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4DX provides box office boost for Regal Entertainment

IHS Technology (June 18, 2015)

The first US installation of 4DX technology in the Regal Cinemas LA Live Stadium 14 (owned by AEG) in LA has recorded impressive box office results in its first year of operation. The 4DX immersive cinematic experience from CJ 4DPlex was first installed in the US site in June 2014 and on an annual pro rata basis has recorded twice the average daily box office revenue or three times the average weekday revenue compared with the US average daily box office. This equates to a total of $1.52m in box office revenue from June 2014 to June 2015 or 700,000 tickets sold, which in turn represents an 88% increase in occupancy versus the same theatre attendance prior to conversion to 4DX, according to data released by CJ CGV and AEG. In further developments, Universal’s Jurassic World also posted a new record opening weekend gross of $55,672 in Regal’s LA Live 4DX theatre, which equated to a 93% occupancy rate.

CJ CGV has a total of 182 theatres installed in 34 territories with 4DX technology as in June 2015.

[ Our analysis ]

4DX technology has a growing international presence rising from 27 to 34 territories over the past six months. More recent territories added include the UK (January 2015), India (Nov 2014) and Romania (May 2015) although its core markets remain China, South Korea and Mexico. The technology received a welcome boost following its first installation in the US (June 2014), the largest global box office market. The installation has acted as a useful test bed in generating industry exposure and case study for incremental box office.

The most popular title in terms of box office in Regal’s 4DX theatre was reported as Fast and Furious with $139,808, although that was over a four-week run compared with a standard two-week run, followed by San Andreas with $129,124 and Transformers on $114,798. Jurassic World is therefore on track to top the charts after recording $55,672 in its opening weekend. According to further data a number of major titles have also recorded occupancy rates in excess of 90% on opening weekend led by Transformers (97%) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (94%).

The case study for Regal’s LA Live also shows how certain genres and movies in particular have proved to be a natural fit for 4DX, led by Into the Storm (recorded +520% over US box office daily average) and San Andreas (+360%). The results, while positive, could also at least initially be tied to a novelty effect for certain audiences. On the plus side, enhanced 4D experiences are also more likely to attract a younger audience, a demographic exhibitors are targeting to bring back to the cinema.

There were a total of 530 screens operating under the broader 4D cinema umbrella as at Q1 2015, according to initial IHS research, approximately double the total of 260 4D screens some 18 months prior. The market can be broadly split between regular 4D motion seating (70%) and enhanced 4D (30%), the latter including 4DX boasts additional special effects and environmental stimuli.

MediaMation is another company offering enhanced 4D technology for cinemas, but currently has a much smaller footprint than CJ 4DPlex. DBox is the main provider of 4D motion seating. Its system is based on a number of individually controlled seats which are typically outfitted in a couple of rows per screen. This compares to the enhanced 4D systems which tend to involve whole auditorium upgrades of up to 300 seats. CJ 4DPlex incorporates motion seating with up to 20 different effects including vibration, wind, spray, scents and bubbles.

The 4D motion format works by adding a code to the movie after visuals and audio, so 4D is essentially a part of the movie track. Each movement and vibration is created on a separate track and then packaged and put on a server. Cinemas will need to receive the correct version of the DCP with the 4D coding. Code is read by the motion controller, which sends the signal to each individual seat or seat grouping.

CJ CGV also has another immersive/wide screen technology known as ScreenX (similar to Barco Escape) which currently has 73 screens in Korea and poised to launch internationally, first targeting the US and China (where it also screens). 4DX was first launched back in 2009 in Korea, for the release of New Line’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

4D is currently a niche trend in cinema exhibition, but is becoming an increasingly important one, as cinemas look to expand on the range of premium upmarket experiences that help drive audiences into the coveted higher priced seats. The enhanced 4D experience is a bells and whistles format that will promote further interaction with the moviegoing experience for particular audience demographics looking for an event type experience, but on the flipside may lack universal appeal. Nonetheless, Immersive motion seating or 4D cinema slots into the wider trend of exhibitors investing in superior exhibition technologies in a bid to retain existing audiences, remain relevant amid a growing array of entertainment options as well as generate incremental revenues. The trend is equivalent in size to around one third of the number of total digital PLF screens (including exhibitor and global brands) which equated to 1,628 according to IHS data as at end 2014.