Samsung today announced that its line of 4K LED theatrical screens are now called Onyx, which is meant to evoke the picture quality of its pure black capabilities. The screens, six of which exist now around the world, stand at 34-feet and 4096 x 2160 resolution, providing a richer, crisper picture than standard 2K projection. They’re capable of displaying 2K, 4K, 3D, and HDR images. Last week, Samsung officially unveiled its first US location for Onyx at Pacific Theatres Winnetka in Chatsworth, California, just north of Los Angeles.
While the screen is smaller than the standard 45- to 65-foot projection screens at most movie theaters, the Onyx LED monitor takes advantage of the fact that it’s not relying on projection technology. It is essentially a giant 4K TV screen built into a movie theater wall. Samsung says it works with theaters to design the seating arrangement and the custom JBL sound system to maximize the viewing and audio quality experience. And unlike projection, the screen also works well in partial light, which Samsung hopes will make it a viable option for dine-in theatrical experiences and even e-sports and other live gaming events, as viewers won’t need to sit in complete darkness.
In a live demo of the screen at the Pacific Theaters Winnetka last Friday, in which we saw Ready Player One on the Onyx screen, it was admittedly hard without a side-by-side comparison to tell the difference between the LED cinema screen and a standard projection one. It was much easier to discern the quality when standing closer to a smaller, half-sized Onyx screen Samsung provided to post-production studio Roundabout. The studio is now making use of the screen in its color correction, HDR grading, and other film editing work now increasingly focused on helping studios put out higher-quality digital images.
In the theater, the sound system was fantastic and the seats much more comfortable than your standard fare. But it’s not readily apparent that most viewers will be able to tell the difference when it comes to raw visual quality. Tickets to see films on the Onyx screen will likely only cost slightly more than a standard film, similar in ways to IMAX or XD pricing.
As for how much the screen costs, Samsung isn’t putting a concrete figure on it, but estimates put it somewhere between $500,000 and $800,000, depending on the needs of the theater owner. That’s roughly two to three times the price of a standard projection system, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The company already has two in South Korea, one in Switzerland, and two more in China. It’s planning to have 10 installed worldwide by the summer and 30 by year-end. Samsung is also introducing a 46-foot 4K LED screen later this year to help the Onyx line better compete with traditional laser projection systems.