How THX Works

Short History

THX, named after THX 1138 (George Lucas' first feature film), was developed at Lucasfilm in the early 1980s. George Lucas wanted a way to ensure a movie would look and sound exactly the same no matter where it was played. Tomlinson Holman, former corporate technical director for Lucasfilm, and a team of THX engineers took on the challenge of developing a baseline set of standards.

They noted several theater shortcomings that might negatively affect an audience's enjoyment of a film:

  • Outside noise (from the lobby or other auditoriums)
  • Inside noise (from the projector or air conditioning)
  • Audio distortion
  • Obstructed or uncomfortable viewing angles
  • Reverberation in the auditorium
  • Insufficiently bright images
  • Unequalized or poor audio

The essence of THX is a set of guidelines that resolve these problems. To display the THX logo, a theater must adopt this set of standards and then be certified by Lucasfilm's THX division. The first movie to be shown in a THX-certified auditorium was Return of the Jedi in 1983. There are now more than 2,000 auditoriums around the world that have been certified.

Before a theater can be certified, a number of things must happen:

  • Licensing and evaluation
  • Certification
  • Design
  • Approval
  • Construction/renovation

We'll take a look at these steps in the following sections.