by Dan Gibson
The desire to create a truly immersive movie-going experience in nothing particularly new (a movie theater in 1929 tried spraying perfume during a film and John Waters added Odorama, a scratch and sniff card to showings of Polyester in 1982, among many other smell-based cinema gimmicks), but now, movie theater owners looking for a way to push the cost of a movie ticket into the realm of what we're used to playing for a ticket to an amusement park might get their wish with (wildly inaccurately named) 4-D movies:
In the latest bid to attract moviegoers back to multiplexes, where 3-D — featured in hits such as "The Avengers" and"Men in Black 3"— is already the norm, technology and entertainment companies are pushing a new system known as 4-D....
"Theaters need to find new ways to bring people back to the multiplex and away from their couches, and this is one way of doing that," said Theodore Kim, chief operating officer for the Los Angeles lab of CJ 4DPlex, operator of the specialty theaters....
In one nighttime scene in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," when vampire-like mermaids launch an attack on pirates in rowboats, the seats rocked back and forth to simulate the movement of the boats, a fan stirred a gentle breeze, fog filled the theater and a faint smell of the ocean wafted across the audience. When the mermaids shot strands of seaweed at the hapless pirates, moviegoers were sprayed with water. In "Prometheus," water sprays simulate something entirely different: the innards of an alien.
CJ 4DPlex, which debuted in 2009, now screens about 20 major Hollywood titles a year for the international market and works with several big studios on international releases.
"We've done a number of films with them, and they've been very successful," said Chris Aronson, head of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox. "It's certainly something that's unique to the theater environment."
It costs about $2 million to design and outfit a 4-D theater, with exhibitors covering half the costs. CJ Group says circuits quickly recoup their investment because the theaters are so popular.
I'm clearly the wrong person for this concept, since I think I've already decided that I'm done with the extra cost and hassle of wearing glasses during 3-D movies, but it's hard for me to imagine why someone would want to be squirted with water during a movie. It's proven to be possible to make big budget movies that people actually want to see that aren't ridiculously stupid (the Christopher Nolan Batman films, in particular), but this summer's The Avengers wasn't missing the smell of burnt aliens empowered by space energy, even if it might make another few million dollars for the studio. Keep the amusement park rides at the theme park, ok?