Avatar’s grosses started an industrywide love affair with 3-D, but studios may have pushed it too far. Audiences have grown wary of the extra dimension and all its accompanying surcharges; with last month’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, more people opted to see a 3-D movie in 2-D rather than its intended format for the first time. So it looks like there’s only one solution. No, not concentrating on making 2-D films better and avoiding gimmicks, silly. The answer is 4-D! A South Korean company called CJ 4DPlex is working on bringing its own 4-D theater technology to America, which involves rocking seats, wind, fog, strobe lights, water, and scents that spray out of nozzles built into the seat in front of you. In other words, a technology that minimizes Robert Rodriguez’s claims that Spy Kids 4’s Smell-O-Vision makes it “4-D.” “Our 4-D system incorporates all of the effects into one whole experience without making one effect greater than the other,” CJ 4DPlex’s regional director in America, Martin Kim, told Vulture via e-mail. So get ready for a whole new immersion in movies … and a whole new surcharge.
The company, which already has 4-D theaters in South Korea, Mexico, China, and Bangkok, is opening an editing and screening facility in Los Angeles. (And though they’re keeping U.S. rollout plans under wraps, Kim says they’d love to build a 4-D theater in New York.) So what would the moviegoing experience entail? Kim says Transformers: Dark of the Moon viewers would smell burning rubber, while moviegoer Dewey Hammond, who saw Kung Fu Panda 2 in Korea, wrote, “If there is a low angle looking up at a character, your seats tilt backward at just the right time, and when the bows and arrows start flying, expect bursts of air shooting past your ears.” Another Kung Fu Panda viewer in Korea offered this description: “The cushions have the massage chair motors so it punches you (lightly) in the kidneys or ass when Po would get hit or fall down.”
Blockbusters like Transformers and Avatar are prime 4-D fare, but would CJ 4DPlex consider adapting less action-oriented movies, like The Social Network or Bridesmaids? Probably not, says Kim. “We can program 4DX into any movie, but considering the overall effect of the experience, action and horror films make more sense.” Does this mean they will be adapting The Human Centipede II? Because that does not sound like that much fun.
U.S. price points are still hush-hush, but in Seoul, tickets are currently 18,000 wan (about $17), which is double the cost of 2-D tickets and a couple of bucks more than 3-D tickets. The fact that 3-D audiences have been shrinking owing to high ticket prices does not faze CJ 4DPlex. Kim says there has been interest both from studios and theater chains, and he points out that 4-D theaters in Korea have experienced one and a half times the admittance of 2-D and 3-D theaters. But what do movie theaters do when audiences get tired of 4-D? Well, they can always bring back Feel-Around.