Cinemark XD vs. Dolby Cinema: Which is Better?

It can feel like an extensive knowledge of filmmaking is needed to enjoy movies nowadays. To the layperson, it can seem like film, and the methods we employ to enjoy them are changing and evolving faster than we can keep up with.

Luckily, we’re here to explain the nitty-gritty in a digestible way for everyone! Here’s the scoop on Cinemark XD versus Dolby Cinema to help you decide where to view your next film. 

What Is Cinemark XD? 

Cinemark XD is a feature of Cinemark Theaters. To compete with movie viewing options like IMAX and Dolby Cinema, Cinemark created the Cinemark XD theater, allowing them to offer competitive movie viewing experiences in their current Cinemark locations. 

For a detailed discussion of Cinemark XD, see here.

Cinemark XD theaters have features beyond a traditional movie theater, starting with their massive wall-to-wall screens. Every Cinemark XD theater features a 70-foot screen to improve the immersive experience. With these giant screens, you’ll see everything and then some. 

The screens aren’t just big, either. They feature a 1.90:1 aspect ratio which, at that size, makes them comparable to true IMAX screens and better than Digital IMAX screens (aka LieMAX.) 

Cinemark’s Barco projectors allow them to utilize every inch of their wall-to-wall screens to project ultra-high-definition, 4K video for your enjoyment! In addition, the projectors have support for up to 35 million different colors that come through clear and clean on the screen, allowing you to kick back, relax and enjoy the most vibrant show they can offer. 

Cinemark XD is where Cinemark invests all their money, and they don’t skimp on audio quality either. Their XD theaters have an immersive, high-quality sound that uses an 11.1-layer audio system, meaning there are 11 layers of audio playing in every moment of your movie-going experience. 

The audio doesn’t just have depth; it’s also got location-based audio and speakers that allow them to make it feel like the action is happening all around you as you witness the greatness of cinematography on their ultra-high-def screen. 

What Is Dolby Cinema? 

Dolby Cinema is AMC’s answer to the IMAX theater. Like Cinemark XD, Dolby Cinema features all of AMC’s best seats, screens, and projectors. 

For a detailed discussion of Dolby Cinema, see here.

AMC’s Dolby Cinema is an excellent experience that rivals a true IMAX cinema. Every AMC Dolby Cinema theater features a super-massive screen with projectors that support super-high-definition 4K video. 

Every Dolby Cinema theater uses a dual-projector setup to project high-quality video through two separate projectors. 

Dolby Cinema can provide immersive pseudo-3D that doesn’t require any peripherals like 3D glasses by using two projectors. Instead, you’ll feel like you’re really there with the actors! 

The projectors used in a Dolby Cinema theater are amazing too! They use laser projectors which means that no light bulbs or lamps are used in the projection. 

This provides crisper color contrast and full use of High Dynamic Range color recordings. So when you sit in a Dolby Cinema theater, you’ll see blacks as the blackest black you can see, rather than the dull grey light projectors project. 

Using the Dolby Cinema’s laser projectors, you’ll be able to see the full spectrum of color in stunning high contrast, allowing you to enjoy the full breadth of every inch of the picture. You won’t miss a beat with Dolby Cinema’s pictures. 

Dolby Cinema doesn’t just pack intense film imaging. They also utilize the whole theater for incredible surround sound. Each Dolby Cinema theatre is equipped with a Dolby Atmos surround sound system, including speakers on the ceiling and bass transducers on the floor beneath your feet. 

With the Dolby Atmos surround sound system all around you, you can feel like you’re really part of the action! The immersive, high-quality sound will wow even the toughest naysayer when they feel the ground rumbling beneath their feet. 

Which Is Better: Dolby Cinema or Cinemark XD? 

Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD provide such different experiences that they’re hardly comparable. That being said, most theater-goers prefer Dolby Cinema to Cinemark XD.  

Movie-goers cite Dolby Cinema’s use of laser projectors as providing a crisper image than Cinemark XD. The laser projectors also offer better use of films shot using a High Dynamic Range camera, offering deep blacks and vibrant colors.  

However, Cinemark XD’s screen is most comparable to IMAX screens as it features the most comparable size and aspect ratio. 1.9:1 screens are still exclusive to IMAX theaters, but Cinemark XD does provide a similar experience if you don’t have a local IMAX theater.  

Cinemark also uses laser projectors. So, you’ll still get a deep color vibrancy with solid blacks that don’t feel washed out. Supporting this may also help bring more laser projectors into Cinemark establishments, making laser projection more accessible. 

However, Cinemark XD screens vary widely in size. Cinemark XD is pretty much code for “the biggest screen in the building” and Cinemark XD screens can vary wildly in size from building to building. Still, this is true of IMAX and Dolby Cinema screens as well.  

These theaters are often repurposed theaters already available; a cinema is unlikely to build a new theater to utilize for these screenings. So, it’s important to remember that the theater itself will be mostly the same as the rest of the building. They’ll add new seats, a sound system, and utilize laser projectors. 

Cinemark XD’s partnership with Barco allows them to get easy access to digital 4K laser projectors, and it stands to be a safe assumption that those projectors will go to Cinemark XD theaters first. So, if you’re looking to get a first look at the quality of these projectors, Cinemark XD is the way to go. However, since they are digital 4K projectors, they don’t project true 4K imagery. So, if you’re looking to get a true 4K experience, Dolby Cinema will be a better choice for you. 

Additionally, since Dolby Cinema utilizes two projectors, the color range will be deeper, and the contrast between colors will be higher. Making Dolby Cinema a clear winner in the visual category. 

The Overall Winner: Dolby Cinema 

Dolby Cinema does seem to be the clear winner amongst fans who rate it as being second to a real IMAX screen. Some definitely find that the immersive sound from the Dolby Atmos system bumps the experience up past that of the IMAX theater. Many find it equally enjoyable but for different reasons. 

One thing notable is that some recommend seeing movies shot in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio at a Dolby Cinema location over an IMAX location due to the Dolby Cinema’s better support for the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Final Thoughts on Cinemark XD VS Dolby Cinema 

While Cinemark XD provides an immersive experience, it does appear that Dolby Cinema is the winner amongst film buffs. Viewers cite Dolby Cinema’s dual projector setup providing deeper color vibrancy and the Dolby Atmos sound system providing an immersive sound experience for their choice.  

However, it doesn’t truly matter which is better on paper. The real answer is that whichever you prefer is a valid choice. Even if an experience is better on paper, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a different experience. Cinemark XD does seem to be better for those looking for an IMAX-esque experience, while Dolby Cinema is an experience separate from these. 

So, if you’re looking for the closest visual experience to IMAX, Cinemark XD is going to be your go-to, while those looking for a better immersive overall experience will enjoy Dolby Cinema, thanks to the unmatched audio quality.