Tonight I attended a screening of OBLIVION, for which you’ll be able to read a review separately. But the real treat was testing out the new LOOK Cinemas Theater (just opened in Dallas) and their Dolby Atmos sound system. Up until now the concept of sound in movies has been somewhat limited to basic surround sound systems, attempting to make the dynamic sound experience as immersive as possible. There have been signifcant advances through the years, as film started in mono, moved to stereo, then surround sound, the 5.1 and so on. So what is Dolby Atmos? Imagine a theater house filled with enough speakers to create even overhead surround sound. You know how sometimes you get a seat at the movies where you’re off to the side, and only hear what feels like one side of the sound mix? Dolby Atmos works in such a way that prevents you from getting a “bad” seat as far as sound is concerned. If something on screen if flying ‘around’ you, it will now truly feel like it’s flying around you and not just on one side or the other… even flying overhead. With movie theaters moving into the digital age, this is the inevitable next step for sound technology, and it’s very impressive. Two representatives (including Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s Worldwide Technical Marketing Manager) were on hand to answer questions from both moviegoers and press members. I got a chance to talk with them about the process, and how it’s a growing concept that theaters across the county are eagerly adopting. The opening Dolby Atmos logo was even done by the fine folks at Pixar. There are currently about 100 theaters across the country that feature Atmos, and more coming. What’s perhaps most surprising is this technology is not difficult to adapt to for filmmakers, and studios are starting to eagerly pursue getting an Atmos sound mix, if for no other reason than to “future proof” their work. I brought up the example of how some older films were only mixed with simplistic soundtracks, making them hard to adjust now for home theater systems, but Dolby Atmos changes the game, and makes new productions ready for whatever futuristic sound systems have yet to be made available for home use. I’m also very much a movie score afficiando, and one thing I appreciated about the Dolby Atmos experience with OBLIVION was the immersive nature the musical track (which is an impressive score by M83) takes on for the audience, truly becoming part of the moviegoing experience and not just complementing the film. Check out the video below (which is the same one we were shown before the movie started) which explains things simply and effectively.
Then there’s the theater itself. LOOK Cinemas is something Dallas may not be expecting, but will almost certainly love. The building itself, located at 5409 Beltline Road in Dallas, is quite a piece of architecture to behold. From the outside it looks more like a museum than a theater, but once you get inside the fun really begins.
Feel like dinner and a movie? Check out Nick & Sam’s Restaurant inside, serving great food before or after you get your filmgoing on. Feel like a quick snack from concessions? Freshly popped popcorn is of course on the menu, but you also fill your own drink from their high tech soda machines, which offer more of a variety than I’ve ever seen at any other similar establishment… including slushie drinks. Want a hot dog? No heatlamp rollers here, they cook them on a grill, and you get two mini coney dogs instead of one – made fresh just for you. Like candy? There’s a whole bunch of it to choose from. Variety is a big perk at LOOK, and the theater houses are no exception. There’s large auditoriums (like the Dolby Atmos house we were in) with 70-foot screens, and smaller houses too, some with individual lounge chairs and tables for your food. Yes, you can have dinner and a show, and do it in comfort. Did I mention the bathrooms? Upstairs has standard restrooms and concessions, but the downstairs hallway has individual bathrooms for patrons, complete with a coat hook and full sink – privacy is something that’s always worth every penny. LOOK isn’t just raising the bar, they’re setting a new standard for moviegoers in Big D. With all the big films hitting this year, I have no doubt I’ll be making this a regular stop on my movie watching schedule. Check out their official website or official Facebook page.