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Is 4DX worth the upcharge? We checked out the potential successor to 3D

07.31.2017

4DX, Theater, Technology, Upgrade, Atomic Blonde

With the popularity for digital streaming and on demand services for movie watching, movie theaters are trying to find ways to stay relevant and profitable. With the recent news that IMAX would scale back their emphasis on 3D for traditional 2D theatrical presentations, what other options are out there to try and get butts into seats? For the last few years, we have brought you stories of a burgeoning upgrade called 4DX. Created in 2009, 4DX is a product of South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX. In the last eight years, 4DX has spread through Asia, South and Central America as well as Europe. Operating in 45 countries around the world, 4DX is still relatively new in North America with only 9 theaters currently equipped to screen the enhanced films in the United States. I recently visited the only 4DX theater in the Midwest (located in Gurnee, Illinois) to see what the fuss was all about.

I wanted to be objective of the experience, so I elected to watch a film I had already watched in 2D: ATOMIC BLONDE. David Leitch's thriller is not the type of movie that would benefit from a 3D conversion due to the darker composition of the film. I noticed that the films being released in 4DX typically align with what I would expect to see in 3D: tentpoles, action films, and CGI animated flicks. I was intrigued by the idea of what 4DX could bring to ATOMIC BLONDE which is dialogue heavy and features action scenes that would be muddled and lost in 3D. I also had just watched ATOMIC BLONDE one week prior so I was familiar with what would be coming in the movie and was on the lookout for where the cinematic enhancements of 4DX would come into play. I also brought along someone who had not seen the film previously to gauge their reaction to the experience.

4DX, Theater, Technology, Upgrade, Atomic Blonde

The first thing I noticed entering the theater was the seats. Arranged in pairs, the 4DX theater was equipped with captains chair style seats. The seats did not recline as many modern cinemas have adopted. Each seat comes with a footrest as the chairs are about half a foot off of the floor. Thankfully, the theater was arranged with stadium seating. Through the coming attractions, there were no 4DX upgrades. There was also no warning when the film started to alert you of what was to come. 4DX features movement, light strobing, air, scent and water effects. If I had not known what to expect, I may have been caught off guard while eating some popcorn or taking a sip of my drink. But, as soon as the opening logos began to play, the 4DX was in effect.

In a nutshell, 4DX turns a traditional movie into a theme park ride. As soon as ATOMIC BLONDE began, there was a flashing light that matched some of the headlights of a car on screen. I was prepared at that point to hate the experience. When a character began running, my seat began to rumble and shift in stride with the runner. When a car hit a person, my chair jerked to the side. Doors opening and closing were met with a vibration. During the fight scenes, as the camera jerked back and forth to capture the violent combat, my seat followed along pretty accurately. When Charlize Theron fired her gun or whipped a hose at an opponent, a burst of air hit me in the face. During a scene featuring a car hitting water, a quick spray hit me in the face. For someone wearing glasses, this would likely be annoying, but it made me chuckle as it was completely unexpected. My favorite enhancement came during a pair of sweeping crane shots that pulled in and out of the scene. My seat lifted and tilted in unison with the camera angle, adding a nice extra immersion into the scene.

4DX, Theater, Technology, Upgrade, Atomic Blonde

In the end, I found that the experience of 4DX was fairly subdued. This was likely because ATOMIC BLONDE is not the type of movie that would benefit from the full slate of features that 4DX can offer. There were a lot of moments in the movie where I would have expected scents to be pumped in or additional light effects. For the majority of the film, the 4DX enhancements were relegated to my seat vibrating during gunshots and doors being opened and closed. The seat movement was most effective during the fights as well as the car sequences. Leaving the theater, I enjoyed the 4DX enhancement more than my wife did as she felt it was a little gimmicky. Personally, I thought it was a fun twist and definitely an upcharge I would be more willing to pay than 3D. The biggest upside of 4DX is that you don't have to wear glasses and anyone can experience it as long as they don't suffer from back pain or epilepsy as both the movement of the chair and the light effects could be harmful to some.

4DX is not going to be something I would pay for every movie, but the possibilities are pretty wide open. Leaving my screening, I was already anticipating what movies like STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI or JUSTICE LEAGUE would be like in 4DX. Films like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise or even the upcoming KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE would definitely be cool to see in the upgraded format, but I don't know if I would shell out the extra cash for a movie like DUNKIRK or even WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. 4DX turns a traditional movie experience into a theme park ride. I felt it was much more immersive than 3D ever has been. Sure, the use of scent, water, and wind seems like it could be a little silly, but once you check it out, I am sure you will find yourself going back for more.

Click here to check out a list of theaters currently equipped with 4DX technology.

Source: JoBlo.com

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