The increasingly intense desert heat is a tell tale sign that summer is nearly upon us, and with it, the obligatory season of blockbuster films. With a jam packed lineup that includes Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, and World War Z, it is clear that big time producers in LA are gearing up to entice audiences with the usual explosions, car chases, zombie attacks, space battles, and robot wars, all enhanced by the technological advancements of 3D cameras. But despite the current technological prowess that is obtainable to all filmmakers with money to burn, we have reached an age where the standard gimmicks may no longer be sufficient for the 21st century viewer.
Box office trends have shown that American movie-goers are beginning to grow bored of the current theater experience. They have become wise to the fact that modern machinery has made nearly anything possible and readily available to them with a few button clicks on the super computers in their pockets. Yes, the colossal characters in Jack the Giant Slayer were a real testament to the miracles of CGI, but give the average college student 15 minutes on their MacBook, and they can be watching Nicholas Hoult battle goliath adversaries before the pizza guy gets to the front door. Now they get to see the film for free, in their pajamas, and with the option of pausing the entire picture for bathroom breaks.
Piracy is not the only threat to theater attendance; cheap movie streaming options such as Netflix and Hulu Plus have glued rear ends to couches, and strategically placed rental boxes make it easy for anybody walking into a Safeway to pick up a copy of the latest Spielberg in route to the frozen food isle. Hollywood is in desperate need of new tricks to draw their viewers back into theaters, and given the direction that society has headed, this new trick will not involve changes in ticket prices, but advancements in technology. Enter the 4D movie experience.
Envision sitting in front of a mammoth screen showing last year’s Prometheus. A space ship crashes to the ground, causing your seat to shake in response. An adversary jumps out at (or out of) an unsuspecting character, and tiny vibrations abruptly push on your back. Finally, an explosion of alien guts sends spurts of water across your face. Effects such as these are a sure-fire way to either cause resurgence in theater attendance, or to ruin a romantic evening. Either way, 4D movies are steadily making their way to the United States, having already found great success in foreign markets such as South Korea, Mexico, and Thailand.
Engineers carefully program 4D movies over the course of roughly one month, taking the biggest box office draws and adding an array of gadgets designed to stimulate all five of the viewer’s senses. These gadgets include tiny nozzles that are capable of secreting water and/or an aroma in conjunction with each corresponding scene. Intense lights riggings are strategically placed on either side of the theater to enhance explosions. Lastly, the seats are designed to shake, sway, or vibrate when appropriate. Quickly gaining popular momentum worldwide, 4D movies are designed to completely immerse movie fans in the film, creating a theatric experience that has never been explored before.
If foreign trends are any indication of the future success of 4D film in the U.S., then equipped theaters can expect to see a drastic increase in profits, as the films tend to bring in two or three times the revenue of traditional movie formats. On the opposite end of the spectrum, customers can expect to hand over an extra $8 to $10 per ticket. Though whether or not the new 4D technology will be worth the increase in ticket price is in question, there is no doubt that movie-makers and theaters alike are making attempts to cater to the viewer’s growing expectations and desires. The masses are in a constant state of want, and if they demand more for their dollar, then the industry will surely continue to push the advancements of technology to match the growing standards of modern cinema. Quite frankly, they really don’t have any other choice.