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XD Movie Verdict: There Are No Bad Seats

The Cinemark XD entertainment environment features an oversize, wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor screen, brand new plush seating, a custom JBL sound system featuring crisp, clear digital sound, and the brightest digital images delivered by a Doremi server and a Barco digital projector. 

XD Movie? Yes, Please. Here’s Why

Since most of these premium options also come with a premium price tag, it is important to evaluate whether the features are worth the extra expense. With this in mind, what exactly is an XD movie?

Every Cinemark XD auditorium is enhanced by having the largest screen in the building: A magnificent, 70-foot wall-to-wall surface. The screen is large enough to be fully immersive, and make you feel like you’re in the movie.

In this guide, we will take a deep dive into Cinemark’s premium movie theater–Cinemark XD. We will look at the video and audio qualities, and compare Cinemark’s marketing versus reality to help you decide whether it is worth the upcharge.

XD Cinema Experience

https://youtu.be/_Sy6CtnG6z4

Cinemark XD is often compared to IMAX, which makes sense because the two theaters are similar in a number of ways. In fact, IMAX actually filed a lawsuit against Cinemark years ago, claiming that Cinemark XD had stolen trade secrets from IMAX and that XD is essentially a copy of IMAX.

The lawsuit was dropped after a settlement was reached, and IMAX and Cinemark XD are now two of the most popular premium theaters in the U.S.

XD theaters have oversized screens that Cinemark advertises as “wall-to-wall” and “floor-to-ceiling.”

Early XD theaters featured 7.1 surround sound, but most XD theaters have been upgraded to an 11.1-enabled surround sound as of 2022.

In the simplest terms, here is what separates Cinemark XD theaters from a standard movie theater: more comfortable reclining seats, a larger screen, and louder speakers.

The only downside is that the tickets generally cost ~$2.50 more than the same ticket in a standard Cinemark theater. 

Without a doubt, Cinemark XD provides oversized screens compared to the average theater. 4K projectors power the visuals, which Cinemark advertises as having 35 trillion colors. I’m not sure about you, but my eyes struggle to differentiate between a projector with 35 trillion colors and one with only 20 trillion colors.

With digital 4K projectors, it is definitely possible to have a 70+ foot screen without losing clarity. And I agree with Cinemark’s claim here. Video quality is excellent, even if it isn’t the absolute best video quality in the industry.

This is technically true, but with a caveat. XD theaters feature Auro 11.1 sound systems, which are basically 5.1 surround sound with another level of 5 surround speakers and an overhead speaker. So, although there will be more channels to the surround sound, this isn’t object-based audio like you would get with Dolby Atmos. In other words, Auro 11.1 can’t “place” a particular sound as accurately as Dolby Atmos can.

The other key here is that very few movies are even mixed in Auro 11.1. Instead, Dolby formats have become something of an industry standard. The number of films that are made with Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, or Dolby Digital Plus is way higher than the number that are made in Auro 11.1.

Cinemark XD cranks the volume higher and adds more bass, so you still get an excellent, immersive audio experience. But my conclusion here is that the 11.1 channel surround system is more marketing hype than anything.

Although many of us focus on the screen size and quality, it is sound quality that actually differentiates most modern movie theaters. Cinemark representatives have even acknowledged that “even though the images are pristine, it is the sound that people are raving about the most.”

THX Certification is a badge that “sets the standard for the audio and visual fidelity of entertainment experiences.” So the fact that Cinemark XD theaters are THX Certified actually is a big deal. Now, how big of a deal it is really just depends who you ask.

In most instances, Cinemark XD theaters provide you with a superior viewing (and listening) experience compared to a standard theater. For ~$2.50 extra, the difference is worthwhile if you are watching an action movie or anything that relies heavily on special effects. For a comedy or romantic comedy, it may not be worth it.

Are There Any XD Movie Theater Setups?

Cinemark XD Movie Theatre

Cinemark XD auditoriums generally include the largest screen in the multiplex, which stretches from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, though exact sizes vary. They offer 4K projection (for films with 4K masters, anyhow) and high brightness levels ideal for 3D films.

Some XD auditoriums also feature Auro 11.1 “immersive audio,” which includes the traditional 5.1 surround layout, plus five additional “height” channels situated above the main five surround channels and one directly overhead sound channel. However, very few movies are released with Auro support as the competing Dolby Atmos format has become the de facto standard for immersive audio.

Finally, some XD auditoriums offer reserved seating, even if the rest of the multiplex does not. 

So, are XD Movie Theaters Worth It?

The general consensus is that XD movie theaters are worth the extra $2.50 ticket price for action movies and those featuring meaningful special effects. In a Cinemark XD theater, you are guaranteed to be watching on the largest screen in the theater. Additionally, the theaters themselves are larger.

The ultimate benefit is that when you enter a theater that carries THX Certification, such as Cinemark XD, you can be certain that what you see and hear is exactly as the filmmakers want it to look and sound. So when it comes time to see another Star Wars film, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to experience continuations of George Lucas’s epic sci-fi Skywalker saga in a theater that is up to the standards Lucas himself originally endorsed?

Further, there are no “bad seats.” Instead, you can be confident that every seat is located with an acceptable viewing angle. The seats themselves are extremely comfortable, and most/all XD theaters also have reclining seats.