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4DX expands to movie markets worldwide

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Korea Times (Aug 27, 2014)

Korea, through K-pop, K-drama and K-food, has been making footholds in U.S. markets. Even Korean actors are making their mark in Hollywood.

To this growing list joins the recent addition of the 4DX movie experience. The cutting-edge technology, developed in 2009 by Korean company CJ 4DPlex, features physical effects such as seat motion, wind, water and smell in line with a movie`s plot, to give moviegoers an enhanced movie experience.

The technology was launched in June in the United States at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live. Following its adoption of 4DX, Regal Cinemas saw its ticket sales jump to the top 25 in the nation. This was an important achievement for the theater, which used to rank outside the top 100 in terms of sales.

"These figures are encouraging," said CJ 4DPlex CEO Choi Byung-hwan, adding that the successful launch can provide momentum for further expansion to other U.S. markets.He was speaking on the sidelines of the KCON 2014 held earlier this month in L.A.

"The movie theater market in the United States is very stable and mature. It has a language of its own," Choi said.

"This is where the movie (industry) people study the interior of an office to gauge one`s love and knowledge of cinema," said Choi, adding that the company put up a poster of the classic 1953 film "La Guerra dei Mondi" or "The War of the Worlds" by Byron Haskin. "They look at the poster and nod," said Choi.

But it`s also a market facing challenges of declining sales and that`s where the 4DX comes in with its unique cinematic experience that combines the experiences of going to a theater and to a theme park.

For example, a 4DX trailer of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" at CJ 4DPlex`s office on Hollywood Boulevard makes the audience feel like they are flying with the dragon and the protagonist through vibrating seats and gusts of wind. Meanwhile, a preview of the Korean film "Roaring Currents" make the audience feel as if they`re in the movie through drops of water.

At CJ 4DPlex`s main office in Seoul, 14 editors in the creative team of 4DX i-Studio works to convert movies into the 4DX format. It`s where they did the work for the Korean film "Roaring Currents" that is currently making history with 16 million audience mark reached so far. In the specially-equipped dark room, they work with motion seats equipped with 3-way technology, that is, seats that can "heave" (move up and down), "pitch" (tilt backward and forward) and "roll" (move left and right). They also work with more than 10 environmental effects such as fan, air, water, lightning, bubbles, ticklers and scents.

"A (feature-length) movie would take 16 days to edit," said Jeong Seul-ah, a creative supervisor. She and the other editors first watch the movie and then decide what motion and environmental effects to add and to what scenes. "It`s re-creating a movie in 4DX," she said, in consultation with the movie studios.

"Our goal is to enable moviegoers to immerse themselves in the content," said Choi Young, a creative director at the Seoul office. The company also has three 4DX editors in the Los Angeles office and two in the Beijing office.

Since 2010,CJ 4DPlex has been experimenting with the technology in its CGV theaters in Korea, with varying degrees of success. That year, it opened 12 4DX theaters nationwide, including two in Seoul, where it now operates 22 such theaters.

CJ 4DPlex has 113 4DX theaters in 27 nations, in partnership with various cinema chains such as Cinepolis in Mexico.

"2D or 3D movies run in the same vein, in a sense," said Choi Byung-hwan when asked how this novel movie experience concept compares to Korea`s advances in cell phones.

"But 4DX is a newer concept compared to cell phones, which product-wise hasn`t materialized yet," chief of the 4DPlex said.

But ultimately, the 4DX is a platform for Korean films that has combined the ITtechnology and cultural sensitivity. To that end, CJ 4DPlex aims to open 300 4DX theaters by the first half of 2016, with 300 being the critical figure to get 4DX theaters into the mainstream.

The 4DX technology is also a response to the growing presence of Chinese business groups such as (Dalian) Wanda Group in the world`s movie theater market.

Movies aren`t the only area that can benefit from 4DX. For instance, K-pop star G-Dragon`s concert last year is currently shown at 4DX theaters, where the audience can feel like they are actually at the concert venue, dancing and singing along up close with the pop star.

The company believes showing K-pop concerts in 4DX may become very popular, and he is looking into new projects in this area.

Fans of the 4DX experience vary by country. At the Cinepolis theaters in Mexico and in Latin American countries, the audience include not just the young but also those in their 30s and 40s. The 4DX experience is also more "aggresively" appreciated in Japan, Choi Byung-hwan said where there are 4DX tour packages on offer in Japan.

"Now, we have to step it up further on technological advancement," he said.

The company has plans to add more dimensions to the 4DX to turn it into 5, 6, and even to 9DX, he added.