Just imagine going to the movie theater and having the seat beneath you move, fog envelop you, water wash over you, and gunpowder fumes fill your nostrils, all timed perfectly with the images that are appearing on the big screen.
Well, the sensory overload is right around the corner and is already taking place in theaters outside the U.S.
It seems that ever since the advent of 3-D movies practically every big-budget film has been released in the format, with the attendent higher ticket prices boosting the box-office take.
The latest attempt to move beyond 3-D technology has resulted in a new cinematic encounter known as 4-D, and the film industry is enthusiastic about the unique theater experience that 4-D promises to deliver.
By combining a 3-D film with physical effects that occur in synchronization with the movie — including such phenomena as wind machines, air jets, vibrations, and strobe lights — a supercharged movie experience is created, one that Hollywood believes cannot easily be duplicated in the home.
CJ Group, a South Korean company that operates Asia’s largest theater chain, is on the cutting edge of the technology necessary for the display of 4-D movies. The company has 29 specialty theaters that screen blockbuster studio releases such as “Avatar,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” and “Prometheus.”
CJ is on the verge of closing a transaction with a nationwide U.S. cinema chain that would create 200 4-D theaters over the next five years.
The 4D technology has already been in use in theaters in Thailand, South Korea, and Mexico, and also in some theme parks. One of the company's biggest clients is the fourth-largest theater chain, Cinepolis, which recently expanded into Southern California. The company owns a dozen 4-D theaters in Mexico.
Company execs project that filmgoers will be willing to pay an additional $8 beyond the cost of mere 3-D just to involve more of their senses while watching their favorite superheroes. CJ set up a lab located close to the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood to demonstrate and market its latest system, which it calls 4DX.
Physical effects require equipment that can be expensive to install. The tab is around $2 million to design and outfit a 4-D theater, but some exhibitors are splitting the expenditure. The post-production costs are higher as well, due to software that is custom programmed to time the effects with the appropriate movie scenes.
Another 4-D technology company from our Northern neighbor, D-Box Technologies of Canada, installed moving seats in North American movie theaters in 2009 for the action film “Fast & Furious,” and has 100 locations in the United States equipped with this 4-D feature.
This isn’t the first time that the movie industry has tried to bring senses other than sight to film audiences. In 1960 a movie titled “Scent of Mystery” utilized something called Smell-O-Vision, which featured 30 different odors that included the smell of flowers, liquor, and gunsmoke wafting toward the nostrils of the audience at appropriate times during the screening.
For a film that was released in 1974 titled “Earthquake,” theaters used a technology called Sensurround, which utilized large bass resonating speakers that shook the room with such intensity Grauman's Chinese Theater had to install a safety net to catch falling plaster as the movie was shown.
In 1981 John Waters used what he called “Odorama,” which allowed the audience to smell the cinematic scenes with scratch-and-sniff cards, and in 2011 Robert Rodriguez used a similar approach that he referred to as “Aromascope.”
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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