It’s no secret that that the home entertainment boom changed the way the audiences view going to the theater. At home, there’s better control over volume, loud chewers, slurping drinkers, and cell phone users. No matter what you do or how big a TV you have or how much you invest in superior sound, however, there’s really no beating the theatrical experience, that feeling of sitting in front of a screen 60 feet high as you and a group of friends (or strangers) go on a journey together through the imagination. For most audiences, all we want in the theater is clear projection, clear sound, and respectful neighbors to enjoy the experience. What if you could take it a step further? I’m not talking about IMAX, where the screen is larger and the sounds more intense, nor about 3D, where technology tries to immerse audiences in the action which is usually too dark or too blurry to really nail down the intent. So what’s next? What’s the next big thing to bring audiences into theaters? What can theaters offer that you just can’t get at home?
Regal Theatres has an answer: 4DX. The CJ 4DPLEX system is designed as a holistically-immersive cinematic experience. Here’s how they describe it:
CJ 4DPLEX’s 4DX immersive theatre technology enhances the on-screen visuals of action-packed blockbusters, transcending the traditional cinema experience through special effects including motion-synchronized seats, wind, fog, rain, lightning, snow, bubble, vibration and scents. The result is one of the most immersive cinema formats in the industry, drawing fans into the action on the big screen.
The first one in North Carolina just opened at Regal Stonecrest in Charlotte and Elements of Madness was invited to try it out with a screening of Captain Marvel in 3D (Spoiler-free review available at CLTure).
What follows describes the 4DX experience through one scene of the film.
So, what does this translate to for the average cinema-goer? If the characters land in water, you get wet. If they’re driving at fast speeds, you get the hair blown out of your face. If they shake, you rattle. If they get punched, you get gently prodded. Essentially, the theatrical experience is turned into a novelty ride wherein the audience gets to feel more like a part of the film than ever before. Mileage is absolutely going to vary with 4DX. At one point in the film, as the Skrulls land on a beach on Earth, the theater was supposed to be filled with the scent of coconut. While some attendees noticed, EoM did not. Same for when Carol (Brie Larson) and Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) arrive in Louisiana to find Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), a scent was intended to permeate the air, but was once more missed by this attendee. These are small details that may have more to do with where the audience member sits in proximity to the dispersal unit, but they are otherwise neat concepts. What you can’t miss, however, is the wind, air, lights, motion, and, what are amusingly called, the ticklers.
A prime example of how all the parts of 4DX work is the sequence that starts with Carol freeing herself from the interrogation machine and continues until she lands on Earth. As Carol primes her hands with photon power, your chair rumbles. With each blast, the theater lights flash in-time. During the hand-to-hand combat which follows, the ticklers really make themselves known as they gently poke near the shoulder-blades in synchronous action with punches either received or dealt. Later, during Carol’s decent to Earth’s surface, the wind gusts through the theater, building power as Carol’s ship degrades and eventually falls apart. Working in concert, that entire sequence switches from something audiences watch into something they take part in. Frankly, it takes an already action-packed moment and ups the fun quotient.
That said, be advised of the rules and conditions that go along with 4DX. Unlike IMAX, 3D, or other traditional experiences, the additional features 4DX employs create additional risks. The flashing lights used can be triggers for those susceptible to seizures or migraines, the theater does get pretty cold when the wind gusts, and make no mistake, you’re going to lose some snacks when those chairs shake.
While it possesses pluses and minuses, the overall experience is an entertaining and lively amusement. The audience is no longer just watching the film, but going on a ride that doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Now, 4DX is not something you want for every film you see since the noise of the equipment will distract from what’s on screen, as will a sudden burst of air, squirt of water, or tickle, but this doesn’t seem to be designed for every film, either. Currently, 4DX is only offered for Captain Marvel and will be offered for the upcoming Dumbo live-action release later this month. Both films involve a great deal of spectacle, so the 4DX inclusion will make for great fun. Come this summer, though, the blockbusters we’re used to will have a whole new feel. 4DX is very much a “treat yourself” experience and not one you’re likely to regret.
For more information on finding a 4DX screening near you, head to Regal Theatres.