We've had 2D, we now have 3D and it seems like the future might see us heading into the fourth dimension.
OK, so I know that the fourth dimension is technically 'spacetime', but when we're referring to movies, the fourth dimension usually consists of smoke, smells, shaking seats, wind and other physical sensations in the actual movie theater.
Now, 4D theaters have been a staple of amusement parks for sometime, but a new venture dubbed 4DX has proved that the technology could be a mainstream success with audiences. CJ 4DPlex, the premiere distribution and exhibition company for this kind of technology, has just released some impressive financial figures which is sure to get movie execs salivating.
CJ 4DPlex operates 112 4D theaters in more than twenty countries, but currently it only has one screen in the US, located at Regal Cinemas in LA. Despite only being open since June, the theater is far outperforming other, more traditional movie theaters.
More Money Than You Shake a Four Dimensional Tesseract At
According to Variety, the 104-seat theater has on average a 63% occupancy rate, regardless of the time of day or week. On the other hand most movie theaters can only expect an average occupancy of around 10-15%. This higher occupancy, plus the more expensive cinema tickets, is also resulting in some impressive hauls of cash.
For example, over its thirteen day showing at the 4D theater, Transformers: Age of Extinction made $105,016 compared to an average of $44,054 for the same period in a traditional theater. That's a difference of 138%.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes performed even better, with 4D showings taking in 145% more cash. Guardians of the Galaxy 4D generated 49% more money from ticket sales, while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outstripped traditional theaters by 101%. Even flops, such as The Expendables 3, can draw more cash from these kind of showings. In its seven day run, The Expendables 3, made $22,604, which is up 248% from its $6,494 per-theater average.
Sure, a not insignificant portion of this taking is probably due to the more expensive ticket price - an average 4DX ticket will set you back $22. However, those occupancy rates certainly suggest there is an audience for this kind of experience.
Is This The Future of Cinema?
You must bear in mind that all of this improvement is against the backdrop of a rather poor 2014 box office. This summer has seen ticket sales plummet by over 15% compared to 2013, with audiences seemingly becoming bored, or at least unimpressed with 3D. So is it time to break out the next cinematic venture?
With figures like this, I certainly predict some movie executives will be eagerly trying to organize meetings with CJ 4DPlex. Indeed, the company is reportedly in talks with several theater chains to extend the franchise. Angela Killoren, chief marketing officer of CJ 4DPlex America, Inc explained:
There was certainly the ‘new kid in town factor,’ but we’ve seen in other territories that we have three to four times the occupancy rates of most theaters... Even films that were considered off their game or didn’t perform as well, did even better in 4DX. Those people who did want to see these films wanted to see it in new and exciting formats.
Of course, it will remain to be seen if this is just a passing fad which audiences will also eventually tire of. Plus, I imagine this kind of experience is only suitable for certain movies - although most of them will be the big, lucrative action blockbusters execs will wanto to capitalize on anyway. I certainly don't expect films like Requiem of a Dream to be getting the 4DX makeover...
What Can We Look Forward To?
Let's take a look at some upcoming movies which would be perfect for the 4DXperience:
The Avatar franchise is of course the obvious choice when it comes to showing movies in new formats. James Cameron's sci-fi epic is still the most lucrative movie ever produced, and much of this is thanks to the fact it pushed out the rise of effective 3D viewing.
Indeed, Avatar already received a 4D makeover in South Korea in 2009, and we can only imagine what the world of Pandora felt and smelt like for those lucky enough to see it.
Needless to say, if 4D does roll out wider, I can imagine Cameron will once again want to take full advantage of the new tech.
Dinosaur footsteps, brontosaurus sneezes, piles of massive dino-shit. The original Jurassic Park would certainly have been perfect for four dimensional viewing. If Jurassic World can also capture the magic of the 1993 original, then surely it would also benefit greatly from the new technology? I've always wondered what a T-Rex's halitosis would smell like...
Christopher Nolan promises one of his most ambitious projects yet with the upcoming space-faring adventure Interstellar. From what we can gather, the movie will feature massive sweeping space vistas as well as the claustrophobic confines of a space ship. In this situation the rumbling seats could add a nice visceral touch to Nolan's no doubt spectacular visuals. Also I know that, technically, there would be no turbulence in space because there's no air, but let's just have a bit of fun with it, yeah?
Star Wars: Episode VII
Ever wanted to know what the Mos Eisley Cantina smells like? Well, no, me neither to be honest, but now's our opportunity to find out! Star Wars is famed for delivering diverse and exotic lands, 4D could be the perfect way to explore them without having to fear being eaten by a Wampa or sold into slavery by Tusken raiders.
What do you think of 4D cinemas?