With the confirmation of the 18th 4DX cinema in the UK landing in Grimsby, we decided to investigate what 4DX cinema is, what the benefits are of immersive cinema and whether you really do get a rewarding cinema experience.
So what is 4DX Cinema?
Quite simply, 4DX refers to the technology used to give cinema goers a 4D cinema experience. First introduced to the UK market in 2015 at Cineworld Milton Keynes, it has grown steadily in popularity as multiplex cinemas look to maximise the trend for immersive entertainment and not surprisingly, bolster ticket sales.
4D cinema is the incorporation of physical movement, thanks to seat simulation, alongside the viewing of a 3D movie. However 4DX cinema isn’t just being sat on a seat that is synchronised to move in time with a 2D or 3D film.
No for lucky 4DX cinema goers you also get to enjoy a range of special effects alongside a high tech seat including wind, fog, scent, water and even bubbles. The combination of these environmental effects and the moving seats, in perfect synchronisation with what is happening on screen gives you “the biggest innovation in cinema technology to date”.
The first film to be shown in 4DX in the UK was Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and by 2017, we saw 24 4DX format films screened. Many more are planned for 2018, all of which will be action or superhero movies, because this is what 4DX is made for.
Is it any good then? There are definitely pros and cons….
We decided to venture to the place where it all began in the UK, in Milton Keynes’ Xscape venue and experience this revolutionary technology for ourselves. With two films currently available in 4DX, Pacific Rim: Uprising and the latest Tomb Raider reincarnation, we chose the latter, hopeful that the film would be as good as the 4DX.
This 4DX screen houses 140 seats plus a 5.8m x 10.5m curved screen. The seats were definitely the highlight of the technical setup. With footrests,leg ticklers, vibration and three different motions as part of the experience – we quickly appreciated where the focus of the 4D environment lay.
If you’re interested in knowing the tech spec, here goes:
You get pressurized air cannons behind your legs, a vibrating stand underneath your seat, vibrating plates behind your back, pressurized air cannons just by your ears (for the inevitable bullets that go shooting past the protagonists head on-screen), the water spritzer affixed to the chair in front of you facing you (SPOILER: hilariously representing the water and shipwreck on-screen in Tomb Raider), and a water spritzer affixed to the top of your chair that gives you the rain effect.
FYI: You can choose to not get wet at any point with a switch on your armrest but you’ve just paid £18 for the experience, you might as well go the whole hog here.
However, from as quickly as Tomb Raider’s opening credits, it was clear that the 4DX experience, whilst adding an additional dimension to the cinema experience, was not for us. That it was something that did not increase our cinematic enjoyment. Or add value to watching a film in the cinema because 4DX shouldn’t be considered as a cinematic experience.
It’s more akin to an interactive rollercoaster found at Universal Studios.
We can concede that it was at times fun being thrown around in your seat, getting vibrations in your back as Lara Croft was punched and shoved on-screen, and experiencing what can only be described as the nearest thing to a seated exorcism as Lara Croft escapes a collapsing tomb.
Yet – if you have any real interest in the film you are watching or trying to appreciate specific lines of dialogue/cinematography etc, this environment does nothing but distract you. Dependant on what environmental effect has been employed at a specific moment in-film, it can completely disrupt your focus. In exactly the same way a mobile phone does by going off in-screen. Or if you have to keep getting up out of your seat to let the teens next to you go the toilet every five minutes because of their supersize Cokes. And the scent element of 4DX, just don’t ask.
Should I plan a visit to my nearest 4DX cinema anytime soon?
4DX cinema should be experienced by people who enjoy the thrill and exhilaration of a rollercoaster ride over the watching of a movie itself. Or those who want to try something new at the cinema. However this comes with pretty sizeable caveats. If you are seeing a much anticipated movie for the first time, do not see it in 4DX. If you have any interest in the specifics of the film itself, do not see it in 4DX. If distractions in-screen irritate you and go against your cinema code of conduct, do not see a film in 4DX. If you believe a trip to the cinema should be affordable, do not see a film in 4DX.
It is not cinema for film lovers. It is, if possible the absolute opposite. Yet this does not mean you can’t get enjoyment from 4DX cinema. We would propose that for a second screening of future films like Avengers: Infinity War or X:Men, you could enjoy a visit to your nearest 4DX. But make sure you save up for your trip if you’re taking the whole family out for the visit. It will set you back a fair few pounds.
So in the right circumstances, you may be happy to try 4DX. And with the upcoming launch of “the next revolution in 4DX Cinema” at CinemaCon this April, (a 4DX cinema being combined with a Screen X to give 360 projection), it’s fair to say that 4DX cinema is an experience that is not going to be disappearing anytime soon. No matter how disruptive you found the experience.