First 4D movie theater opens in U.S.

Film

Los Angeles (CNN) – With 4D, it’s not just about watching the action, it’s about feeling it.

As movies face ever-increasing competition to snag eyeballs, one company is betting it can lure people into theaters with the fourth dimension. Korean company CJ 4DPlex is opening the first American 4D theater in Los Angeles.

The technology isn’t new. In 2009, “Avatar” was the first major picture viewed by audiences in 4D, just not here in the United States. The L.A. theater is the company’s 110th in the world.

“I think a lot of people have been waiting in the wings to see if 4D will work in America,” said Angela Killoren, chief marketing officer for CJ 4DPlex America.

The 4D theater’s chairs move to the movie.

“We have heave – that is up and down. And then roll – the lateral movement. And then pitch – that’s the, you know, back and forth,” said CJ 4DPlex creative director Young Choi.

And then there’s the “back shaker” and the “leg tickler,” the latter of which is good for horror movies, says Choi.

“It creeps you out,” he said.

And if that’s not enough, there’s more effects in and around the chairs, like mist, rain, wind, strobe lights, and even scents and bubbles.

But the company may have an uphill battle.

“It’s not family-oriented. It’s something that you would go out to with your friends,” said Steffin Calhoun, who watched a 4D movie in the new theater.

While last year’s total box office jumped 1% in the U.S., 3D receipts went the other direction, dropping a percent, even though Hollywood’s 45 3D releases were nine more than the year before. Many American movie theater owners are hesitant to take on 4D, until they see how the Los Angeles theater performs.

“What they’re going to require with 4D is for audiences to get on the 4D bandwagon and start going on Facebook, Twitter, all the social networking platforms and saying ‘I just saw a movie in 4D, it was an incredible experience, and you have to go see it, and it’s worth the money.’ And if that catches on then it goes from being a gimmick to a trend, and potentially a habit of movie going,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak.

With a surcharge of $8 a ticket, consumers could pay around $25 a pop to see a 3D movie with 4D effects.

“Being a father and having a wife and two kids, it can get to be a very expensive investment to come to a movie like this when I can just rent it for a dollar at home,” said Alex Orellana, another 4D moviegoer.

And is every movie right for 4D?

“Absolutely not. We do our job in choosing movies that will work well in 4DX,” said Killoren. “It’s not like we are doing something constantly like a ride. We pull back and let the story take over. But when there’s exciting moments, the 4D gets going and, you know, the adrenaline is rushing.”

It remains to be seen whether moviegoers will be rushing back for more.

In February, KXAN took an inside look at the loud world of local movie theaters. You can watch that in-depth report here.

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