As the giant spaceship crashes into the mysterious planet, the seats inside the movie theater heave back and forth and rumble like an earthquake.
“Back ticklers” in the seats thump as an astronaut dodges fireballs and rolls on the ground. A strobe light flashes and huge fans expel gusts of air reeking of smoke and gunpowder.
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.
At the leading edge of the technology is South Korean conglomerate CJ Group, which operates Asia’s largest theater chain and has set up a laboratory near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to demonstrate and market its 4DX system.
The 4-D experience is wowing fans in South Korea, Thailand and Mexico, where CJ Group has 29 specialty theaters that regularly screen big Hollywood titles such as Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Prometheus, which featured the crashing spaceship.
Now CJ Group is close to finalizing a deal with a nationwide U.S. chain to create nearly 200 4-D theaters in the next five years, with the first to open this year in Los Angeles, New York and several other major cities.
CJ Group executives say its 4-D venues already draw sellout crowds from Seoul to Mexico City, and they predict that U.S. audiences are ready to shell out an extra $8 for the new movie experience. They say 4-D technology will help reverse the longtime decline in cinema attendance in the U.S.
D-Box Technologies of Canada launched a limited number of moving seats in North American movie theaters in 2009 with Fast & Furious, and it now has about 100 locations in the U.S. The theme park attractions Shrek 4-D and Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood and Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure Park use similar technology.