4D Theaters:
Adding Another Dimension to Movie-Going
The Big Screen, popcorn, and surround sound are some of the most common words that come to mind when one things about the traditional movie-going experience. Water pumps, scent machines, wind gusts, undulating seats, and 270-degree screens are not. However, there are just a few of the things some of our favorite theater chains are implementing to change the way we think about the movies and get us off our couches and into the theater. Ranging from 24 to 27 US Dollars, tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not scaring moviegoers away from this innovation. The U.S. saw its first 4D movie experience open at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 this past June. Its two-week showing of Transformers: The Age of Extinction raked in $105,000 – more than twice the amount traditional theaters made from the film in that same time frame. The plunging number of young moviegoers has prompted growing concern in the movie industry. Last year, frequent moviegoers in the 18-to-24 age bracket dropped 17% compared just to a year before, despite the influx of over-the-top action movies targeted for that audience. The 12-to-17 age group also saw a drop of 13% compared to the previous year. With devices that bring virtually any movie to one’s living room with the click of a button, the concept of watching a movie in a theater is obsolete for younger audiences. “When I step back and think about what will get people off a couch, in a car, down the road and into a theater, the answer is not postage stamp-sized screens and old seats,” said Gerardo Lopez, chief executive at AMC Entertainment. Profit at the two biggest theater companies, Regal Entertainment and AMC, plummeted over 50% through the first three quarters of this year compared to last. Overall ticket revenue in North America has been down 4% compared to last year. Ben Carlson, president of Fizziology, a social media and entertainment consulting company, tries to explain these numbers. “The traditional moviegoing experience is at odds with the rest of their lives.” To combat this problem, theater chains are willing to try anything in the way of 4D technology. Compressed air can be blasted from headrests to imitate flying bullets.  Water can be squirted from the seat in front of you to imitate mist or fall from the ceiling like rain. Seats can buck and dip to mimic on-screen action. Though intended to add to the experience, 4D theaters are considered sacrilege to some cinephiles. With Hollywood executives joking about bringing raincoats and motion-sickness bags to the theater, some in the industry’s elite see the added dimension as a distraction. The 4D experience, however, is meant to immerse the audience into the movie. Getting viewers involved in the film makes them feel like part of it, without detracting from the storytelling. Thee numbers in fact show that men ages 18 to 24, the target audience, have been embracing the 4D experience, with showings usually selling out. In other efforts to draw in more filmgoers, theater companies have been expanding amenities to make going to the movies more of an experience than watching Netflix at home. By 2015, Regal Cinemas plans to have luxury recliners in as many as 350 theaters. AMC has been introducing Dine-in theaters which allow viewers to grab alcoholic beverages and meals while watching films. Concession packages that combine drinks in collectible cups, traditional popcorn, and a figurine or toy related to the movie have also been introduced and are being warmly received by viewers of all ages. Paramount Pictures and AMC Theatres are also experimenting with an unlimited admission ticket which would allow customers to view the movie as many times as they want. The innovation has seen success in a number of places abroad; twenty-three countries have already launched over 100 4D theaters in locations including China, Bulgaria, Venezuela, and the United Arab Emirates. Whether American audiences will start flocking to 4D theaters as readily remains to be seen.

  • Richard

    I agree. A wise businessman in the Caribbean named Sir Kyffin Simpson always said that the key to success is progression and humility, and clearly he’s done very well for himself as a self made man!

  • John Andrews

    The Airgain IPO launches this week, and they’re a one-brand company.

    Some investors don’t think it’s a good stock though:


  • Cincinnati World Cinema

    Well said, Joe, and worth rereading on a regular basis! Another advantage of small-to-midsize city living is pace and competition. Living in NYC, LA and SF entailed a hectic pace, hallmarked by capital S striving, as one realized there were a ton of others doing what I do. Spending so much time in one’s car in SoCal meant much less time for quality pursuits and pleasures. A smaller pond with relaxed pace allows one to savor life and special moments.

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