Korean Film Technology Revolutionizing Movie-Watching in LA

Since June of this year, residents of LA have been enjoying a new kind of movie-watching experience. While sitting in the theater, they can feel movement, wind, moisture, and light flashes all synced with action sequences in the movie. These special effects are paired with 3D viewing, adding yet another dimension to the experience. Thus, the new cinema experience is called “4D”.

4D technology was first developed by the Korean Company CJ CGV, which operates Asia's largest theater chain, and debuted in 2009. There have been some other trials to introduce ‘another dimension’ into movies, such as Smell-O-Vision in the 1960’s or D-Box Technologies of Canada, which brought moving seats to US theaters in 2009. But they only added one new sensation to the experience, similar to rides at a theme park. Only CJ’s “4DX” theatres have technology that engages multiple new senses when watching a movie.

There are more than one hundred 4DX theaters all over the world, including Europe, the Middle East, and most of Asia. Now, CJ’s next target is the American market. While 4DX movie theaters are already in South America, there is only one 4DX theater in North America, located in Los Angeles. CJ had been trying to introduce 4DX into the United States since 2011, and finally made a deal with AEG in March 2014. AEG owns Regal Cinemas, whose LA Live location has been screening 4DX films since June.

AEG Senior Vice President Nick Baker is anticipating the success of 4DX in the United States because of its vigorous expansion in the rest of the world. It was after a demonstration of the technology at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last March that AEG signed the deal with CJ. Cinema Con is the largest gathering of movie theater owners from all around the world.

So far, the response has been quite good. According to Variety's statistics, most blockbuster or Hollywood action movies in 4DX have performed much better than that in normal theaters. Being the exclusive location to enjoy 4D films has boosted Regal’s LA Live ticket sales significantly, making it one of the top 25 theaters in the country. CJ is aiming to open more than 300 4DX theaters worldwide by 2016, and is expecting the US to grow into a major market.

Kawoon Kim is an Asan Academy Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.