‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Becomes the First Dolby Vision Movie Premiere at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre

Two of the three theaters hosting the premiere, the Dolby Theatre and the Disney-owned El Capitan, are showing 'The Force Awakens' in Dolby Vision and Atmos.
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood is using newly installed Dolby Vision projection capabilities tonight at the world premiere of Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Dolby Vision is the company's new high-dynamic-range (HDR) format, meaning that it offers a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks than traditional digital cinema.

Two of the three theaters hosting tonight's premiere — the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and the Disney-owned El Capitan across Hollywood Boulevard — are showing The Force Awakens in Dolby Vision, along with Dolby’s immersive sound format Atmos.

That's something of a coup for Dolby Vision, which was launched in May with the release of Disney’s Tomorrowland. The Force Awakens will be the 14th Dolby Vision release. Upcoming titles including Disney’s The Jungle Book.

The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, have been supporting the format since its unveiling at CES in 2014, so it was expected he would create a Dolby Vision version of the movie. For the introduction of the format, which is also being launched as a home-entertainment format, Dolby presented clips of Abrams’ Star Wars Into Darkness, which were converted into Dolby Vision and shown on some of the first Dolby Vision displays. The trailer for The Force Awakens in Dolby Vision debuted last spring at CinemaCon.

“We think it looks and sounds fantastic,” Dolby senior vp content services and industry relations Curt Belhmer says of the Dolby Vision version of The Force Awakens. “It’s well suited for the format, because we can show black space and vibrant color. Atmos give us an immersive and compelling soundtrack.”

Following tonight's screening, Dolby Vision projection will be an option for future movies screening at the Dolby Theatre.

To see The Force Awakens in the format when the film opens on Friday, moviegoers will need to find a supported theater. Dolby Cinema — which is the name being used for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in a premium-theater configuration — is available in eight ‘Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime” locations in the U.S., while the El Capitan offers Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. There are an additional four Dolby Cinema locations in Europe.

The Force Awakens was shot by cinematographer Dan Mindel on film, which by definition supports HDR. The digital cinema version was specially graded by colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld at Company 3 in Santa Monica. The Atmos sound was mixed by re-recording mixers Andy Nelson and Christopher Scarabosio.