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Movies in 4DX: The Future Is What It Used to be
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Make it stop!

Back in the 1950s, impresarios tried all sorts of upgrades to get people to stop watching free TV at home and pay to sit in a movie theater, such as color movies, widescreen formats, 3D, and Smell-o-Vision. That’s all coming back, although American theaters are lagging. One reason for those huge overseas boxoffice totals this summer is because more and more foreigners are paying premiums to to watch movies in new “immersive” theaters with power seats. So, two guys from Grantland go to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at Southern California’s first South Korea-style 4DX theater at LA Live downtown. Alex Pappademas reports back:

We paid $27 per person to be repeatedly rabbit-punched in the lumbar vertebrae by weapons-grade Brookstone technology. There was mist, there was stage fog. We were, I’m pretty sure, spritzed here and there with contextually appropriate chemical scents, although that aspect of the experience seems a little underdeveloped; I guess it’s hard to engineer a smell that can cut through the popcorn-funk that provides every multiplex theater with its olfactory bass line, at least for now.

This will probably be a pretty great way to watch stupid movies, and I’ll definitely see you at the 4DX for Into the Storm. But for me it was a pretty stupid way to watch a good movie. I found this supposedly immersive experience to be sort of the exact opposite of immersive, because whenever my seat would jerk to the side or rattle or blow a puff of air directly into my ear — a sensation that so creeps me out in life I’d normally pay $27 to avoid it for two hours — there would inevitably be this split-second lag as my brain tried to process how the physical sensations I was feeling corresponded to the action onscreen. That took me straight out of the movie, every single time. It was as if the theater itself was constantly elbowing us in the ribs, going “Did you see that? How about that, did you see that?” Andy Serkis and a small army of digital-effects artists have put staggering creative and technical effort into the verisimilitude of every last little ape face twitch in this movie, but the 4DX thing bulldozes all that nuance; it doesn’t trust that we’ll be enraptured by our first glimpse of the apes’ tree fort unless we’re also being spritzed with pine scent.

 
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  1. But for me it was a pretty stupid way to watch a good movie.

    Is he saying Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a good movie? I found it formulaic and unengaging. Kept looking at my watch.

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  2. The Z Blog says: • Website

    The Feelies will be here soon. It’s amazing how right Huxley was compared to Orwell.

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  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says: • Website

    But isn’t the entire magic of cinema about the ability to see but not feel?

    It’s like when you watch nature in a movie, you don’t have to worry about mosquito and snake bites.

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  4. ….

    Back in the 1970′s I went with my brother to see ‘Midway,’ which had been heavily advertised as being presented in Sensurround. Sensurround turned out to be nothing more than massive sub-woofers that switched on every time one or more of the radial engine powered airplanes showed up on the screen. The Sensurround basso was so profundo and so prolonged that it made our stomachs flutter until they hurt. Imagine seeing a huge widescreen war movie epic during which you long for the exciting action sequences to end just so you can enjoy sonic and gastric relief from segments in which actors just talked to one another.

    Yes (sigh), “The future is what it used to be.”

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  5. Whiskey says: • Website

    Bubble. Cost of $27 per person to see a not very emotionally rallying, notice I did not say good, movie?

    Vs maybe $2 for a street level dvd pirate copy, according to the LAT, or Netflix monthly cost amortized to a movie?

    Unless cnsumer income is rising somehw, hidden, I don’t see it. I do see dirt cheap streaming globally and ancillary revenue of toys and games appealing to Asian kids as revenue drivers. Movies as two hour commercials for toys.

    Which puts comic book companies desire to be trendy, Thor a chick and Archie killed saving his gay friend, in conflict with the need to extract cash out of Asian boys via power fantasies.

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  6. wren says:

    I really enjoy those kinds of theaters for first person experiences like motion simulator video games. Disney’s Storm Rider was pretty fun for me.

    For a movie with a plot, I’m not so sure.

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  7. Bill M says:

    I went on one of these as a kid and thought it was great. Although it was just the one where the seats move and tumble around. And I was just a kid and they weren’t real movies with plots but first person action sequences, like riding a helicopter around an active volcano, or a trick plane through mountains.

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  8. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    i’d hate to find out what would happen if there was a sex scene.

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  9. WhatEvvs [AKA "Cookies"] says:

    I saw the most recent monkey movie and thought it was really stupid and disappointing. I loathe CGI. They are to real moviemaking as implants are to real breasts. The only changes in my local theater were recliners, so you can replicate the experience of being an obese slob at home to being an obese slob in a theater.

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  10. $27 per, huh?

    Hm…..

    Also, nowadays home entertainment systems can rival the standard multiplex of the late 90s so the ante must really have to be raised down at the ol’ corner theatre. The entertainment system can create the multiplex not just for films but TV as well. Whether its standard fare from Modern Family and the Simpsons, to highbrow culture a la Breaking Bad.

    Speaking of Modern Family, msm.com released some gov census that 2.3% of adults are lez and/or gay.

    That must mean something but not exactly certain what.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    2.3% self-identify, not "are." As Nick Diaz can tell you, the other 7.7% are too ashamed to admit it.
  11. Glaivester says: • Website

    I saw “Oz the Great and Powerful” in 3-D, and honestly, after 2-3 minutes I forgot I was watching 3-D.

    I don’t really see 3-D as having any real value for any movie longer than a few minutes, and unless it is using it as a gimmick where things seem to be no more than 1-2 feet from your face (Captain EO worked as a 3-D short – of course, 3-D was the only thing it had going for it).

    For anything appearing farther away than a few feet, the addition of stereoscopic depth perception to perspective-based depth perception just doesn’t add that much.

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  12. A couple 3D movies were worth it. (Gravity, Avatar.)

