Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
The first 4DX movie theater in the United States opened in Los Angeles last weekend. Located in theater 6 at the Regal Cinemas LA Live in Downtown LA, the 104-seat theater books one first-run 3D movie at a time, and augments the showing with real-world physical effects. Those effects are the fourth dimension.
So, timed with the movie, you basically experience a theme park ride. Your seat rumbles and moves around, water squirts, there’s smoke, flashing lights, lumbar effects, gusting wind, even scents. The presentation admirably tries to bring the viewer into the movie.
Michael Bay‘s Transformers: Age of Extinction was the first film to play in the format here, so Peter Sciretta and myself were given a nearly three hour 4DX experience. This was great in that we were privy to the full slate of 4DX effects, but the film also became a tasking mental and physical exercise. Below, we present a video blog about the experience, along with a bunch of photos and a brief rundown of how Transformers: Age of Extinction translates into 4DX.
First up, a short intro before heading into the theater.
Next, here are some photos of the theater and signage around the area.
Finally, our review:
After paying $26.75 at night, or $24 for a matinee, the 4DX experience starts like any other multiplex movie. There’s a pre-show and lots of trailers, but then there’s a trailer for 4DX. You can watch a version of it at this link. It features a simple car chase… then it stops and asks, “Missing something?” Then you see the same car chase, but with full 4DX immersion. The seat rumbles, it moves left, right, up and down. Spouts of air come from behind your head to emulate the sensation of bullets zipping by. There’s wind blowing and a mist of water, all in time with what’s seen on screen. The crowd loved it and applauded.
Then Transformers Age of Extinction began. The film starts with spaceships flying above Earth and the 4DX seats rise and slowly follow the motion of the ships to simulate a floating sensation. Next, we’re on prehistoric Earth and the seats rumble to mimic the buzzing of the ships. Wind begins to blow, as would happen if you were standing outside a huge spaceship, and then the seats move as Bay’s camera sweeps around. A bomb is set off and the seat rumbles and shakes violently.
Next, a beautiful helicopter shot takes the film to the Arctic. The audience becomes the camera as we feel wind and a flying sensation. Wind continues to blow to make things colder, like the Arctic, and when the man bangs a hammer on a dino tooth, the seat vibrates with the sensation.
Cut to Texas and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is driving. The seat rumbles to simulate the open road. You feel the bass in your seat from the song playing on the soundtrack, wind blowing in your hair, you’re in the car with him.
You get the idea. I’m not gonna go through the whole movie. But basically whenever there’s any kind of impact or movement on screen, you feel it in your seat. A flag waving? You get wind. In a rainforest? Raindrops. Bombs go off? There’s smoke and quick flashes. If a 40 foot robot slowly walks down the street, you feel every footstep. And when there’s a huge action scene, it literally feels like a theme park ride as the seats and effects get much more prevalent and violent.
Actually, the 4DX effect is so effective and different, there’s an employee in the theater for at least half the movie to keep an eye on things.
Here’s a breakdown of each of the advertised effects:
- Water: The water effects are sparse but have great impact. There’s a mist that sprays around for a more subtle feeling as well as a more dedicated stream that will hit you in the head for bigger scenes. If it’s not your thing, this is the one effect you can shut off.
- Rain: See above.
- Fog: Two smoke machines at the front of the theater emit smoke when there are explosions in the film. It lingers, but doesn’t have an odor.
- Wind: Several huge fans are mounted on the ceilings to blow “wind” for multiple effects. The effect denotes chaos and cold. There might also be smaller units below the seat. Then there are two tiny ports behind your head for the whizzing of bullets.
- Lighting: Large strobe lights installed in the ceiling go off when there’s an explosion, or need for a little extra ocular engagement. They usually only blink once or twice, so as not to light up the whole theater. It’s a short effect.
- Bubbles: As far as I could see, there were no bubbles in Transformers: Age of Extinction, but they’re probably made with the same water mechanics.
- Scents: A controversial effect among our group. Some swore to smelling burnt rubber, stale beer and other things during the movie, but it wasn’t obvious. That’s probably a good thing, meaning the effects are subtle and not like a shot of perfume in your face.
- Vibration: The most obvious and prevalent effect. Not only do your chairs move up, down, left and right at various speeds, the seats and backs have individual effects to simulate smaller vibrations or more jarring sensations.
As stated in the video blog above, the 4DX experience isn’t for everyone, but it is unique and fun. There’s lots of room for improvement and it wears it its welcome kind of quickly. As a movie fan, it’s a very worthwhile experience to take and file away. It’s something I’d try again, but maybe not the best way to see a movie for the first time.