4D Cinema, the next 3D or just the new IMax?

A look into the future of 4D cinema. 

Two is quite good but they say three is better, three is the rage but four might be wetter? Still clueless, let me just explain again what  4D cinema is. No, no,  4D cinema doesn’t warp the fabric of four dimensional space-time to add gravity to the viewer’s experience. Rather, the term was coined by the marketing men as something extra added to a 3D viewing, tingling the other unutilized senses such as smell and touch. Water is sprayed, smoke builds, seats move. Note* added hall effects, such as smells and smoke are coined 5D, doesn’t make sense and I’m not sure why?

Articles vibrating the web over the past few years have pointed towards the growing international  trend for 4D, particularily in Asian markets and Mexico. Apparently shows are selling out night on night. Regardless of wether the experience is actually any good, the money men are already setting up 4D for western markets.  So what’s the future? 4D has already outlived early critics citing the experience as a gimmick destined to die away in theme parks. Remember 3D began life in the very same place. Let’s be frank though, in its earliest incarnation 3D felt just like the 4D many of us may have already experienced…a bit rubbish.  However with massive improvements in tech and a host of new films more suited for conversion (AVATAR, AVENGERS, TRANSFORMERS), the future might become a whole lot wetter, smellier and jigglier (not a word).

Why not go for it then? The first hurdle is likely to be economic, the tech needed for a full experience is still rather expensive, something like $2 million for a sub 50 seater. A problem shared by its bigger and  better looking cousin, IMax. I love Imax, as long as I’m not watching  a production by Mr Shackycam himself,  J.J Abrams. IMax won’t take over normal screen sizes any time soon, it’s just a great gimmick.  Second is the stigma. Not many directors have or will want to endorse the experience. Getting final cut on 4D will be impossible. Film is a finely tuned  craft. Why would a director actively promote a tactless blast of air, water or chair battering that ruins their masterful blend of sight and sound? Money Money Money. As I look at my sobbing wallet it asks me how much cost will be added to a normal ticket?  Worst case scenario? Directors create plot scenarios and scenes that better suit the 4D experience. Think of what happened to THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN. The production blatently geared the action in line with new tech and possible computer game adaptations. Story and childhood memories…destroyed.

Personally I forsee another trend. One far more disurbing. At the rate the west is popping mood enhancing medication, before long it could be acceptable to swallow a quick perker, downer, jumper, relaxer, mind blower, before plugging yourself into the the latest motion enhacing chair and sniffing the odour of ‘hype’ as it fills the theatre (rather than sickly sweet popcorn and damp coats if you live in London). Just before the film begins you try to recall the days when people only watched dimely lit films in 3D (up to 30% light loss), but you can’t. You’ve taken a dissolver, cutting off your conscious access to bad memories.

Joking aside, it might not be so funny  if we come to ask the same frustrating questions we currently ask about 3D. Is the technology designed as an improvement to our experience? Or is this just a gimmick to lure us back to the cinema and/or raise ticket prices? When the 3D money wave eventually stops generating cash, the industry will have to turn somewhere.  I find it hard to imagine 4D screens overtaking 2D and 3D space. However I would have said the same about 3D. Yet with 3D showings competing for space within the same short runs, 2D viewers are being forced into smaller screens  at frequently restricted showing times , especially within the earliest and latest slots, or in no slots at all. This is probably a different arguement though.

When it arrives,I say go for it. I don’t care if the money men get richer and fatter whilst I’m having fun. Just don’t offer me rubbish, especially if a ticket costs twice as much or more.

4D screens might start popping up within the next 5 years. If you really can’t wait, venture down to the London Eye to see London’s only 4D cinema. The Odeon has had several runs of smell-o-vision for kids films but the reviews smell just as bad.

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