After opening nine movie theaters in the outskirts of Paris and in other French cities, the American franchise Dolby and Pathé Gaumont cinemas have just opened the first ever Parisian Dolby Cinema theater, situated in the Pathé Beaugrenelle complex in the 15th arrondissement. We had the privilege of attending the grand opening of this incredible movie theater for the release of the Avengers: Endgame movie. Here are our thoughts on the 10th French Dolby Cinema theater.
Dolby Cinema: a unique cinematic experience
Dolby Cinema theaters are designed to offer a unique cinematic experience, combining the most sophisticated image and sound technologies – in particular Dolby Atmos in studio quality and Dolby Vision – with a new design and greater comfort. Five years after the opening of the first Dolby Cinema theater, more than 22 million spectators have visited one of the 204 Dolby Cinemas around the world. With this new Parisian theater, there are now 10 Dolby Cinema theaters established in Gaumont and Pathé complexes throughout France. Here is a list of these 10 French Dolby Cinema theaters:
- Cinéma Pathé Massy
- Cinéma Pathé Vaise in Lyon
- Cinéma Pathé Docks 76 in Rouen
- Cinéma Pathé Gare du Sud in Nice
- Cinéma Gaumont Wilson in Toulouse
- Cinéma Pathé Belle Épine in Thiais
- Cinéma EuropaCorp Aéroville in Tremblay-en-France
- Cinéma EuropaCorp La Joliette in Marseille
- Cinéma Pathé Beaugrenelle in Paris
Dolby Cinema: an innovative design and total comfort
Like all of the Dolby Cinema theaters in France, the Dolby experience at the Pathé Beaugrenelle complex begins even before entering the theater. To access the theater, you must go through a long, curved corridor onto which several ultra short throw projectors situated on the ceiling project the movie’s trailer or related videos. For Avengers: Endgame, the images displayed on the wall were from previous chapters of the saga. The purpose of this corridor is to begin to immerse the spectator in the film’s universe. It is a unique experience.
Once you have gone through the immersive corridor, the Dolby Cinema theater is like no other and creates a lasting impression. Dolby has made a big effort with the design and comfort of the room. Unlike standard theaters that contain a minimum of 400 seats, the Dolby Cinema theater only holds 200 for maximum comfort. Here, we’re dealing with wide seats (68 cm), that are in black faux leather and are heavily padded. They are about as far away as you can get from the uncomfortable traditional folding seats in red fabric. Each seat features a large cup holder and a little tray to hold your glasses, phone and snacks. Best of all, the backrest and footrest are reclinable thanks to a perfectly silent motorized system, allowing you to watch the movie almost lying down. Even with the seats in this position, the 2 meter gap in between each row allows the other spectators to move around freely. This space also ensures that your view of the screen isn’t blocked by the row in front. Even the tallest moviegoer will no longer be able to spoil your experience. The rest of the surfaces in the room are matt and black to reduce reflections and eliminate any glare. Consequently, you are immersed in total darkness. The only lights that remain are those of the safety exits, but they are strategically placed so as not to interfere with the experience or reflect onto the 18 meter screen.
Dolby Cinema: twice as bright with 500 times more contrast
Dolby Cinema theaters use twin Christie 4K laser projectors optimized by Dolby labs to ensure a visual performance that has never before been achieved in cinemas. Before the screening, Dolby proudly announced that this unique system provides twice as much brightness and 500 times more contrast than a standard system, while ensuring extremely vivid and realistic colors. We immediately checked this information during the trailers before the movie. This was indeed the first time that we had ever witnessed a movie projection with such an impressive picture quality. The colors are bright and natural, with deep blacks, almost equivalent to those of a UHD TV. The vitality provided by Dolby Vision is remarkable and offers an unparalleled level of detail in bright and low light. The only drawback is the vertical stripes that are visible around the edges of the screen during very bright scenes.
Dolby Cinema: Dolby Atmos, sound that transports the spectator
Apart from the slight problem with bright scenes, the picture is incomparable to that of a standard movie theater. The experience is complemented by a Dolby Atmos system that allows you to accurately pinpoint the location of sound effects. Though this technology is now widely used in many cinemas, in this case it has been optimized and offers studio quality audio restitution. These excellent conditions transported us right into the heart of the movie’s spectacular action scenes. Dolby has also devoted a great deal of attention to the acoustic quality of the speakers. Dolby’s representative Youry Bredewold did not hesitate to demonstrate this with an excerpt from Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born in Dolby Atmos. Each note was perfectly reproduced and positioned. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s vocals were delivered in a soft and natural way. The immersion is further enhanced by the crowd’s cheers, restituted by the Atmos speakers. One simply has to close their eyes to be transported into the concert’s crowd.
Dolby Cinema: luminous and detailed 3D
In a stroke of luck, the screening of the Avengers: Endgame movie was in 3D at the opening of the Dolby Cinema theater at the Pathé Beaugrenelle complex in Paris. Therefore, we were able to review the Dolby 3D system for which both projectors diffuse a slightly different wavelength for each primary color (red, green and blue). The 3D glasses then use filters to block out the primary colors used by the projector projecting the image for the other eye. The resulting 3D image is therefore enhanced and more detailed. Better still, the 3D scenes are unrivalled in luminosity. The system is capable of delivering up to 14 foot-lamberts (approximately 47.97 candelas per square meter), which is a huge improvement compared to standard 3D systems limited to 3 to 4 foot-lamberts. Consequently, we were blown away by the quality of the 3D image which proved to be just as good as that of a high-end TV screen.
Dolby Cinema: conclusion
A genuine revolution in the projection industry, this Dolby Cinema theater completely captivated us, in terms of image, sound and comfort. It was a unique and hugely immersive experience, so much so that we didn’t even notice that the Avengers movie lasted for three hours. The only bone we had to pick was with the apparition of vertical stripes around the edges of the screen during very bright scenes, a flaw that would have been tolerable in many other movie theaters, but not in a Dolby Cinema theater considering the price of a ticket. An entrance ticket to see Avengers: Endgame in 3D at the Dolby Cinema theater in Paris’ Pathé Beaugrenelle complex will set you back 22,20€ at full price or 13€ for under 14s. A significant increase of 5€ compared to a standard 3D Dolby Atmos screening at the same cinema complex.
Unfortunately, for now there is very little content available that is compatible with Dolby Cinema theaters. Since the first Dolby Cinema theater opened in 2014, there have only been 220 compatible movies.
Photo credit: Frédéric Berthet