4D Movies: No Longer Just Theme Park Rides

(Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

If you’ve ever been on “Transformers: The Ride” in Universal Studios or something like it at a museum, you’ve felt the seat-rumbling, mist-spraying simulation that is 4D movies. Combined with the already established 3D effects, it is meant to fool a person’s five senses.

What is surprising to realize is that specialty movie chains in South Korea, Thailand, and Mexico have integrated these effects into actual movies themselves: the recently released “Prometheus” is one example of a 3D released film turn 4D. Now the company responsible for this, CJ Group, has turned its sights upon U.S. contracts. They expect the American cinema attendance to jumpstart with a total of nearly 200 planned 4D installations.

The question is, South Korea and Mexico love it, but would America?

This rather large what if comes with an equally large price tag for both business and consumer – a month of wiring up the theaters pre-release for each film, and another costly $8 out of your pocket on TOP of the 3D ticket price for a rollercoaster experience.

While 3D animation had sweeping success in the release of Avatar, its prevalence in major Hollywood hits these days brings another question: does it necessarily enhance a movie?

I think not. Avatar was adapted specifically for the 3D environment, capturing audiences with the colors and environments that reach beyond the screen. But now adding it as a side feature to films that are character-based and built without the 3D component in mind is superfluous. I personally find myself disappointed when I have to pay extra for effects I barely notice; a few seconds of objects appearing to “fly out” of the screen does not do much to improve the experience.

Rather than lifelike, I question the addition of 4D to be childish. How many movies can this be applied to, and how can this draw the number of crowds needed to return the cost of setup? Sure, racing along with Pixar’s Cars films would be an exciting attraction for children, but we do not literally need to be sniffing the cologne and gunpowder of a good film – it is the job of superb actors to bring us there, and the art of storytelling.

However, gimmicks are attractive in the fact that they do sell. Boxofficequant.com found the revenue from 3D movies was 20.2% in 2010. While 3D currently makes around the same amount of return as a 2D movie, they are “not faring significantly worse”, meaning there is no negative trend that is predicted to kill it off anytime soon. As the freshness wears off while the medium is still being mastered, producers will jump to the next big hype. Adding motion and smell, if nothing else, has been proven to be fun enough for popular amusement parks.

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