Hobbit to screen in new audio format

Last updated 13:34 26/10/2012

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New Zealanders will be able to experience Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit with a more realistic sound - but only if you are in Wellington.

Dolby Laboratories Inc. and Jackson's Park Road Post Production yesterday announced the film will be mixed and released in Dolby Atmos, the company's new sound system that features two extra arrays of overhead speakers and the ability to direct sound to individual speakers inside movie theatres.

Carmen Switzer, general manager of Event Cinemas, which runs The Embassy Theatre in Wellington, today confirmed it will have the new technology on time for the premier of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on November 28.

"It's a massive investment," she said. "There is up to 20 separate amps, speakers in the ceiling.

"It's really exciting for Wellington to have it at The Embassy."

Switzer said the theatre will close its doors to install the equipment from November 5 to 9.

She also confirmed The Embassy will be able to screen the film in the 48-frames-per-second (fps) version, twice the speed that's been the standard since the 1920s.

Despite receiving mixed reaction, Jackson has said the double-frame looks like the normal speed, but it enhances clarity and smoothness.

Dolby Laboratories' goal is to have the Atmos platform installed in 80 to 100 theatres in time for film, which is scheduled to open in cinemas on December 14.

Spokesman Joshua Gershman today said he did not yet know whether other New Zealand theatres will be getting the technology. About 50 per cent of them will be in North America.

Dolby's senior technical marketing manager Stuart Bowling said Jackson felt the new sound system would "make a big difference in how he tells stories".

"He doesn't want people to just go and observe his movies. He wants you to feel like you're part of the experience of the stories that's he's trying to tell on the screen and allow you to be part of Middle-earth."

Jackson adapted J.R.R. Tolkien's tale of Bilbo Baggins, set in the fictional realm of Middle-earth 60 years before The Lord of the Rings.

There will be three films, with the second and third set to be released December 13, 2013, and July 18, 2014 respectively.

Other movies slated to be released in the Atmos format include Fox's Chasing Mavericks and Life of Pi. Disney-Pixar's Brave was the first film to debut with the audio format earlier this year.

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