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Dolby Theatre Unveils New Name, New Technology

Dolby shows off new Dolby Theatre sound and video systems in special preview; official sign unveiling comes Monday night

The Kodak Theatre era came to an end on Monday, as Dolby unveiled new signs proclaiming the home of the Academy Awards to be the Dolby Theatre.

The official unveiling of the large "DOLBY THEATRE" sign on Hollywood Blvd. will take place on Monday evening at 6:00, and the grand opening is scheduled for next Monday, June 18, for the premiere of Pixar's "Brave.

But all the external signs at the Hollywood & Highland Center theater had been replaced by Dolby signs on Monday morning, when Dolby held a press preview for the new technological advancements it put into the 3,400-seat theater.

Also read: Kodak Wants Its Name Off Oscar Theater — Will AMPAS Approve Next Sponsor?

The 11-year-old theater is designed to be a showcase for Dolby technology, including the new Dolby Atmos sound system and Dolby 3D projection.

"I've been standing in front of people for years telling you that Dolby brings you an immersive experience," said David Gray, Dolby's vice president of worldwide production services. "And now we're finally telling you the truth."

The theater has been upgraded with 164 loudspeakers and a pair of 4K digital projectors, and is the largest theater to currently have the Dolby Atmos system.

The system is designed to be the ultimate in surround sound, with the ability to place specific sounds virtually anywhere around, above or within the audience.

"This is not about adding more channels and more speakers," said Ramzi Haidamus, Dolby's executive vice president of sales and marketing. "This is a whole different way of looking at sound design and playback … This is about putting you into the movie."

In the future, said Dolby CEO Kevin Yeaman, the theater will be used as a showcase for additional Dolby technologies. He did not specify if the company would have a specific presence on the Academy Awards beyond the name, but more than once used the time-honored and patently false claim that the Oscars draw a viewing audience of 1 billion.

Kodak paid a reported $80 million for a 20-year deal for the naming rights when the theater opened in late 2001. Last year, a bankruptcy court judge allowed the financially troubled company to stop making annual payments for those rights, and CIS, the owners of Hollywood & Highland, began looking for a new company to take over the name.

Dolby has not disclosed the terms of its deal for the theater, other than to say it is less than Kodak paid. Its deal extends for 20 years, but can be terminated if the Academy moves the Oscars out of the theater.

For the press preview, the theater was filled with speakers on stands that are not permanent but eventually be made part of the theater. An additional 44 speakers hung on trusses over the audience, but those trusses have to be removed so as not to get in the way of the aerial artists in Cirque du Soleil's "Iris," which performs 10 shows a week in the theater. 

Atmos is expected to be in 15 theater in the U.S. this month, with an additional worldwide installation in more cities before the holidays.

The Dolby Theatre name, said Yeaman, "is a way for us to really connect with people and establish context and relevance. It's about how we're perceived by consumers, how we're perceived by artists, how we're perceived by the whole spectrum of entertainment."