater exactly 3 times since 2012….Skyfall, Spectre and The Incredibles 2.

    I took my daughter to The Incredibles 2….she was 5 when the original came out and it's always been our favorite Pixar movie. We went to the movie, had a soda each and shared a popcorn. Total cost: $37. Plus, dealing with obnoxious people in the lobby, some gang activity in the parking lot, and being able to hear the adjacent theater's sound during our movie (it was a Regal Stadium multiplex). Seeing it with my daughter was special, but other than that the experience was totally lacking.

    Last Saturday, she didn't have work, so she, her mom and I watched Frozen. Blu-Ray cost me $13 used on Ebay, and our drinks and food was maybe $15 (we shared a pizza and a 2-liter). Total cost: $28, plus no mileage or parking, no obnoxious people, no gang activity and the only sound was from my soundbar.

    Going to the movies is just not worth it anymore.

    😮

    :laugh:

  10. My wife doesn't go to the movies nearly as often as I do. We went together last week to see The Dark Knight during its special return to IMAX theaters – it cost $52 for the pair of tickets. I signed up for AMC A-List (since the IMAX theater is within an AMC complex) after the tickets went onsale but before the actual show, so I was able to move my ticket to A-List, and just pay $26 for hers. But $52 for two tickets is ridiculous. There is no doubt that the 100 foot IMAX screen is unmatchable at home – my 100 inch screen is nice but it's not that nice! But still, we could have watched the Blu-ray which we already own at home for free. We were willing to go out and do this because we already knew the movie had value to us.

    My wife was resistant to signing up for A-List because $20 a month was more of a commitment than she wanted, but I think I'm going to ask her to revisit that. $26 for an individual ticket vs $20 for up to 12 movies a month (three a week) and it just doesn't make sense to buy them individually anymore. I completely understand her desire not to sign up and to not feel like she has this extra obligation to use the thing, but the individual tickets cost so much, that her buying one single ticket to that one screening cost her more than I spent for an entire month's worth of moviegoing.

  11. If I lived in a town with prices close to $20 per ticket, I'd probably never go to a theater. But we can go to first run movies in top notch theaters during the day for between $4 and $8. Now as far as snacks go, we do buy the popcorn and soda but I use coupons for them. We bring our own candy.

  12. My wife’s main hobby has been couponing since I met her about 40 years ago. We have a “Scene” VISA card which accumulated points toward free movies. We charge everything, and basically, between Scene points and other coupons, see all the movies we want for next to nothing, often with free popcorn.

    Movies in the theatre are a test run for me, so I can decide which movies to buy on Blu ray when it comes out. We always go to the same complex which has an IMAX theatre as well.

    One last think. For some reason, once any movie starts for me, I become completely immersed and you would have to have someone beating a kettle drum beside me to take me out of the movie.

  13. TJPC

    One last think. For some reason, once any movie starts for me, I become completely immersed and you would have to have someone beating a kettle drum beside me to take me out of the movie.

    I wish that I could be so serene. I really wish I could.

    I think part of my problem with cell phone disruptions is that the light from those tiny screens is so much brighter than the light from the projector. Theatrical projectors should be running at 14 fl – that's what the spec requires, but theaters frequently turn the bulb down out of a misguided believe that doing so will make it last longer (this has been proven false but the behavior still persists). Cell phones are frequently displaying light at much brighter levels, so a person with a cell phone lighting up is instantly making more light than the entire projector is – and I can't help but notice that. It probably doesn't help that these auditoriums are generally small, with screens that are even smaller, so that makes the disruptions much more visible.

  14. Carlo Medina

    The field-of-view-filling experience that the largest/well-maintained screens can give. Sure some day maybe I'll be able to afford a 4K HDR projector and a 12' screen at home, but that time hasn't come.

    I hope you'll have this experience sooner than later @Carlo Medina because, all things considered [IMO], it competes very well with the majority of theaters. Sure, on paper, the best theaters are "unmatchable" in a home environment but for the reasons others have stated in this thread [rude patrons, sub-optimal projection/sound quality, drive time, crappy food, etc] I don't think I ever need to visit another commercial theater. I do occasionally do so as a "night out" with my wife and am usually unimpressed.

  15. I will say, as I'm finishing my third decade in Los Angeles, the theaters near me have done a great job of modernizing/refurbishing. Digital projections, stadium seating, great sound, etc. The only thing I deal with is subwoofer bleed. If I'm watching Avengers, it's not a problem. If I'm watching Paterson…it's annoying.

    And most of the time the theater-goers here have improved their behavior. I don't see too many cell phones once the movie starts, and conversation is generally minimal. I did have one exception which was simultaneously annoying and cute. We watched Incredibles 2 on the 3rd week of it's release. A family seated next to me had a little girl…who apparently had seen it a gajillion times because she was reciting the dialog before it happened.

