Moviegoing at Notre Dame has come a long way from the simple projector-and-screen setup in Washington Hall that first served the campus community through a formal “Concert and Lecture series” and casual Saturday afternoon matinees beginning more than a century ago.
What makes catching a film these days at the Browning Cinema, named for the family of Michael Browning ’68, such a special experience?
For one thing the theater, which opened in 2004 as one of five venues inside the Marie P. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, stands among the most technically savvy college movie houses in the United States.
It’s one of about 10 university venues to hold THX certification. THX-certified theaters must provide high-precision playback to ensure that any film soundtrack will convey as closely as possible the intentions of the mixing engineer. These venues meet specific technical standards that require a special crossover circuit, acoustically treated walls and a distinctive kind of perforated screen, among other modifications to provide dynamism and continuity of sound.
Technowonks may appreciate the Browning sound system’s Dolby Digital Prologic CP650 processor, the JBL cinema speakers and Peavey media matrix, the Crestron media controls and the Sennheiser assistance technology for the hearing impaired. They may get really jazzed by the pair of 35mm Westar projectors with reel-to-reel changeover, the 16mm Eiki EX-6120 projector and the two Strong Highlight II 2000-watt lamphouses up in the projection booth.
Aesthetes may recognize in the massive decorative panels along the side walls an abstraction of the façade of an old Vaudeville playhouse, itself inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
The rest of us will content ourselves with the theater’s 202 stadium seats, the expert commentary that comes after many screenings and, of course, the films themselves.