4DX is touted by its proponents as the next big thing in cinema-going, a technology that enhances the experience for audiences with moving seats, wind, fog, lightning, mist and scent-based special effects.
But Australians are unlikely to experience the immersive technology any time soon in this country. Event Cinemas and Village Cinemas have ruled out acquiring the 4DX cinema system after ending lengthy negotiations with Korea's CJ Entertainment.
”The 4D deal did not work for us financially,” David Seargeant, managing director of Amalgamated Holdings Ltd., which owns Event Cinemas and Birch, Carroll & Coyle and has a multiplex joint venture with Village, tells SBS Movies. “It requires a very high level of capital expenditure [reportedly $1 million to outfit a 200-seat cinema, split between the exhibitor and the technology-provider] but the revenue model does not support that.”
Seargeant said there is a narrow market for the 4D format, chiefly action films that appeal to young males, and tickets for those screenings would entail a hefty surcharge above normal prices.
The CJ Group launched the concept at its cinema chain in Korea in 2009 and there are now 42 installations in 10 countries including, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Poland, Russia, Thailand and Taiwan. Typically the surcharge ranges from $8-$13.
Last week it was announced Iron Man 3 will be the first film to screen in the 4DX format in Japan at a cinema in Nagoya operated by the Korona World chain, which plans to screen 12 titles a year in the new format. CJ 4DPLEX intends to push into the US and aims to add 100 installations worldwide by the end of this year.
Aussies who are keen to experience at least the partial 4D effect can jump on a plane to New Zealand. Hoyts Cinemas introduced a rival 4D technology, D-BOX, at its multiplex in Hamilton in 2011. Among the films that have screened there are Real Steel, The Amazing Spider-man, Prometheus, Battleship, John Carter, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, Shark Night, The Grey and Fright Night.
The technology uses motion effects which synchronise the on-screen action and sound to vibrating seats. Hoyts has given no indication it plans to bring the concept to its Australian circuit.
As for conventional cinema, Seargeant is extremely bullish about the line-up of films between now and the end of this year, anticipating a major uplift after a soft few months.
He envisions blockbuster business starting with Iron Man 3 and continuing through May/June with Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hangover Part 3, The Great Gatsby, Fast and Furious 6, Monsters University and Man of Steel.
Unlike the US, where exhibitors and distributors are occasionally at loggerheads over collapsing release windows, Seargeant says there are no moves in Australia to shorten the four-month gap between the theatrical launch date and Video-on-Demand/DVD.