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Page updated April 3, 2004.                                 Movie Sound Landmarks  

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The following chronology details many of the major historical landmarks in the history of theatrical audio. If you belief an important landmark has been omitted or that any of the information detailed below is incorrect, please .

 :: Chronology ::


  • 1926: First sound (music and sound effects) in a film, 'Don Juan' using the 'Vitaphone' sound-on-disc system

  • 1927: First film with recorded dialogue, 'The Jazz Singer', using the 'Vitaphone' system

  • 1940: First use of 'surround sound' in a movie: Disney's 'Fantasia', using the 'Fantasound' system

  • 1953: The first four-track (L/C/R/S) magnetic sound system used for Twentieth Century Fox's 'The Robe' (35mm Cinemascope)

  • 1955: The first six-track magnetic sound system used for the film 'Oklahoma!' (70mm Todd-AO: five screen channels, one surround channel)

  • 1975: Dolby Stereo introduced with 'Tommy' (also recorded in the 'Quintaphonic' system), optical Dolby Stereo introduced for 'Lisztomania'

  • 1976: First optical Dolby Stereo Surround soundtrack for 'A Star is Born'

  • 1977: 'Damnation Alley' released in 'Surround 360°'. The format's one and only outing

  • 1978: 'Star Wars' wins the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound. Subsequently, every winner until 1994 is a Dolby Stereo film; Limited experimental release of Dolby Stereo 70mm with discrete stereo surround channels (Superman)

  • 1979: First broad release Dolby Stereo 70mm soundtrack with discrete stereo surround channels (Apocalypse Now on 15 screens)

  • 1980: 'Popeye' becomes the first film to use the 'Vistasonic' system

  • 1981: First pre-recorded VHS cassette with a stereo soundtrack (non Hi-Fi, Dolby B NR encoded) released by Pacific Arts

  • 1982: First domestic Dolby Surround decoder, by Surround Sound Inc.

  • 1983: VHS 'Hi-Fi' sound system introduced

  • 1985: 'Fantasia' re-released theatrically with a 2-channel PCM (44.1kHz/16-bit) soundtrack: the first time a PCM soundtrack was used for a theatrical presentation; First Dolby Surround encoded LaserDiscs and videocassettes released

  • 1986: Dolby Stereo SR (Spectral Recording) introduced; NICAM digital stereo sound tested by the BBC; PCM digital audio on LaserDisc

  • 1987: First Dolby Stereo SR films released: Innerspace and Robocop

  • 1990: Kodak's CDS six-channel digital sound system introduced ('Dick Tracy')

  • 1991: Limited experimental release of 'Star Trek 6' in Dolby Digital (in 3 US theatres)

  • 1992: Dolby Digital's national roll-out (US): 'Batman Returns'

  • 1993: DTS introduced in 'Jurassic Park', SDDS introduced in 'Last Action Hero'; AC-3 formally adopted as HDTV's audio standard

  • 1994: First dual-format film released ('Heaven and Earth' with both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks on the same print); First consumer satellite transmission of Dolby Digital AC-3 (DMX for Business: 120 channels of stereo broadcasting)

  • 1995: Domestic (384kbps) Dolby Digital introduced on LaserDisc (NTSC only); 'Die Hard With a Vengeance' released theatrically using all three sound systems (DTS/DD/SDDS)

  • 1996: First DVD-Video discs released in Japan (November, first title: Shinji Ra Munita); Dolby Digital becomes available on DVD; Installed base of Dolby Stereo equipped theatres passes 28,000; Dolby Surround AC-3, Dolby Stereo Digital, Dolby SRD officially renamed 'Dolby Digital'

  • 1997: First DVD-Video discs released in the US (March); 448kbps Dolby Digital available on DVD; DTS becomes available on LaserDisc (January: first title Jurassic Park)

  • 1998: (non-theatrical) DTS DVD released: the made-for-video animated film 'The Legend of Mulan' (not Disney's 'Mulan')

  • 1999: Universal and Image begin releasing theatrical DTS DVDs (January): 'Dances with Wolves' (Image), 'Dante's Peak', 'Waterworld', 'The Shadow', 'Liar Liar', 'Babe', 'Daylight' (Universal); installed base of theatrical Dolby Digital decoders passes 20,000; 'Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace' released in Dolby Digital Surround EX: also shown with uncompressed PCM soundtracks (44.1kHz/24-bit) in four US theatres. First 754kbps DTS DVD title released (November, Saving Private Ryan)

  • 2000: First DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 DVD released (The Haunting)

  • 2002: Dolby Digital 'Sonic Whole Overhead Sound' system demonstrated for the limited re-release of We Were Soldiers.



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