Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision Brought to Warner Bros. Theater at the National Museum of American History

Special Screening of Netflix Film “Maestro” To Reopen National Mall Theater
November 20, 2023
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Eight people stand near a large glass case with old technology inside.

From left to right: Glenn Kiser- Director, Dolby Institute; Josh Singer (Co-Writer- Maestro); Dagmar Dolby; Michelle Tesoro (Editor- Maestro); Natasha Dolby; Mark Bridges (Costume Designer- Maestro); David Dolby; and Anthea M. Hartig.

A special ceremony and ribbon cutting marked the new Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision installation in the Warner Bros. Theater at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Wednesday, Nov. 15. The event highlighted the vibrant visuals of Dolby Vision and the immersive sound of Dolby Atmos that now make the theater a state-of-the-art digital cinema and motion picture presentation space. The theater reopened with a special pre-release screening and panel discussion of the Netflix film Maestro directed and produced by Bradley Cooper, who co-wrote the script with Josh Singer. Cooper also stars as Leonard Bernstein in a story that focuses on the conductor’s lifelong relationship with actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, played by Carey Mulligan. Panel participants attending the event from Maestro include Singer, editor Michelle Tesoro and costume designer Mark Bridges.

To accompany the opening, the museum is showcasing a display of audio engineer and inventor Ray Dolby’s rack of audio equipment in the theater’s LeFrak lobby. At his home workshop in the San Francisco Bay area, Dolby used the equipment rack in the 1980s while he refined methods of sound processing for magnetic-tape recording. In 1965, Dolby invented new electronic circuitry that expanded and compressed audio signals to remove extraneous noise from tapes. Dolby’s noise-reduction system was soon adopted by recording studios and music producers alike. The rack itself houses pieces of information that Dolby used to develop early generations of the technology that is now known as Dolby Atmos. The equipment rack is on loan from the Dolby family for one year.

“Ray Dolby’s contributions to American popular culture allowed artists, creators and the public to be immersed in a new world of sound,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “We are grateful to Dolby and the Dolby Family for enhancing the public’s experience of entertainment through our theater and in the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture.”

The Warner Bros. Theater now features Dolby Cinema dual-laser Vision projection and 40-speaker Dolby Atmos sound, capable of 4K/2K digital cinema in 2D/3D at standard- and high-frame rates. It has additional capabilities of projecting BluRay, DVD and PC/MAC video and streaming sources. Two Kinoton 35MM/16MM reel-to-reel motion picture projectors with DTS and Dolby Digital 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound have been installed. The 27-foot-wide main cinema screen is a motorized roll up that fills the entire stage front, while large cinema speakers on lifts are wheeled in behind the screen providing capabilities for Atmos, 7.1/5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo sound. The systems were made possible through a donation by Dolby.

Dolby is the exclusive audio sponsor for the “Entertainment Nation”/“Nación del espectáculo” exhibition, which also is equipped with Dolby Atmos. With approximately 200 objects, the 7,200-square-foot, multimedia popular-culture exhibition in the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture is the Smithsonian’s first dedicated exploration of entertainment history.

About the Museum

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. The doors of the museum are always open online and the virtual museum continues to expand its offerings, including online exhibitions, PK–12 educational materials and programs. The public can follow the museum on social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For more information, go to For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

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Laura Duff


Melinda Machado


National Museum of American History
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