MaxXimum audio: Germany's CinemaxX installs Meyer Sound

Features

On May 17, Berkeley, Calif.-based Meyer Sound Laboratories and CinemaxX AG of Hamburg, Germany expanded their ongoing relationship to equip a total of 60 screens with the Meyer Sound EXP cinema system. Deemed the largest audio upgrade in CinemaxX history and branded “MaxXimum Sound” to moviegoers, the entire program will be completed by FTT Film Ton Technik Hannsdieter Rüttgers GmbH, integration and installation experts from Düsseldorf, Germany.
(For a full detailed description of the technology behind Meyer Sound, please refer to our October 2010 feature “Theatres for Audiophiles.” And see below for FTT’s perspective.)

“FTT is our partner in nearly all aspects of cinema technology and installation,” elaborates Arne Schmidt, head of corporate communications and investor relations at CinemaxX. That includes the circuit’s move into the third dimension with Sony 4K and RealD in some 120 of its 292 screens at 34 theatres so far. “Following the successful introduction of our ‘MaxXimum 3D’ brand,” Schmidt says, “we decided that the second key layer to the theatrical experience—cinema sound—should be upgraded as well. Although we had continuously been replacing our sound equipment over the years, we felt that there was much more that can happen to improve movie theatre sound.”

During the subsequent search, Schmidt acknowledges that CinemaxX was presented with numerous models and a variety of technology proposals. Although they also “listened very closely in many movie theatres,” the scope of research was ultimately broadened beyond the cinema realm. And that’s where CinemaxX was introduced to Meyer Sound as a leading supplier of systems for stage theatres, arenas, theme parks and touring concert sound rentals, to name but entertainment-related examples. At the conclusion of the initial demonstration, “our technology team and executive management were, simply put, absolutely knocked out,” Schmidt recalls. “After that, it was very easy to say: Let’s do that in one of our cinemas as well.”

The first to receive the MaxXimum/Meyer overhaul was “our premier screen” of 1,001 seats at CinemaxX am Dammtor. That auditorium is part of a prestigious eight-plex in the city of Hamburg, which CinemaxX calls its corporate home, and is known for its very high standard of presentation. “If it worked there, it would work everywhere,” Schmidt explains.

Proximity was equally key to selecting the second test site, a 754-seat auditorium in Copenhagen. “It was important for CinemaxX to underline our commitment to our cinemas in Denmark, making it clear that they are as important to the company as the ones we operate in Germany.” Currently, Germany has one MaxX and 30 CinemaxX theatres with 267 screens overall, while Denmark offers three sites with 25 screens.

The cinema experience with Meyer Sound “is in a world of its own,” noted Christian Gisy, chief executive officer of CinemaxX, during the test phase back in October. “Speech intelligibility is excellent even during action sequences. Also, the transition from front to surround is seamless, and the low end is really powerful,” he observed. “We have created a special moviegoing experience that now includes the best in sound along with the ultimate picture quality... Based on early audience reactions, we expect more screens to follow during the next months.” (A video interview with Christian Gisy is available here.)

CinemaxX soon began bringing MaxXimum Sound to additional locations and auditoriums. In Hamburg and Copenhagen, second screens were upgraded, with Meyer EXP coming to key Munich and Berlin locations as well. By year’s end, Schmidt anticipates as many as 15 locations will have been maxXimized.

The criteria for which auditoriums receive the treatment vary, he elaborates. “They do not necessarily have to be the two screens with the largest capacities. Naturally, we do want one to be the biggest so that we can accommodate the biggest movies and premieres, but we are also looking to include a mid-range house for serving different types of events.” As part of the multi-functionality that CinemaxX offers to its customers, Schmidt cites opera as a fitting example at the consumer end. For business partners, he believes MaxXimum Sound has a MaxXimum impact on their presentations.

Going forward, CinemaxX plans to continue using both “quality-seal” brands for MaxXimum 3D image and MaxXimum Sound at the same time.

Advertising and marketing materials along with signage and in-theatre trailer announcements will “demonstrate to our guests what makes CinemaxX special and how our quality approach distinguishes our theatres from others in the marketplace.” Whereas 3D presentations, like everywhere else, have their own pricing scheme, CinemaxX does not intend to up-charge for the MaxXimum in sound. “Our guests will enjoy the extraordinarily amazing and exceedingly good Meyer Sound for the same price as when they attend any other of our screens.”

All the investment is paying off. “The reactions are amazing,” Schmidt says of the public’s response. “Our theatre mangers have reported standing ovations when they explain the system to the audience. The public likes it and appreciates the quality.” This reaction has not been limited to films that pump up the volume and play with the sound of explosions and screeching tires. MaxXimum Sound has received equally strong accolades for the often more romantically inclined and quieter films that CinemaxX regularly hosts as part of its “Ladies Night” preview screenings and events.

Media coverage has been positive as well, Schmidt relays. “Consumer press tends to be very much impressed with loudness and sound dynamics. You can feel the sound effects in your stomach, really, without the volume being excessively loud. Feeling the sound means experiencing it viscerally and without having to cover your ears. On the other hand, audio experts evaluate the system based on the quieter moments, sound layers and overall quality. Although both sides have different criteria,” Schmidt has concluded, “the result is the same: They are very, very enthusiastic about the experience.”

CinemaxXimum Facts
EXP is Meyer Sound’s first product line “created exclusively for the uniquely demanding requirements of cinema applications,” the company states. “Calibrated on-site for each screening room,” EXP systems “faithfully and consistently translate the full impact and details in a movie soundtrack from the sound editor’s mixing stage to the theatre.” Meyer systems are now in use at Skywalker Sound, American Zoetrope, ImageMovers Digital, and London, England’s De Lane Lea, in addition to Toronto, Canada’s TIFF Bell Lightbox and Solaris Kino cinemas in Estonia.

The self-powered EXP system at CinemaxX Dammtor comprises three Acheron screen-channel loudspeakers, each augmented by an Acheron LF (low-frequency) loudspeaker, in addition to six X-800C subwoofers, 20 HMS-10 surround loudspeakers, six MM-4XP miniature loudspeakers, and a Galileo loudspeaker management system with two Galileo 616 processors.

The cinema in Copenhagen uses three Acheron 100 screen-channel speakers, each supplemented by a single Acheron LF loudspeaker. The system also includes six X-800C subwoofers, 26 HMS-10 surround loudspeakers, and a Galileo loudspeaker management system with two Galileo 408 processors.

In addition to Germany and Denmark, Film Ton Technik is partnering with Meyer on cinema installations in Austria, Benelux, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. “We have always been endeavoring to provide a competitive edge in the cinema exhibition marketplace,” says FTT’s managing director, Thomas Rüttgers. “Meyer Sound offers a high-quality sound package, technical expertise and comprehensive support and thus is an ideal partner for us.”

The system itself is unique in that “the loudspeakers feature built-in amplifiers,” Rüttgers continues. “While this creates an amazing sound experience, the boxes are also larger than regular loudspeakers. So sufficient space is needed inside the auditorium. Other than that, there are no special requirements and the installation time depends on the configuration of the cinema and what is already in place, such as cables.”
Source: Meyer Sound, Film Ton Technik