Auto Tech

BMW wants to turn your car into a 'private cinema lounge' at CES 2022

BMW's new Theatre Screen is a 31-inch display with 8K resolution and Amazon Fire TV integration to entertain back-seat passengers in style.

Car as movie theater. Neat.

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

Big screens in cars is hardly a new trend, but in recent years, the focus has largely been on driver and front passenger infotainment. At CES 2022, BMW is giving back-seat riders something to be stoked about, with the introduction of its new 31-inch Theatre Screen.

This 31-inch panorama display folds down from a car's roof and plays multimedia content with a resolution of up to 8K. The 32:9 format is... a little weird, since we can't think of anything outside of gaming designed for this aspect ratio. But BMW says users will be able to zoom in or out while watching TV and movies, and images will be cropped and letterboxed accordingly.

When the Theatre Screen is activated, the rear window sunshades are deployed and the car's ambient lighting is dimmed as the display unfolds from the headliner. The whole song and dance is accompanied by a "sound experience" designed by composer Hans Zimmer, because of course it is, and the multimedia audio is played through the car's surround sound system. Volume controls are located on either side of the display, as well as control panels on both rear door handles.

The Theatre Screen is definitely designed to be an immersive, whole-car experience, but BMW said it will work with Bluetooth headsets too. BMW also said the Theatre Screen can be used when the car is in motion or while parked.

BMW will partner with Amazon's Fire TV system to bring multimedia into the car, but there's a catch. While the 31-inch display itself can accommodate 8K resolution, Amazon Fire TV tops out at 4K, which is cool, but not next-level cool. BMW says there will be a "country-specific offering" for customers in China.

All of this sounds reasonably realistic, and that's exactly the point. A BMW executive told us the Theatre Screen concept is "very, very close to the production version." Exactly when it'll launch, and in what vehicles, remains to be seen. For now, BMW only said we can expect to see it "very soon." Get your popcorn ready.