What Kind of Projectors do Movie Theaters Use?

Updated: Oct 23, 2023 2:51 PM
What Kind of Projectors do Movie Theaters Use?

If you’ve been wondering, “What kind of projectors do movie theaters use?” then keep reading. Most people asking themselves this question want to build an outdoor or indoor movie theater. If that’s the case, you want the best projectors for digital cinema initiatives.


  • Film projectors use a wide range of brands and models, but the entertainment industry sets a few industry-standard selections.
  • Digital cinema systems usually include external speakers for maximum audio output, digital technology for a clearer picture, and more.
  • The biggest reason why digital cinema projection still exists is that a vast digital screen costs far more than most local movie theatres can afford.

Projectors Used in Major Motion Pictures

The answer to “What kind of projectors do movie theaters use?” begins with a bit of explanation. Movie theaters use all different types of projectors. While the entertainment industry has some favorites, cinema projectors are better explained as a collection of traits. Before you leave to see the feature films you’ve been looking forward to, consider bringing projector technology home to you. If you learn how to watch a projector during the day, you can enjoy movies anytime. On that note, read our BenQ HT2150ST 1080p projector review for a great home theater projector.

Qualities of Film Projectors

Movie theater projectors are not a monolith. There are different brands and models used at every location. Instead, a collection of traits defines film projection in cinemas a little better. However, you don’t have to leave your property to watch feature-length films. If you’re interested in building something like a drive-in movie theater at home, look into how to make an outdoor movie screen to keep costs low. Or, if your budget permits, you can invest in an inflatable movie screen

Insider Tip

Visit your favorite commercial cinema at midday to get matinee ticket prices much lower than their evening counterparts.

Bright Image

Movie theatres can keep ambient light almost entirely at bay. Their powerful digital projectors are the only direct light source in the room. On top of that, the projectors in digital cinema packages have a high number of lumens. Movie theaters use the brightest film projection technology for their projectors. If you want a bright projector to use, like a movie theater in your home, then read our list about the best projector for a living room.

Huge Screens

Digital projectors are only as good as the projector screens they’re pointed toward. Because of this, digital cinema projection happens on huge, perfectly built surfaces. This makes them even more appealing to record, but using cameras in movie theaters to record movies is highly illegal. Production companies like Warner Bros. will prosecute those caught.

Usage of Digital Light Processing

DLP refers to the digital light process, a method of front and rear projection created by Texas Instruments. Digital cinema projectors and smaller, in-home DLP projectors use this technology to this day. Your local movie theater might be a DLP cinema. 

Alternatively, DLP projectors may be used in multiple settings like business meetings, church congregations, and even using a projector in the classroom over a TV. There are different projectors available for different needs and environments. 


Piracy is considered a serious crime that movie studios will prosecute, so never use cameras in movie theaters to record the film you’re viewing.


Why do movie theaters still use projectors instead of large LED screens?

An LED screen of that size would be astronomical in price. Instead, digital cinemas use the more affordable method of giant, white display screens and top-notch projector technology.

How can I build a drive-in movie theater?

Some business owners dream of opening their own drive-in movie business one day. However, a lot is involved in building what is essentially an outdoor movie theater. Between the cost of movie projectors and display screens, everything adds up.

Is it expensive to build a drive-in movie theater?

For some business owners, a drive-in movie theater could work beautifully into their business models. Keep in mind that a drive-in movie business would comply with local, state, and federal regulations. This paperwork will be half of the expense involved.

Why are there still cameras in movie theaters?

There are still cameras in movie theaters for a spectrum of reasons. The main reason is so that business owners can protect against piracy and ensure policy compliance.

If you want a theater-like quality for your home or outdoor setting, you’ll probably want to try screen paint as an inexpensive option. In that case, learn what paint to use for a projector screen.

STAT: In 2020, there were over 16,000 digital 3D screens in North America. (source)

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