    Besides that, the best (“most positively differentiated”) movie-going experience I had was at a theater in a suburb way outside Chicago where there were long tables in front of each row of seats, which were each big executive-style office chairs, and pretty waitresses came and took our food and (alcoholic) drink orders when we sat down, then served us unintrusively right before the opening credits started.

    There were also two full-service bars (with some higher end beer on tap) in the lobby, which was realistically and tastefully decorated like a rainforest complete with real plants and a huge indoor waterfall. The walls of the hallway leading to the theaters was covered in really interesting, often authentic, movie history memorabilia. The movie tickets themselves cost about what you’d expect to pay on the coasts (maybe a $2-3 premium over Flyover Country megaplex prices).

    THAT is how you get people to pay to watch a movie somewhere besides their den or bedroom.

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    • Replies: @Bill M

    THAT is how you get people to pay to watch a movie somewhere besides their den or bedroom.
     
    Yes, but with laptops you can now watch movies while sitting on the toilet. The theaters can't beat that.
  13. H says:

    IMO the only movie that was worth watching in 3D was Avatar. Watching it on TV is just watching a B-level sci-fi movie, watching it in the theater was actually fun, but most movies that use 3D don’t seem to do it well, or just don’t put the effort into it. It can also be distracting seeing all the details, though that may just be because I’m not used to it. For example, I saw the 2nd Hobbit movie in 3D with HD graphics or w/e it was called, and seeing every little detail on the character was unnerving. It might just be a transitionary thing, like going from watching standard TV to HDTV for the first time. Overall though my opinion is that all these movies in 3D!!!!! and smell-o-vision are just another fad.

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  14. Bill M says:
    @Power Child
    A couple 3D movies were worth it. (Gravity, Avatar.)

    Besides that, the best ("most positively differentiated") movie-going experience I had was at a theater in a suburb way outside Chicago where there were long tables in front of each row of seats, which were each big executive-style office chairs, and pretty waitresses came and took our food and (alcoholic) drink orders when we sat down, then served us unintrusively right before the opening credits started.

    There were also two full-service bars (with some higher end beer on tap) in the lobby, which was realistically and tastefully decorated like a rainforest complete with real plants and a huge indoor waterfall. The walls of the hallway leading to the theaters was covered in really interesting, often authentic, movie history memorabilia. The movie tickets themselves cost about what you'd expect to pay on the coasts (maybe a $2-3 premium over Flyover Country megaplex prices).

    THAT is how you get people to pay to watch a movie somewhere besides their den or bedroom.

    THAT is how you get people to pay to watch a movie somewhere besides their den or bedroom.

    Yes, but with laptops you can now watch movies while sitting on the toilet. The theaters can’t beat that.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Power Child
    If you like

    A) sitting on a toilet seat in your stuffy bathroom, your overheated laptop making your thighs sweaty for 3 hours (most movies are less than 2 hours but you keep pausing the action every few minutes to respond to Facebook messages)

    more than

    B) relaxing in a comfortable chair in a beautifully decorated building where pretty girls serve you reasonably-priced alcoholic drinks

    then I guess even theaters like the one I described just won't win you over. Hey, maybe (A) sounds like a great time to you, but for those 2-3 movies I watch per year I prefer an experience closer to (B).
  15. Boomstick says:

    As a kid I actually saw the John Waters’ “Polyester” movie in the theater with the “Odorama” scratch ‘n sniff card.

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  16. Rob says:

    I think motion pictures are destined to remain a two-sense experience.

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  17. @Bill M

    THAT is how you get people to pay to watch a movie somewhere besides their den or bedroom.
     
    Yes, but with laptops you can now watch movies while sitting on the toilet. The theaters can't beat that.

    If you like

    A) sitting on a toilet seat in your stuffy bathroom, your overheated laptop making your thighs sweaty for 3 hours (most movies are less than 2 hours but you keep pausing the action every few minutes to respond to Facebook messages)

    more than

    B) relaxing in a comfortable chair in a beautifully decorated building where pretty girls serve you reasonably-priced alcoholic drinks

    then I guess even theaters like the one I described just won’t win you over. Hey, maybe (A) sounds like a great time to you, but for those 2-3 movies I watch per year I prefer an experience closer to (B).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill M
    I get AC in my bathroom and I have a stand where I set my laptop.
  18. FredR says:

    I recently went to one of those theaters where you have a pod and a waiter comes over to serve you food and alcohol. I wasn’t super into it but I could see that taking off.

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  19. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    $27 per, huh?

    Hm.....

    Also, nowadays home entertainment systems can rival the standard multiplex of the late 90s so the ante must really have to be raised down at the ol' corner theatre. The entertainment system can create the multiplex not just for films but TV as well. Whether its standard fare from Modern Family and the Simpsons, to highbrow culture a la Breaking Bad.

    Speaking of Modern Family, msm.com released some gov census that 2.3% of adults are lez and/or gay.

    That must mean something but not exactly certain what.

    2.3% self-identify, not “are.” As Nick Diaz can tell you, the other 7.7% are too ashamed to admit it.

    Read More
  20. Bill M says:
    @Power Child
    If you like

    A) sitting on a toilet seat in your stuffy bathroom, your overheated laptop making your thighs sweaty for 3 hours (most movies are less than 2 hours but you keep pausing the action every few minutes to respond to Facebook messages)

    more than

    B) relaxing in a comfortable chair in a beautifully decorated building where pretty girls serve you reasonably-priced alcoholic drinks

    then I guess even theaters like the one I described just won't win you over. Hey, maybe (A) sounds like a great time to you, but for those 2-3 movies I watch per year I prefer an experience closer to (B).

    I get AC in my bathroom and I have a stand where I set my laptop.

    Read More
  21. […] Movies in 4DX: The Future Is What It Used to be […]

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