With big screens shuttered, COVID-19 raises the bar for home theaters

Streaming films at home? Consider an audio upgrade.

Summer blockbusters are as American as apple pie and fireworks. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, Hollywood studios stack the lucrative moviegoing season with special effects-laden, action-packed capers and rom-coms. Tickets would sell out on Fandango weeks in advance. Every movie would include at least three trailers and finish with a post-credit scene to tantalize fans and to keep them coming back for more.

Unexpectedly, the pandemic arrived in March 2020. The economy came to a grinding halt. With COVID-19 cases surging, restaurants and retail stores were ordered to close their doors. People with normally stable jobs were laid off. As the weeks turned into months, businesses had to pivot or downsize and adjust to a socially distanced world.

At first, theaters tried to keep operating by limiting audiences to fewer than 50 people per screening, but eventually the movie studios themselves started pulling their movies. There was no denying reality. The screens would have to go dark. No more matinees. No more midnight showings. No more popcorn sales.

With everything shut down, people stayed home and turned to streaming services to find an alternative source of entertainment. They discovered new shows that were dropping each week as well as archives of older content. Against this backdrop, Hollywood executives had to weigh the pros and cons of postponing new movie releases and recouping their investments right away by redirecting the pipeline of multi-million dollar productions to these streaming platforms. They would be venturing into new territory.

It turned out that the appetite for new movies was still strong. The successful releases of “Hamilton” and “Mulan” on Disney+ led to more streaming subscriptions, which made it easier for other studios to follow suit.

With more people watching movies at home, audiences yearn for a better, more-immersive viewing experience. A larger, high-definition flat-screen television is now a must-have for a home theater system, but discerning moviegoers would quickly discover that the audio portion may be less than adequate. Built-in speakers and sound bars often do not measure up to the investments that theaters have made to their sound systems.

Most streaming services offer surround-sound compatibility, but not many people have the audio equipment to support that compatibility. For instance, Disney+ offers movies in 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos, which can only be experienced with an audio system compatible with those formats.

Fortunately, there is a group that is working to close that gap and to bring theater-quality audio into our living rooms. The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association launched last year and has already partnered with more than 70 member brands with the goal of working on low-latency, high-definition, multi-channel audio using WiSA’s interoperability standard and delivering a more-immersive sound to the home theater. LG, Hisense, Harman Kardon, Klipsch, Enclave Audio and Platin Audio are steadily rolling out audio products that give consumers the ability to enjoy their movies in the comfort of their own homes.

Summit Wireless Technologies is a founding partner of WiSA with a complete catalog of immersive, wireless sound technology for intelligent devices and next-generation home entertainment systems.

“In today’s world, consumers are investing in their sanctuaries, and home entertainment has become a priority,” said Tony Ostrom, president of WiSA Association. “We are proud of the WiSA Certified solutions that set up as simply as a soundbar, yet deliver a room of cinematic sound.”

“To date, however, the cost and complexity of setup for surround sound and subwoofer speakers prevented mass market adoption beyond a basic soundbar,” added Tony Parker, WiSA’s vice president of new business development.

Even with the economy reopening and the possibility of blockbusters returning to theaters this summer, there are more than 100 million streaming subscribers in the United States enjoying the safety, convenience and joy of home entertainment. This means there will be an ongoing demand for superior audio quality and a well-defined opportunity for Summit Wireless Technologies to bring affordable WiSA-powered audio systems into more homes. With its recent uplisting to Nasdaq, Summit Wireless Technologies has successfully raised $5.3 million through Maxim Group LLC to accelerate its growth plan.

To learn more about WiSA, please visit wisaassociation.org. To learn more about Summit Wireless Technologies, please visit summitwireless.com.

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