China’s Wanda to Use Dolby Atmos Audio in Big-Screen Cinemas

Dalian Wanda Group Co., China’s largest cinema owner, will use Dolby Laboratories Inc.’s Atmos sound system in all of its big-screen theaters, expanding the U.S. company’s foothold in the world’s No. 2 film market.

Atmos, which synchronizes sound with the direction of on-screen action, will be in at least six of Dalian Wanda’s X-Land auditoriums by the end of the year, Dolby said in a statement. The San Francisco-based company announced the agreement as cinema operators and studio executives gathered in Las Vegas today for the annual CinemaCon trade show.

The agreement gives Dolby ties to a global cinema operator. Last year, Wanda bought AMC Entertainment, the second-largest U.S. operator, with about 5,000 screens, for $2.6 billion, and is shopping for theaters in Europe. The deal also positions Dolby for growth in China, where ticket sales increased 36 percent to $2.7 billion last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

“It’s a great relationship to have and certainly raises the profile and relevancy of Atmos when a major exhibitor sees the value of having this in their cinemas,” Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s senior technical marketing manager, said in an interview. “They’re looking for what we’re doing here, which is to offer a premium experience.”

Closely held Wanda owns China’s largest cinema chain, Wanda Cinema Line, with more than 100 locations, according to the trade publication Film Journal International. The chain also operates big-screen theaters with Imax Corp. Dolby has 11 locations in China using the technology now, the company said.

First Film

The Tom Cruise science-fiction film “Oblivion,” is the first movie to be filmed with Atmos features in mind, according to Bowling. The picture from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, is scheduled for release on April 19.

“It allows you to put the sound in places that we couldn’t put it before,” Joseph Kosinski, the film’s director, said in an interview.

Kosinski described a scene in which a futuristic aircraft approaches a landing pad. The sound originates from the front of the auditorium and moves around and over the audience.

“You can do a lot of really interesting things that immerse the viewer even more in the world you’re trying to create,” Kosinski said.

Other films to be tailored for the technology include “Iron Man 3,” scheduled for May 3, “Star Trek into Darkness” and the new Superman reboot “Man of Steel,” Dolby said. The number of auditoriums equipped with Atmos will double to about 200 worldwide by June, Bowling said.

Atmos uses scores of speakers combined with software to sync sound with action on the screen. Dolby sells processors and software to decode and distribute sounds from digital copies of movies and supervises the installation of equipment. Soundtracks for 38 previous films were converted to Atmos after being made with earlier Dolby technology, the company said.

Dolby fell 2.4 percent to $32.23 at 2:10 p.m. in New York trading. As of April 12, the shares had gained 13 percent this year.

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