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4D Movies

Entering the 4th Dimension

By Rich_Maloof Jul 9, 2012 3:54PM

Photo: Ghislain & Marie David De Lossy/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Film studios and multiplex owners are becoming desperate to lure moviegoers off the couch and back into theaters. It's an uphill battle, too. When we can custom-select movies by download, DVD, or DVR, and then lounge in our own living room with the flat screen and surround sound, it sure drains our motivation to shell out $11 per ticket. The savings on popcorn alone could put a kid through a semester of college. 

So what can the movie industry offer in the theater that we can't get at home? That question has a lot of studio execs scratching their well-polished heads in the Hollywood hills. 3D technology has already become standard fare, and while it's provided a great excuse to bump ticket prices up another notch, the advent of 3D in home screens says the movie-going public won't be impressed for much longer. Advances in technology got the film industry into this predicament, but the development of the 4D movie may breathe some new life into the industry, or at least open up another revenue spigot. The question is, do we really need another D?

The 4D experience has apparently been a thriller for some international audiences. According to an article in the L.A. Times, a South Korean conglomerate that operates Asia's largest theater chain has been experimenting with systems installed to spray water, blow bubbles, shake seats, blow fans, and emit aromas to draw audiences more deeply into a movie. It'll be interesting to see if American audiences respond. Apparently there is no such thing as overstimulating us, so the idea of exciting as many of the five senses as possible could be money in the bank. 

It may take a while to get used to 4D effects; a rumbling seat or seeing smoke in a crowded theater can initially be a little distracting even though its intent is to steep you in the action. But chances are we'll learn to enjoy to a spritz of ocean water when there's a storm during Pirates of the Caribbean, or the sensation of heat as Spider Man rescues a baby from a burning building. Titanic may finally have a shot at success when audiences can feel the chill of the North Atlantic or hear the soundtrack in Celine Dion-a-rama. 

The inevitability of 4D signals trouble for the movie industry. Pressed to sell more tickets, some studios will opt to stimulate audiences on an even more base level than their current movie plots do. Not to be a grump about it: movies are fun stuff, and 4D flicks may wind up to be half film, half theme-park ride. But it's hard not to think the industry could save itself a lot of money, and save moviegoers from being sprayed in the face, if more major studios would take greater chances on the films themselves. Audiences don't need so many blockbusters. All of our blocks are busted already. Experimentation, smarts, and true creativity may be the dimensions moviegoers want added to more films today.

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