If you’re looking for a more extreme way to view your most anticipated movies, then 4DX could be just the thing you’ve always wanted. The newest craze in film-viewing, 4DX puts customers right into the middle of the action in their favorite flicks through the use of a technology that utilizes seat movement and sensory effects inside the auditorium, which are synched to the action onscreen. America’s first theater utilizing the tech opened this past June, and early results show it’s a huge hit with patrons.
Variety breaks down the stats for the first few months worth of screenings at the lone 4DX-enhanced theater, located at the Regal Cinemas Live LA location, and they are quite impressive. The screen at the Regal has played at 63% capacity on average, a huge increase over the standard 10-15% that most theaters run at. If the numbers continue on their current trajectory, it seems safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more theaters add 4DX to their repertoire in the not too distant future.
The 4D tech essentially is the modern-day equivalent of promotional gimmicks like shock seats and "Smell-O-Vision" – a way to try to make the viewer feel as though they’re in the film they’re watching. Obviously, it’s more advanced – 4DX not only moves the seat in response to action onscreen, but sprays mist, bubbles, emits various odors to enhance the viewing experience as well.
All of this comes with a price (currently $22 a ticket), but that hasn’t deterred L.A. film fans from taking in some of the summer’s biggest titles in the format. Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction made $105,000 over 13 days on the 4DX screen. It averaged $44,000 on traditional 2D and 3D screens. Bay’s film seems tailor-made for the 4DX experience, with its explosions and frenetic action sequences, but this summer’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had an even bigger increase in ticket sales when comparing the 4DX average to traditional screenings. That film generated a 145% increase at the Regal screen compared to the broader market.
The numbers are even promising for films that weren’t a hit. An engagement of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3 had a gigantic increase in its per screen numbers when compared with the rest of the country. Sly and the gang made almost $23,000 during a seven-day engagement. That’s 248% more than it made at traditional theaters.
Of course, one has to factor in the increased ticket prices into these numbers. It’s hard to imagine that anyone’s paying $22 for a regular 2D or 3D movie, and there’s certainly a novelty factor in having the lone place in America where people can actually watch films in this format. Still, the figures seem to indicate that there’s an interest in seeing movies with all of the bells and whistles of 4DX. It’s hard to imagine quiet dramas and low-key comedies benefiting from the enhancement, but it seems like it adds just the right amount of spectacle to the summer blockbusters. What will be interesting is to see how the Regal numbers compare over the next few months, when the market isn’t saturated with action tentpoles. If it continues to perform in that environment, then theater owners are going to have to consider adding it to their venues.