CJ Group of South Korea hopes to furnish nearly 200 U.S. movie theaters with equipment that will move seats, emit scents and perform other special effects.
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.
“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.
They aren’t the only people working in the “fourth dimension,” and if their system gains traction, they’ll have plenty of company.