Complaints about loud sound levels at IMAX-cinema

Sound levels at Sweden's only movie theatre using the IMAX format are so high that several moviegoers have reported them to the local administration in Solna, the Stockholm suburb where the theatre is located.

According to the sound level guidelines of Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare, the average volume should not exceed 97 decibels, and the maximum volume should not go over 110 decibels. These are the levels for events open for children under 13.

A Swedish Radio News reporter measured the sound levels during a screening of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Solna IMAX theatre and found that the average levels reached 90 decibels and peaked over a 100 in the action sequences.

Stig Arlinger, technical audiology professor at Linköping University, has done research on volume levels at concerts for the National Board of Health and Welfare. He tells Swedish Radio News that the levels registered by the reporter at the Solna theatre are high.

"They seem to be sufficiently high that it would motivate measuring them with professional sound meters during the whole screening," Arlinger says.

Arlinger says that even though the volume of the movie might be under the legal limit, he would like to see lower average levels. The peak at just over 100 decibels is too high, he says.

"To sensitive ears it could mean that you get a temporary hearing loss," he said.

According to Mats Kullander, Executive Senior Advisor at SF Bio, it is not possible to limit the sound level, since the Imax-format comes with certain sound levels.

"It is all done from Canada, by Imax themselves. We actually show the films with lower sound that you are supposed to," Kullander told Swedish Radio.

"We have turned it down in different steps, but are not allowed by IMAX to turn it down more. We have tried to turn it down more, but then people complain that the sound isn't beefy enough'," he said.

According to Swedish Radio News, health and safety inspectors from Solna City council have measured the sound levels, but as they did not exceed the legal limit, the case was closed.