Samsung’s giant, 34-foot Onyx screens are 4K monitors for movie theaters

Samsung

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.

Comments

This is very intriguing, I’d be interested to see how it compares to something like the Dolby Cinema laser HDR laser projection. I find it odd that the article states they couldn’t really tell the difference, because the Dolby Cinema is immediately apparent and vastly better than a regular projector theater. Might have to check it out for myself since it’s not too far of a drive from LA.

It looked fantastic, and it looked much better close up when we were standing just a few feet away from the 17-foot one in Roundabout’s post-production studio. But from a distance and in a movie theater-style set up, it just looked like a really, really nice screen, but not drastically different than a standard one. I think once we get into the realm of 4K, HDR content being the norm for Hollywood films that screens like this will be more readily useful.

I think part of it was that it was Ready Player One, a CGI-heavy movie. So it was hard to really drill down to what looked better or more crisp than when I saw it in a standard theater.

I guess, but how were the black levels/contrast ratio? Blacks in a normal theater just look like a dark gray, were these actually black? 4K and HDR content is the norm, nothing is shot below 4K anymore, usually it’s 6K+, unless it’s film, which is still at least 4K equivalent. They’re also pretty much all being mastered with HDR in mind now as well so I’m not sure why the demo you guys saw wouldn’t be 4K HDR unless it was just a poorly managed screening.

Yeah, Dolby Cinema has really brought it in a way I didn’t realize I wanted until it was here. The picture and sound really are worth paying extra for in a way the various IMAX, DX and other big (but not better) formats haven’t been.

Totally agree. I’d rather not drive all the way to the porn capital of the greater los angeles are to check this out though. This might have the potential to unseat the dolby cinema laser projection systems in the right venues.

Also, I wonder if this will be based on their micro led technology, at those larger sizes, it might be possible to place a micro led behind each pixel to effectively create an emissive display.

Doing the calculations, you shouldn’t be able to discern the pixels on this screen at a distance of 25’, compared to 50’ with a 2K projector. In terms of seats, that means that you won’t be able to see the pixels from about 3 rows from the front instead of the ~11 rows from the front you would need with a 2K projector.

The point is kind of moot since nobody ever wants to sit that close in a movie theater. I always baffles me that those seats even exist.

I wonder if you could get rid of those and just have a balcony if your theater has one of these screens. Since it won’t need a projector room anyway.

traditional laser

I live in the future. : )

Haha so now I can watch tv at a theater and a projector at home. Reality has been flipped on its head.

This really would be the ultimate jewel of a man cave at home.

Just replace that tiny screen with a smaller version of one of those samsung cinema displays. Doubles as ultra high end tv and gaming display.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

So where exactly is the one in Switzerland that was mentioned in the article?

So where do they shove the center channel speaker in the movie theater? Aren’t most of them located behind the projection screen which is acoustically transparent? Seems like that would be impossible here.

Yes you are right. They had to develop a custom audio system for it. IIRC the speakers are mounted above the screen and bounce audio off the screen. My bet is they bought Harbon Karbon for this very reason.

They bought a once-great audio company so that they could bounce sound off a hard surface like a cheap Dolby Atmos system? Money well spent!

More so they could custom build audio systems to compliment their television/theater ambitions.

With this, instead of having your traditional projector room, you could build out a balcony up high to add in even more seating. I think this setup is ideal, we just need Samsung to gradually come down on the pricing over time.

What you’re going to end up with is fewer theaters, bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150. It will be more in line with sporting events, with films playing in these high-end cinemas for as long as a year. And that’s going to be what we call "the movie business." But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo.

- George Lucas, June 13, 2013

The Verge

Sounds cool but wouldn’t it make more sense to do this with 8K?

The price is already high. That seems like it’d make it even higher.

If you’re opening or upgrading a commercial movie theater, you’re going to have to spend, especially in this day and age.

Yeah but you also have competition, and their competitors are a lot cheaper and more established. I think focusing on getting the 4k screens cheaper would be a great idea while preparing to put out a 8k screen in the future.

If you’re getting a screen like this, you’re competing with IMAX, 4DX, etc.-type theaters. They’re not going to be offering much cheaper (if at all) tickets than a theater with this screen.

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