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Movie Formats like 4DX will Make Movie Theaters More like Theme Parks

Image Source | Youtube.com

When Cars 3 was released, it became the first Pixar film to be distributed in 4DX, the motion-based “immersive” film format[1] from South Korea’s CJ 4DPlex. 4DX is one of a handful of formats that attempt to turn traditional and passive films into something more experiential: seats shake, tilt, and pivot, while environmental effects[2] like air blasts, scents, sprays of water, and in-theater fog and strobe lighting echo what’s happening on the screen.


image Image Source | Youtube.com

4DX[3] has largely been focusing on bombastic superhero movies and action flicks. But animated 4DX films are nothing new ever since Despicable Me was released in the format back in 2010, and last year everything from Disney’s The Jungle Book to Kung Fu Panda 3 got to be shown in 4DX. And this is okay because since animated films are initially made for kids, then watching 4DX animated will seem like a theme park ride.

image Image Source | Youtube.com

But, it’s symptomatic of an industry struggling to give audiences something they simply can’t get online or from their television at home. Extra-large screens or vibrating seats[4], the concept of making films “immersive,” has become the going trend. But drawing in audiences in a fictional world requires more than just technological add-ons. In the mad rush to entice audiences into theaters, these new formats could undermine the most important reason to go to movies: Enjoyment. 4DX touts itself as an “immersive multi-sensory cinematic experience.” This is the magic phrase where 4DX fails completely.

 Video Courtesy of Youtube:

There are two distinctly different elements to the 4DX experience: the motion of the seat, and the environmental effects. The seat tilts, shakes, and rolls to essentially track the movement of the camera from shot to shot. It’s fine by itself if it wasn’t for the environmental effects. It’s okay to watch Cars 3 while the seats tilt and jolt because of the race scenes.

image Image Source | Youtube.com

In one scene during Wonder Woman, 3D arrows being shot toward the audience triggered blasts of air, creating the illusion that the film was spilling out of the screen and into the auditorium. This is fine, but in another scene, a character falls off a horse and lands on the ground, triggering a quick, uncomfortable jab in the back from what is called a “back kicker.”

image Image Source | Youtube.com

4DX essentially grafts motion simulator ride tricks onto mediums that were never designed with them in mind. When going on a ride on Flight of Passage at Disney[5]’s new Avatar[6] land, or taking a trip on Star Tours or Guardians of the Galaxy[7]: Mission Breakout, there are carefully choreographed movements taking place. The on-screen visuals and environmental cues work together with the ride vehicle to deliver an experience that simulates something very specific. Audiences can actually feel like they’re heading into a space battle, or taking a ride on the back of a Banshee. Technologies like 4DX, on the other hand, can’t do that because the movies they’re attempting to simulate were never designed as first-person experiences.



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  1. ^ motion-based “immersive” film format (www.theverge.com)
  2. ^ environmental effects (www.theverge.com)
  3. ^ 4DX (en.wikipedia.org)
  4. ^ Extra-large screens or vibrating seats (youtu.be)
  5. ^ Disney (www.mobilemag.com)
  6. ^ Avatar (www.mobilemag.com)
  7. ^ Guardians of the Galaxy (www.mobilemag.com)

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