THX, the company responsible for the "Deep Note" that plays before movies at the cinema, has been acquired by Razer, the gaming peripherals and laptop maker. Razer revealed the news today, stressing that it intends to maintain all of THX’s management and staff and allow it the independence to run its own operations and make its own business decisions. In an interview with The Verge ahead of the announcement, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said the "main reason for the acquisition is the phenomenal brand that THX have."
"The whole entertainment space is converging."
Through its close association with Star Wars, having been originally founded by George Lucas in 1983 just ahead of the release of Return of the Jedi, THX has indeed developed a widespread appreciation and fondness among cinemagoers. It was one of the first meaningful initiatives to establish — and certify — a baseline level of audio performance across movie theaters, and its enduring success is why we are all so familiar with that signature THX sound. In more recent times, THX’s certification efforts have broadened out to include consumer electronics and automotive sound systems, as well as live performances through THX Live!, which debuted with Beyoncé’s Formation tour earlier this year.
Razer sees a lot potential synergy between its own gaming credentials and the wider audience and brand recognition that THX enjoys. "The whole entertainment space is converging," says Tan, "we’re seeing music videos shot in 360, movie IP going into games and game IP going into movies." With all this category crosstalk going on, Razer is keen to establish itself as "an entertainment powerhouse [across] music, movies, and games." The way THX helps Razer is through granting it legitimacy among an audience that might otherwise be skeptical of a gaming brand’s offerings. As Tan explains, "THX is in a curiously unique position of being one of those cult brands in the movie and the sound industries."
On the question of whether this new acquisition would mean a wave of THX-certified peripherals and devices from Razer, Tan remains cagey. If there are any plans inside Razer to capitalize directly on the new sound engineering expertise the company has acquired, they don’t appear to be on the immediate horizon. Instead, Razer wants to help THX exploit Razer’s entire global infrastructure, with a particular focus on helping it penetrate into Chinese movie theaters. THX’s core business will remain focused on optimization and certification, and China is a booming market for all forms of entertainment, so Razer’s existing relationships might very well help accelerate THX’s endeavors.
Still, this acquisition undeniably marks a low point for the once gloriously gleaming brand of THX. The company was a pioneer in promoting standards of high quality, which eventually grew into proprietary formats from the likes of Dolby and DTS, which pushed THX aside by bringing their own levels of quality control. Today, THX’s footprint among US cinemas is greatly diminished and its diversification away from its original theatrical business and successful high-end home theater work have diluted the brand to where it is no longer immediately identified with the highest standards of quality.
Razer’s assertion that it’s buying THX primarily for the brand rings true. There remains plenty of latent affection for the THX name among movie fans — especially Star Wars lovers — and the two companies have a wide-open canvas on which to draw up their future together.