Staying In for the Movie
The right kind of theater experience can begin at home
Hollywood still wants us to go out to the movies, and for many people it’s by far the best option to get that big picture and sound experience. To tempt moviegoers who are not thrilled with the standard public theater fare that can include overpriced snacks, sticky floors, and peering between strangers to see the screen, some have moved upscale. La Jolla’s ArcLight offers gourmet food, a full bar, plush seating, and Dolby’s amazing 64-channel Atmos sound to lure affluent patrons. Likewise, Cinepolis boasts reserved seating, in-theater dining and waiter service, and cutting-edge technology. But these days, you can create that same environment (minus the social interaction and Atmos) in your own home.
When the neighborhood theaters graduated from 35mm film to digital projectors, the industry had to ensure that the picture quality didn’t suffer. So an ultra high-resolution system was created that is four times the sharpness of high definition TV. Without this 4K scheme, first run movie patrons would see big pixels and head for the exits.
A few high-end home theater buffs installed commercial 4K projectors to amaze and delight viewers, but the hot, heavy, and expensive units were hardly practical. Meridian, an iconic British audiophile firm, introduced an ultra high quality 4K projector for home use, but at more than $200,000, sales were microscopic. Now Sony, a co-developer of the 4K system, offers a more reasonable $24,000 projector. It’s not as bright as the Meridian or commercial machines, but most home theaters don’t have 30 rows of seating to span.
If your theater is more modest, Sony, Sharp, and Samsung offer 4K flat panels in sizes up to 84 inches. The combination of vibrant color, depth, and sharpness is a sight to behold. Prices on top-quality units range from $4,000 to $7,000 currently, but will be a bit lower over time. And while there’s not much 4K content yet, a few disc players can upscale Blu-ray to 4K resolution. The Oppo 105 media player we recently reviewed is an excellent choice to do just that.
Although it’s possible to create a surround sound theater system by shopping online or at a big-box store, a local home theater dealer with demonstration rooms is the best alternative. Bring your own Blu-ray movie and a realistic budget. The right store will provide sound advice and perhaps fresh popcorn. BRIAN DOUGLAS