Is Dolby Cinema Worth It? Why You Should Give Dolby a Try

The methods we use to watch movies seem to be changing faster than we can keep up with them. As a result, it looks like every cinema has a new and exciting product to sell you that will “enhance” your movie-going experience.

We’ve taken a look at what AMC’s Dolby Cinema has to offer you, and we’re here to tell you that Dolby Cinema is worth giving a shot.

If a nearby theatre has started offering Dolby Cinema showings, you should give it a shot before writing it off as a gimmick! 

What Does Dolby Cinema Offer? How Is It Different? 

Dolby Cinema doesn’t simply focus on showing you a movie; Dolby Cinema focuses on giving you an experience of a lifetime. So when you choose to experience Dolby Cinema, they aim to wow you with everything from the projector to the seats. 

Dolby Cinema uses what they call “Dolby Vision.” It’s a dual laser projector setup that allows them to feature the most real-to-life colour palette possible.

Most cinemas use a light projector when projecting recordings, causing blacks to appear as a washed-out grey. But with Dolby Vision’s laser projectors, those dull greys become deep blacks that contrast with the rest of the colours to offer a real-to-life viewing experience. 

Dolby Vision doesn’t just offer deep blacks; it also provides the most vibrant colours. Laser projection gives Dolby Cinemas access to over 35 trillion colours allowing you to see every inch of the image in pop colours. Since Dolby Vision uses two projectors, you’ll see the deepest, richest colours money can buy.

Those rich colours will come in handy, too. Most films use cameras with a High Dynamic Range, which allows them to capture more vibrant colours. While some of that may be lost when using a standard light projector, Dolby Vision’s dual laser projectors will project every ounce of colour in the film. 

These projectors project actual 4K video too. None of this “digital” 4K upscaling B.S. Dolby Vision will let you watch the movie in true 4K as if you were right there and part of the action. 

You did hear that right, by the way. Dolby Cinema uses two projectors, not one. Using two projectors allows Dolby Cinema locations to project a crisper image with deeper colours. It also allows the cinema to cut down on keystone distortion since both projectors’ images overlap and create one cohesive image.  

All that’s only the visuals. Dolby Cinema also features a Dolby Atmos surround sound system for which it is named. This sound system doesn’t just make it sound like the action is all around you. It also features bass transducers on the floor, so the ground beneath your feet rumbles in time with the movie. 

Dolby Cinema uses an object-based surround sound system, meaning the surround sound system adapts to the theatre’s shape. As a result, this system gives you the most hyper-realistic sound placement in a theatre. 

While enjoying all of those fantastic movie-viewing features, you can kick back and relax in AMC’s most comfortable reclining seats. You can even reserve your seat in advance to ensure that you get the best possible viewing for yourself! 

How Does Dolby Cinema Compare to IMAX? 

Now, assuming you mean an actual IMAX theatre, not a digital IMAX theatre (LieMAX, yuck!), Dolby Cinema is widely considered comparable to an IMAX showing.

However, IMAX does have a monopoly on the 1.90:1 aspect ratio. So if the movie was shot in 1.90:1, you might want to spring for an IMAX showing if you can. 

When it comes to sound, it’s nearly impossible to beat a Dolby Atmos system. Even with their most impressive surround sound systems, IMAX doesn’t even come close to Dolby’s object-based surround sound. So, if your primary concern is the sound quality, Dolby Cinema will be your best bet. 

However, Dolby Cinema is regarded as just as good or better than IMAX, depending on who you ask. But, of course, it’s also dependent on the technology used in your local theatre. 

IMAX has two kinds of screens and three different projection methods that vary between locations. If your local IMAX theatre uses Xenon Bulb projectors, Dolby Cinema is the better choice. However, if your local IMAX theatre uses 70mm, you may want to consider seeing it at an IMAX theatre. 

For further discussion of IMAX theaters, and a breakdown of “real” versus “fake” IMAX, see here.

IMAX 70mm VS Dolby Cinema 

When comparing the IMAX 70mm to Dolby Cinema, you’ll want to look at the source material. IMAX 70mm projectors are best for viewing films shot using IMAX 65mm film (they store the audio on the remaining 5mm). In this case, the film will have been shot in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, meaning the top and bottom of the film image will be cut off if you view it at a Dolby Cinema or IMAX Xenon location. 

Dolby Cinema VS IMAX Laser 

This is where the comparison gets dicey. Dolby Cinema and IMAX Laser are fairly similar on paper, but the key is in the source material. IMAX Laser showings are always 3D, while Dolby Cinema could be 2D or 3D depending on the movie and the showing. 

IMAX Laser showings are best for movies shot for IMAX Laser. An excellent example of this is Avengers: Infinity War which was shot exclusively using IMAX cameras. These cameras are designed to shoot 3D films and produce incredible 3D pictures. Digital 3D can’t compare to this. 

However, if a film was shot using 2D cinema, there’s no reason to rush into the IMAX theatre to see it.  

How Does Dolby Cinema Compare to Cinemark XD? 

Most people feel that Dolby Cinema is a significant step up from Cinemark XD. While IMAX is comparable to Dolby Cinema, Cinemark XD isn’t.

Cinemark XD is Cinemark’s proprietary movie theatre. It acts as an “answer” to IMAX and Dolby Cinema but ultimately falls short on the execution. For a detailed overview on Cinemark XD, and a discussion of whether or not it is worth the extra ticket price, click here.

Cinemark XD uses Barco laser projection to project the movie onto a wall-to-wall screen. The wall-to-wall screen can be of varying sizes since most Cinemark locations just repurpose “the best theatre in the building” into a Cinemark XD theatre. 

While Cinemark XD’s laser projectors are of a similar quality to Dolby Cinema’s, Dolby Cinema uses two projectors to enhance colour depth, and contrast is a deciding factor for their victory. 

Dolby Cinema’s surround sound system is better than Cinemark XD’s. While Cinemark XD does use a surround sound system, they lack the floor transducers and object-based sound routing. We said it would be hard to beat Dolby Atmos, and it remains so. 

Cinemark XD is just “the best Cinemark theatre in this building,” which is a great deal if you don’t have the option of something better. Unfortunately for Cinemark, their XD theatres just aren’t worth the extra dough. While they may be compelling for anyone who doesn’t have a local Dolby Cinema or IMAX theatre, it’s hard to justify spending extra cash on what is, essentially, just a laser viewing of a standard movie.

Another similar premium offering is Regal’s RPX theater. We have discussed RPX here, and concluded that it is rarely worth the extra cost. If you have an option between Dolby Cinema and Regal RPX, do yourself a favor and choose Dolby.

Final Thoughts on Dolby Cinema 

Dolby Cinema seems like a compelling product to try for film buffs of all kinds.

Whether you’re there for the visuals, the audio, or both, Dolby Cinema aims to wow and does a pretty damn good job of it. While some films may be better viewed at an actual IMAX theatre, it’s hard to deny that AMC is bringing out all the stops to compete with their partnership with Dolby.

This is a cinema experience you won’t want to miss out on! But before you buy your tickets, read this for a discussion of the best seating options in a Dolby Cinema.