We Tested the First Dolby Cinema Theatre in France: the Premium Session We Were Expecting.

We went to Massy, south of Paris, to discover the first Dolby Cinema theatre in France. A so-called premium screening that should prove that cinema can outperform our traditional projection by a combination of technologies from Dolby Laboratories.

Of the two French chains of operators, Gaumont-Pathé has always been more greedy when it comes to technology. The Frenchman has thus made his fashion rooms sail in mode, 3D, IMAX, 4DX, EclairColor etc.. Behind this infinity of acronyms and brands, we find various technologies with promises that are often imperfect and sometimes distort the sacrosanct idea of French-style projection.

And we can no longer count the innovations that have left us speechless even though they were attractive abroad. However, the cinema-lover never regrets an upgrade of his room, just because projection is a field in constant progress and each installation approaches a better image. So instead of succumbing to gadgets, we like to follow trends.


Notably one, coming from the United States having conquered Asia: theDolby Cinema. The laboratory, whoseAtmossound has conquered our living rooms and dark rooms, and whose HDR Dolby Visionstandard is beginning to blossom on the TV shelves, has decided to take the exhibitors’ hand to accompany them towards a premiumcinema experience. A marketing concept often heard, especially since the downloading crisis, but which is having a hard time coming to life in our countries.

As a true apostle of its technologies and of a certain idea of the session, the company has therefore developed with AMC for example aDolbyroom. Rather than label only projectors and audio systems, Dolby decided to labeltheexperiment of a session. Thus, as an embassy, Dolby Cinema theatres in the colours of the laboratory have sprouted in the homeland of cinema, taking a special place in the multiplexes. It was 2014.

In 2017, the first Dolby theatre opens its doors in France, in Massy, south of Paris, in a brand new Pathé. We went there for a presentation and a trial of thispremiumexperience.

Direction Pathé Massy

The work is not finished and the building sites are littered with the new commercial area of this town in the Ile de France region. A few steps from the station, a square stretches out overhanging the monstrous multiplex. Around them, dreary restaurants of large chains that you see in shopping centres serve empty terraces.

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

Suburban cinemas rarely have the charm of our old movie theatres, but it’s the future we’re here to talk about. And the smell of new, between plastic and paint, that reigns in the multiplex convinces us that we are at the right address.

On the third floor of the vertiginous Pathé, we find the only Dolby room in the establishment: it is distinguished by an elaborate entrance, surrounded by black and blue, and opens onto a circular corridor that plunges into the darkness of the room. Projected on the facade of the corridor, a visual taken from the projected film: the air routes that cross the imaginary city ofBlade Runner 2049, some notes from the soundtrack escape.

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

This corridor must begin the immersion in the film, we will explain. He’s nice, but doesn’t convince us to add 4 euros to our place to access the Dolby service. However, once the doors swing open behind us, the room, its layout and architecture make a strong impression on us. In the den, which should have had 500 seats if it was notDolby Cinema, there are only ,200 seats in .

The rows are far apart, the chairs are incredibly wide and upholstered like the one in our living room. Tilting faux leather with a silent system that literally makes you fall backwards. We don’t dare believe it, but we’re excited about chairs. The exhibitor proudly announces that this is a first for a French cinema, a people of discomfort that we are.

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

And if, as we’ll see, Dolby technologies also have their charm, the layout of this theatre deserves to be generalized to make us return to cinemas, even if it means adding a few euros to avoid crowds, popcorn and phones of our neighbours whose breath comes close to our necks. As an airline’s class business, Dolby Cinema outperforms the experience in comfort: it’s necessary in a country where theatres are little broken by wide, upholstered American seats.

The design of Dolby Cinema is very much in line with a specification: fewer seats than a conventional cinema, but also a perfectly black room, matt colours, and no reflective surfaces for light. Youri Bredewold, head of Dolby Cinema, believes that this is also about improving the quality of the screenings. Once the room is plunged into darkness, no light pierces the artificial night. Finally, the Atmos equipment is completely hidden behind black canvas. The 18-meter screen is the only perspective.

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet

Pathé Massy / Frédéric Berthet


Dolby’s rep is running the trailers to make us drool. And this is where therolls of the cinemas,the Christie equipment slightly modified by Dolby shows what it has in its guts: a contrast never seen before in French cinema, which makes us forget EclairColor and its promise of HDR. The blacks are abysmal as we have become accustomed to in our living rooms, the colours are very saturated – often beyond the principle of reality – and the definition is impeccable. The system consists of a dual Christie 4K modular laser projector, one of the latest industry-leading treats. The excellent performance of the laser system is complemented by theDolby Vision, an import of the concept of HDR in dark rooms.

Like EclairColor, Dolby adjusts in its London laboratory the films sent by the studios, a tedious operation that will adapt the images to the projection. Thus, each film can be associated with its own parameterization:Vice-Versawill thus play to the maximum contrasts going to the unnatural when other productions will remain more neutral. But the image is inevitably flattering, the effect is moreover indisputable when the EclairColor is seen especially if one compares the productions next to each other.

We are promised a dynamic contrast of 1 million:1, a statement without much interest. More interestingly, the Dolby system has very good performance in terms of brightness, especially in 3D. Youri Bredewold explains that he can measure in 3D a maximum brightness of 14 foot-lambert, a value most often found in 2D. In 2D, the measurement rises to 31 foot-lambert.

Pathé Massy / C. D.

Pathé Massy / C. D.

On the sound side, Dolby Atmos is no longer presented, which, if its popularity is anything to go by, seems to have seduced the French. Yet we have memories of erratic experiences, but here the system seems coherent, controlled, the effects of channel objects are perceptible and precise. Considering the presence of the system in different rooms, we pay more distracted attention to it than to the projection.

A desirable service

With 116 theatres worldwide, including 7 to come in France – Massy is unique today – the content adapted to the Dolby formula is quite numerous, although often turned towards blockbusters and major studios. A first French film will benefit from the treatment: it will beLa Promesse de l’Aube. But thispremium cinema seems to be, at least for reasons of profitability, largely aimed at long-lasting films. Too bad for the moviegoer.

But the situation could change with the installation, promised by the firm, of a Dolby laboratory in France. Will this accelerate the adoption of Dolby Cinema outside of Pathé? Difficult to say given the investment required and the exclusivity per zone. Thus, on the outskirts of the Massy multiplex, no other room of this kind will be able to see the light of day. The concern for Dolby is to keep a high-end and rare product.

Rooms will be transformed soon. In the provinces, in Lyon and Rouen. Intra-muros, Parisians can take their troubles in patience: Massy will be the closest for this year, the next Dolby theatres have yet to be announced by the channel. But impatience is waiting for us, the slap we got from the projection of the sublimeBlade Runner 2049made us salivate for a long time in our upholstered armchairs. And the passage of the years should not do too much damage to these rooms, which are monitored and visited by Dolby at least once a month. The assurance that Dolby Cinema will not be abandoned in a few years.

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