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4-D movie theaters coming to US – water, wind, vibrations and odors to be expected

How about it? You’re at the movies. An explosion goes off in the opening scene and your chair shakes with the intensity of the bang.

A few minutes later, the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a tornado, and you feel the full force of the wind in your face. As he desperately seeks shelter, your popcorn blows all over the place while the man’s toupee in front of you flies off toward the screen.

The film moves inexplicably to the deck of a passenger ferry listing in heavy seas; you get covered in water as an enormous wave crashes against the side of the ship. The lead actor heads inside, only to be confronted by hordes of seasick passengers holding paper bags to their mouths. An unpleasant odor fills the auditorium…

This is the kind of experience you could be about to get if plans to build 4-D movie theaters in the US get the green light.

According to the LA TImes, Asia’s biggest movie theater operator, South Korea-based CJ Group, is close to inking a deal with a major US chain to bring around 200 4-D movie theaters to locations across the country over the next five years. Plans are in place for the first 4-D theaters to open later this year in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Tickets for a movie in one of the special theaters are expected to cost around $8 more than a regular ticket.

The 4-D cinema technology has proved a hit in Asia, where the technology has been in use since 2009. At a time when people are staying home to watch movies rather than venturing out, the industry is keen to explore innovative ideas designed to win back audiences.

“Theaters need to find new ways to bring people back to the multiplex and away from their couches, and this is one way of doing that,” Theodore Kim – chief operating officer for the Los Angeles lab of CJ 4DPlex, operator of the specialty theaters – told the LA Times.

Of course, the special effects can be worked into any movie, old and new, with a single film requiring about 18 days to program. Besides vibrating seats, there are nozzles that spray water at audience members as well. Odors play a part too, with more than a thousand different scents utilized to help bring the movie to life. Giant fans and strobe lights positioned around the auditorium are also part of the set-up.

Would the chance of a 4-D cinema experience be enough to get you off your sofa and into the movie theater? Or do you prefer to just use your eyes and ears when watching a film?

[Image: Mikhail Malyshev]