The Next Step in Film

The car flips and smashes into the ground, screeching to a halt in the middle of the intersection.

Any movie goer would be familiar with this sort of scene that it almost becomes boring watching it play out. That’s simply because the ordinary movie night is just that: watching instead of experiencing. That is, until June of last year, when the first 4DX theater in the United States opened in downtown Los Angeles at the Regal Cinemas LA Live location.

Now imagine the car flipping as your seat rocks from one side to the other, your popcorn precariously balanced in your lap to prevent it from falling. Wind rushes through your hair as the car spins in the air before it hits the cement with a loud crack at the exact moment a startling punch is delivered to your back. Maybe a fire hydrant explodes and suddenly there’s a bit of drizzle in the air. Or the engine catches on fire and smoke rises from beneath the screen. This is the next step in the evolution of the movie experience.

Okay, sure, Universal Studios has been doing this for ages with their Shrek 4D ride. It seems like it isn’t that big of a deal. But really, the United States is arriving late to the party. This technology has been used around the world for a while now, even in 2009 when South Korea began showing a 4D version of “Avatar.” It certainly caters to a singular type of movie though; since it’s opening, the LA Live theater has shown almost exclusively action or adventure films. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and even the box-office fail “The Expendables 3” have all drawn huge crowds looking for something extra in their movie night.

All the bells and whistles are great, but at the high ticket prices of an average of twenty-two dollars a seat, is it worth it?

There is no clear answer other than to say it depends. For example, my mother has a sensitive neck from an old injury and felt the surprising jolts a little too distracting for her to enjoy the movie. Then there is myself and my brothers on the other hand, who felt absorbed into the film by the environmental details such as smoke or wind that felt as if you were truly present in the scene.

I’ve seen both “Taken 3” and “Project Almanac” in the 4DX theater, both of which were very different experiences. “Taken 3” was a constant series of sudden jolts that fizzled out quickly. Perhaps it stemmed from an uninteresting plot, but the film lost some of it’s attraction as people were distracted from the action in front of them by trying to catch their candy before it hit the floor. Yet when I saw “Project Almanac,” the wind and rocking of your seat felt as if you were actually time-traveling with the cast. (You can see my full review of that film here.)

Seeing a movie in theaters is usually a 50/50 chance of you liking it or not. I think the same applies here. At the LA Live location they currently have one theater enhanced with the 4DX effects. Only a few films get the full 4D treatment, so this would be my advice: if you’re dying to see the movie they’re playing, see it in 4DX simply for the experience. At least try it once before you make your decision whether or not the bubbles dropping from the sky are too much for you.