    And John, trust me, as soon as a great 4K HDR projector with a 10' or larger screen becomes affordable (as in, sub-$2500) I'll be all-in.

  16. Carlo Medina

    I will say, as I'm finishing my third decade in Los Angeles, the theaters near me have done a great job of modernizing/refurbishing. Digital projections, stadium seating, great sound, etc. The only thing I deal with is subwoofer bleed. If I'm watching Avengers, it's not a problem. If I'm watching Paterson…it's annoying.

    And most of the time the theater-goers here have improved their behavior. I don't see too many cell phones once the movie starts, and conversation is generally minimal. I did have one exception which was simultaneously annoying and cute. We watched Incredibles 2 on the 3rd week of it's release. A family seated next to me had a little girl…who apparently had seen it a gajillion times because she was reciting the dialog before it happened.

    And John, trust me, as soon as a great 4K HDR projector with a 10' or larger screen becomes affordable (as in, sub-$2500) I'll be all-in.

    Well I can't quite make that but last December for my birthday I put together my HT in the guest room. 10 foot screen (thats at a 9 1/2 viewing distance) 5.1 surround sound. Total cost with 2 theater recliners and hardware $2000. To be sure it's not the top line 1080p projector and the sound system is a sound bar and the screen is a painted wall but it still beats the theaters close to us. Wish we had your mega screens – we might go occasionally.:razz:

    There is no question in my mind that the best HT systems now are equal to almost all but the very very top line theaters.
    ADDED: Because home systems are getting very good with UHD and Atmos sound and commercial theaters continue to get worse.

  17. I just need a 4K UHD (and true 4K not checkerboard, and also at least HDR10 support if not Dolby Vision and HDR10+) to come in at around $2000. I imagine a 120" screen would be under $500. I am more than happy with my Atmos receiver and setup.

    But I have 2 4K UHD HDR LED TVs and I would want that level of quality in a projector as well.

  18. Carlo Medina

    I just need a 4K UHD (and true 4K not checkerboard, and also at least HDR10 support if not Dolby Vision and HDR10+) to come in at around $2000. I imagine a 120" screen would be under $500. I am more than happy with my Atmos receiver and setup.

    But I have 2 4K UHD HDR LED TVs and I would want that level of quality in a projector as well.

    So you're admitting that HT can equal commercial theater – just not at your price point.:D
    It's all good mate. You like your 4K TV I like my 10 foot screen. Cheers

  19. Carlo Medina

    And John, trust me, as soon as a great 4K HDR projector with a 10' or larger screen becomes affordable (as in, sub-$2500) I'll be all-in.

    I'm willing to pay somewhat more but I generally agree, which is why I'm also waiting this out for awhile.

    Carlo Medina

    But I have 2 4K UHD HDR LED TVs and I would want that level of quality in a projector as well.

    Unlikely in our lifetime at affordable prices. You basically have to choose. Superior picture quality on a smaller screen or a larger screen that, while still completely awesome IMO, can't match your 4K LED's in color saturation or contrast. You can probably tell I've already made my choice. Just waiting for reasonable prices.

  20. I know a front projector will never be as good as a direct LED/OLED experience. I just need it to come relatively close at an affordable price ($2500 or less), 4K, HDR, etc.

    Although there are now 82" LED sets coming down in price, so in a few years, who knows. I would consider an 82" at a relatively short viewing distance, to be close to field-of-view-filling.

    In a relatively short-view distance (less than 10') I think I would consider an 82" LED TV with my current audio setup to be comparable to the experience in a small theater, but with the added convenience of being able to pause/rewind and control the ambience of my living room vs. having to deal with all the bad behaviors that can happen in a theater.

  21. Todays home theater experience depending on how it is set up and the quality of the gear can easily rival today’s commercial cinemas and you do not have to pay the sky high prices for snacks. Between high quality lossless audio and high quality HD and 4K video transfers it has never been a better time to have your own home theater. That being said the movie experience at a commercial cinema is still a great way to see a movie. The immersive huge screen and seeing the movie with many other people is an experience hard to duplicate in your home! I have only seen less movies out because my finances will not allow me to get out as much as I would like to. But when I do I still love being with other people and the reactions of you and the group experiencing a movie can be powerful. But I also love having my own high quality system with my own library that I can tap into when ever I want and I can choose what ever I want to eat and drink and it sure costs alot less. It is also fun to share with family and friends and have them come over and share the home theater with them as well. I will say the one thing I hate when I go to the theater is people messing with there smart phones when the movie starts or during the movie!

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