The Sad State of Movie Theater Sound Systems


In the last 2 weeks I have done something I haven't done in many years,go to a movie theater to see  new releases.First was the latest Star Wars & then at a completely different theater the new Dawn of Justice.In BOTH theaters the sound level was WAYYY to loud,distortion was running rampant in both cases.The highs were tipped up & brittle,mids had ABSOLUTELY no organics & bass was booming & 1 note to the MAX!!!If I hadn't paid well over $10.00 per ticket I would probably have walked out of both theaters!So for those of you who regularly go to movie theaters is this the norm or is Seattle just too tight to spend on the good stuff?
freediver
My wife and I went to see the movie, that had a lot of special effects. Volume was set so low that we couldn't even hear dialog. People started yelling but there was nobody in charge.  We went outside to find manager.  He explained that there is nobody there in the projection booth since it is controlled by the computer.  He wouldn't even know how to make it louder.  He gave us free tickets, but we wasted whole evening.  Never again.
As kijanki noted, theaters are largely automated now, and many of the settings are done by set-up techs that are not on-site.  I ran into a similar problem when I went to see Rush in Toronto.  They started running a kiddie movie and ended up having to move us to an entirely different theater.  Nobody could re-initialize the system.

Fortunately, we live in a small town and our 8 screen multiplex recently got someone who at least knows how to set focus and sound level.  Star Wars was quite impressive, and we'll go see other new stuff as they come in.

Automation is great.  Until it isn't.

Agreed
it is automation and quite possibly some form of "streaming".
At the lowest entertainment factor, it should be criminal!
The Golden Age of theater sound was what, forty years ago?  Sound familiar?
It's rare, indeed, when I go to a theater and when I do, it's the local Laemmle cineplex because at least it's decent. Decent, mind you, not really good. 

What I get from my simple two channel set up with my OPPO blu-ray and Samsung plasma runs rings around anything I get at a movie theater. Sometimes I just have to see something but every single time I go, the picture is so-so as well as the sound.

The state of the art has progressed to the point where what you can get at home easily rivals, and betters, anything you can get at a theater. It's the way of the world my friend.

All the best,
Nonoise
I view most movies in the home screening rooms of the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg et cetera (and then only when an abundance of Playboy Bunnies are present), so I really cannot relate to your experience.

However, I do thank you for the word up.

Recently considered going out into the real world, but now I think not.
It is a sad affair when you go out to a movie and get inferior sound. Maybe you should stay at home and watch a movie on a good surround system because it looks like at this point it may be preferable.

My wife and I have decided to never go to the Movie Theater again.

Between shi.... crappy sound and the rude kids with there freakin cell phones, her and I would rather watch and listen at home.

I’ve never been one that has to see a movie as soon as it’s released.

I wont be standing in line for the latest phone either.

Movies today ain’t worth attention and spending money in the movie theaters. They are mostly made for mentally depleted. Forget about sound.
Whatever happened to Smell-o-Rama? But seriously Ridley Scott's Promethues in IMAX and 3D was AWESOME. Some others I think deserve the big screen treatment include No Country for Old Men, Under the Skin, The Martian, Flight, Gravity and Birdman.

$8 for a small, stale, popcorn, really?

The whole movie theater experience has, for me, become so unpleasant that we go only if a movie deserves the big screen treatment, like Geoffkait said, or it's a movie I'm not likely going to be able to see otherwise.  Recently, we saw "The Maltese Falcon" on the big screen.  Before that, a collection of Oscar-nominated short films.  Both were good theater experiences.  In general, though, the oppressively loud sound and cheesy digital "filming" and special effects have turned us off to modern cinema.

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention the 20 minutes of extra-loud previews of films I would NEVER want to see.  We try to pick only theaters where you can buy a reserved seat.
I only go to independent movie theaters where they broadcast non-commercial movies. The auditoriums are very small for 50 people maximum and from anywhere the sound and picture is good.
3-D when called for and Imax pretty much the only attraction for me with most theaters these days.

Sound quality has not been an issue, pretty good overall with movies I have seen in recent years in my area.

But yes other than that the overall movie theater going experience ain't what it used to be.    Theatres mostly cutting costs to preserve any profits I suppose much like the rest of the world.

On teh flip side, times change and entertainment options in ones home are greater than ever and continue to grow.  That alone puts the pressure on traditional theaters to offer something unique of value.

I guess if one is still young and dating, there is always a place for a movie theater on a Saturday night but who knows.
yeah, i have to agree with you fellas that going to the movies recently is not really that great - you pay for an expensive ticket, pay more for unreasonably priced snacks because they know they got you [oh the joys of monopoly!!! :( ] & like another member mentioned XTRA loud previews....
Finally saw Dead Pool last weekend & the extra loud previews was reinforced. My younger son takes his ear plugs along (smart boy!) - I think i should as well. If the sound is not turned up, the sonics are not too bad. it's definitely digital sound - it has those clicks & sharpness that is so characteristic of digital sound.
But......isnt this what the public wants? The same public that's in nirvana with MP3 & MP4 sound for the downloaded music....
Us audiophiles are in the (vast) minority & the revenue from the mentally depleted (I like this phrase czarivey!) is a lot more...

" the sound level was WAYYY to loud,distortion was running rampant in both cases.The highs were tipped up & brittle,mids had ABSOLUTELY no organics & bass was booming & 1 note to the MAX!!!"

yup, same here, the wife and i went to an IMAX, first cinema i've been in for 10 years and it was atrocious ... maybe we're spoilt, being into hifi and all, but really, surely they can make it less volume and more quality

and whats that thing they always do nowadays when the action slows down and the bass drops ... i think they think its cool, and i remember thinking it was, the first time i heard it, but now, every 5 minutes or so??  they even do it on the telly now, whats that about?

we're in the uk so its a worldwide thing i think

needless to say my 'home cinema' (flatscreen on the wall and a half decent surround system) is much better, way more comfortable and cheaper!  don't think i'll be going to the cinema again for a while, maybe another 10 years lol

dont get me started on the price of popcorn and coke!
So everyone is overoverobsessed with sound quality in the movie theatres? I think it’s a very negligibly small chunk of the global problem.
Movies sucks and why they suck? Because of CENSORSHIP that is heavier then EVER than anywhere in the whole world including North Korea. All movies made to wash out your and your children’s brain so you keep on being foolish and entertained. Billions spent on new stadiums guess why?
Happy April Fools -- should really become our naitonal holiday.
Theaters are often too cold, as well ;-).
I love going to the movies!! Sure , I try to see the movies I think will be great on the big screen. I bring a water and a couple of snacks , same for my daughter if we go together. I think the sound is great.
 I say, for the price paid their is no greater value of entertainment. And it's not even close. Concerts are way expensive, drinks, babysitters , sit through a shit warm up band , for a 55 minute set. And it cost me a hundred bucks!! At least !
I'll take a 2-3 hour movie for $10 bucks all day long.

Those looking for state of the art sound should find out if there is a theater who have a QSC amp and speaker system.  There is the ICON theatrre near Chicago downtown. All houses are QSC (a long time commercial power amp manufacturer) and the sound is amazing, including the ATMOS equipped ones.  They recently played the 70mm Tarentino movie, and no matter the level, there was never any harshness. One of  the major chains, AMC is starting to retrofit older theatres with QSC. And yes, new theatres are automated completely except for the Hateful eight which was in 70mm film super Panavision last used for Mad Mad Mad World. The QSC cinema expert lives in the Chicago suburbs, and was at the 70mm performance I attended along with the Dolby

rep.

www.qsc.com/cinema/