Last year, the Cinemark at the Howard Hughes Center (HHC) in Los Angeles, replaced one of the true IMAX theaters in the area with one of their XD (Extreme Digital) theaters. I did an in-depth review comparing true IMAX to XD theaters and will be posting it soon on this site.
More recently, Cinemark opened a brand new XD theater in Playa Vista quite close to the Cinemark mentioned above. What I’m going to be doing here is giving you my impressions of this new theater. It has some “very” interesting aspects and advances and I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did.
While I don’t have the exact screen dimensions at this theater, it appears to be smaller than the XD at the HHC (which is about 87 x 60+ feet; the same size as the old IMAX it replaced), but not by that much. If you’re at all concerned about immersion in the “Big Screen” experience, you won’t have to worry about it at this theater. I sat in the 5th row center and the screen filled my entire field of vision and then some.
The theater uses the same Barco 4K projectors (with some tweaks) which were, until recently, utilized by the other Cinemark theaters and some of the higher end “Digital” (not true) IMAX theaters (Edit: The TCL Chinese IMAX in Hollywood, has just upgraded it’s projection system to the latest in IMAX technology and I will be reviewing it soon.). The lower end “IMAX” theaters (AMC Century City 15, for example) use dual 2K projectors and don’t have the resolution or the screen size of the Cinemark XD theaters. That’s not an opinion; that’s a fact. While a well processed IMAX FILM has, in my opinion, better definition than a 4K projection, those IMAX films are in very short supply and you may very well not see many of your favorite new releases if you are depending on having a film print of this quality.
(I spoke about some tweaks to the projection system at the Playa Vista Cinemark XD theater and this is what I know:)
While the projectors are the same projectors at the HHC Cinemark, they use a different lens and do 3D projection with a single projector. While the projection itself is still a 4K projection, the light output is lower than a similar dual projector system. I saw “Insurgent” today in 3D and it was PLENTY bright. In special cases, the theater will employ dual projectors when they want more light output. The Barco 4K projectors put out a sharp image and unless you have source material with better resolution/definition (note, there IS a difference between the two), the Barco 4K projector is about as good as it gets.
This is where things get REALLY interesting. Most XD theaters employ the Auro 11.1 sound system and the Cinemark in Playa Vista is no exception. What this theater takes to the next level is that it ALSO can utilize the Dolby ATMOS sound system. They have two separate sound systems which can be used with the existing speakers. This makes this theater less dependent on how the sound is mixed and it can use object-based sound. “Insurgent” used the Dolby ATMOS system and the sound was terrific. I don’t know of any other theaters that have this capability. I’m sure they are out there; I’ve just never been to one. It’s a very flexible sound system and a very good idea.
Comfort and Seating:
The theater itself is huge and seats over 400 people. Like the Cinemark at HHC, the seats at this theater are just about as comfortable as it gets. The seats are wide, with nicely padded armrests, and a high back for head support. As importantly, there is more than enough legroom between rows so you never feel cramped. During the movie, I changed places between the first upper level row (which has metal bars across the front) and seats with seats in front of them. Both were very comfortable and you can easily sit through a long, long movie with no discomfort.
The “only” theater that I know which has more comfortable seats is the AMC Dine-In located in Marina Del Rey. The AMC, however, isn’t in the same ballpark with regard to their projection or sound system. While those big, comfy, reclining, AMC Dine-In seats are great, the Cinemark XD seats are more than comfortable and my biggest concern when I go to a movie is picture and sound.
They did a really nice job of decorating and the general feel is very open, sunny, and aesthetically pleasing.
They have a café and bar/lounge so they serve “real” food. There is indoor and outdoor seating and the ambiance is what you would expect at an upscale, yet casual, restaurant. While the café is costlier than what you would normally see at your run of the mill restaurant, theater food (if you consider popcorn and licorice to be “food”) is notoriously expensive and I found the prices to be less than what you would see at a Dine-In theater.
Parking is free (so far). You can easily pay 2 or 3 dollars for parking and that adds to the cost of the ticket.
Ticket prices are pretty standard to slightly lower than what you would expect from a “premium” theater. The AMC Century City IMAX charges about the same for matinee prices and about $2 more for evening shows and is a “substantially” inferior theater from a comfort, audio, and visual perspective.
While I’m not going to tell you that 4K projection can rival the definition of a well shot and processed IMAX film (a real FILM and not a digital copy), Cinemark’s XD theater at Playa Vista is a true premium theater, with all the amenities; including a pleasant interior environment, theater seating comfort, high quality projection, high quality sound, free parking, food you can actually eat, and a comfortable area to relax and have a drink if you so choose.
Because this was a theater planned from the ground up, they did not face the constraints normally encountered when taking over an existing building. The results of their efforts were quite impressive and I found the theater superior to any of the (“projection”, i.e. non-film) IMAX theaters that I have seen offered up by AMC.
If any of you readers would like to add, clarify, or correct my review, please use the comment section below.
If you want to look at photos of the theater, just click on the pages below.
Inside the Theater (Photos of both Cinemark Theaters)
Inside the Projection Room (Cinemark XD at the Howard Hughes Center)