British cinema is in rude health right now. In 2015, box office revenues exceeded £1.2 billion making it the biggest year in UK film history, and it’s not just because of inflated ticket prices.
Annual admissions reached 171.9 million, that’s 9% up on 2014, the 3rd best year over the last decade, but with Hollywood slowing down its number of 3D releases –and 3D tickets being sold at a premium - cinema chains are having to think up new and exciting ways to maintain that momentum and keep people coming back for more.
Cineworld’s punt is on 4DX. The technology, developed in South Korea, immerses cinemagoers in the film using seats that move, mirroring the action on screen while smoke, water, and scents are spayed at you in your seats.
If it sounds a bit “fairground ride” to you then you’re right - it is - but the process of designing a unique 4DX experience for each film takes a professional editor over 2 weeks. They work closely with the film’s post production team tracking camera movements, designing water, air, and smoke effects, as well as unique scents to accurately recreate what you’re seeing on screen.
When it rains on screen – which it did frequently in ‘The Jungle Book’ – you’re literally sprayed with water in the cinema too.
Cineworld has invested millions bringing 4DX to the UK and it just opened its fourth 4DX screen at Stevenage, Hertfordshire. The chain’s Senior VP of Marketing Justin Skinner says the public’s reaction to 4DX has - so far - been very positive.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the customer response, “ Skinner told Yahoo Movies, “It has been extremely positive with multiple screenings selling out well in advance. Customers frequently tell us that they love 4DX and drive from much further distances to experience it.”
Of course, this multi-million pound investment comes at a price to cinemagoers. Seeing a 2D film in a 4DX-enabled screen will cost you an extra £4.20 on top of your usual ticket price, while a 3D film comes is an £6.20 on top of the ticket.
But is it worth it? I saw Disney’s live action ‘The Jungle Book’ in 4DX and as a committed cinephile I was initially skeptical and concerned it would take away from the enjoyment of just sitting back and enjoying the movie, but it was actually kinda fun. The seats only really jumped into life for the action sequences and the other “effects” weren’t too distracting, in fact, the scents of the jungle were quite impressive. The option to turn off the water effects came as a welcome relief after 30 minutes of rain fall, but other than that, I was happy to be immersed in the whole experience.
Worth an extra £6.20 though? That’s what Cineworld is betting on.