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[Part 2] 4DX takes cinema to another dimension

Joongang Daily (July 9th, 2014)

Uncharted territories

With its new 4DX room installed at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14, the tally of countries that house 4DPlex’s cinemas is now up to 25. An Indian opening, penciled in for later this month, will take the tally to 26.

Although the technology has a strong representation in Asia and South America, the U.S. opening signals a milestone for 4DX. And there are also plans for theaters in the works to be implemented in the United Kingdom and Switzerland to open later this year.

“When you look at cinema chain rankings, the United States stands from second to fourth on the list,” said Choi, on why 4DPlex is aiming toward the American market fervently despite the fact it’s already doing well in the rest of the world.

And while it’s just one cinema, Choi is hopeful that the technology will prove its worth and help accelerate expansion in the developed world, after having courted cinema chains there for the last two to three years.

“To them [U.S. and Europe], Korea is a very small place and before they sign they want 100 percent proof that it’ll be profitable.

“You could say that the film industry is the biggest closed market. Those in it are conservative and have a lot of pride in their heritage as leaders in the field,” said Choi.

But often, these cinema chains are just mirroring their viewers’ opinions.

Damon Wise, a contributing editor at Empire magazine, said that 4-D “is still a mystery to most U.K. moviegoers,” and thinks it’ll be some time before the British get used to the format.

Unlike the Asian audience, who may be more open to new experiences and technology, Wise thinks U.K. cinemagoers need more time to get used to the idea.

“For many, this kind of experience is more closely associated with a theme park ride and it will take quite a lot to convince them that it’s more than a novelty or a gimmick,” said Wise, who thinks part of the reason why the technology is not taking off is because it’s entering into a saturated market place with no distinct advantage.

Helen O’Hara, also from Empire, has experienced 4DX, and although she “quite liked it,” she is still unsure how the format will bode.

“The U.K. and the U.S. are a lot more cynical,” O’Hara said.
But she does think that there may be a solution to fix the preconceptions people in those countries might have.
“I think that if filmmakers were involved in designing the 4-D experience you might see something that was better designed for it,” she said.

But O’Hara also points out that there’s an irony to this.
“That would only happen if 4-D became a much more popular way of viewing films,” she explained.

In some ways, 4DPlex may do better going after China as this was where the company launched its first overseas cinema.

Growth there is also rapid. Choi said that with the Chinese market booming, lines are out the door at the 4DPlex office in Beijing, where film personnel come to see what all the fuss is about.

But 4DPlex knows that China will not be the be all and end all.
“The most important thing is the U.S. because it’s such a big market and where one-third of box office sales come from,” said Choi.
He knows how important it is to secure the right kind of film, and this may be the key to 4DX taking off.
Wise agrees that hope for 4DX may be found in the right film. “In the same way that Avatar reintroduced 3-D … I think it’s only a matter of time before a film is tailored to suit 4-D,” he said.

“It remains our homework to think about the genre of films to play on 4D,” Choi explained, who thinks there’s room to develop non-action films.

“It’s not that we necessarily prefer action films, but from a cinema’s point of view, they want action films to play in 4DX. Even if it’s not action but we think there is room for immersion, 4DX is keen, that’s what we’ve been concerned about at CJ. How do you make the movies a more immersive experience?”

Just as IMAX took some years to become mainstream, Choi believes teething time is normal.
“We’ve been thinking about 4-D since the 90s. While we were building our multiplexes, CGV was asking, what’s next?”

And with advertisers seeking out 4DX coupled with expansion in the United States and the U.K., Choi is confident that the technology will catch on.

“There are those in the 4-D business in China for example,” said Choi, “but of course we are way ahead in the game.

“We know that currently we are No.1 in the market due to the lack of competition, but we aim to be up there even after the market becomes saturated.”