Cineworld in Milton Keynes has given a glimpse of what the future of cinema may be and it's not 3D. In fact, it's beyond 3D as we found out in the UK's first ever 4DX screening.
We were invited to the cinema's screening of Kingsman: The Secret Service and while we were excited to see a film that has been on our radar for a while, the main reason was to find out exactly what a 4DX presentation has to offer. A lot as it turns out.
You'll be able to get the full experience for yourself, at the Milton Keynes Cineworld, as it opens its doors to the new venture. But what awaits you? What is 4DX and why could it change cinema forever?
What is 4DX cinema?
As you've probably gathered from the name 4DX, it is the next step beyond 4D, which already adds plenty to 3D. In a nutshell, it's a cinema that not only stimulates your eyes and ears but your other senses too.
The chair can move, while the air in the room is blown about. The lights flash as well, plus smells and bubbles are used to draw you further in. With 140 seats and a 5.8m by 10.5m screen (that's bigger than a double decker bus), it certainly offers more than any TV at home.
4DX: The backstory
This isn't the first time a 4D video experience has been offered, with theme parks like Thorpe Park and Disneyland showing off 4D films for years. Dedicated theatres also spray you with water and vibrate your chairs while you watch a film in 3D, but they never quite managed it with big mainstream Hollywood movies. At least not on a massive scale. Until a South Korean firm took a bold step.
The overall 4DX experience was developed in South Korea by the CJ conglomerate and is already operating in 150 auditoriums in 30 countries. It has been since 2010. The first film to be released in 4DX was Avatar, and since then titles including Gravity, Frozen and Captain America: Winter Soldier have been given the 4DX treatment.
The 4DX technology has been tailored to work with over 200 feature-length films in all, edited by a dedicated team. Apparently, directors are already expressing interest in filming movies that are made for 4DX. Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron is one Hollywood success who wants to get involved.
That includes new technology that needs to be fitted into cinemas to provide the additional sensory effects. Smell-i-vision included.
For example, we were taken behind the scenes and to see the compressors for air and water as well as the smoke and bubble machines. There was also a rack filled with various scents including coffee and rubber. They smelled strong and intensely of what they were supposed to represent. We were told that directors will be able to request new smells, and they can be manufactured specifically for the film.
What does it feel like?
The cinema itself feels like a lot more like an IMAX, offering something extra for your ticket price. In an age where films can be attained for cheap - or illegally - and watched on impressive home cinema systems, cinema sales are dipping. So this offer of something that you can't get at home might be the key to Hollywood remaining the big budget profit-making machine that it is.
And that starts with your seat. The seat doesn’t just vibrate, it moves like a full-on simulator, tilting you forward, backward, side to side and even nudging you in the back to make a fight scene feel more real.
The wind effects are great too, blowing air past your ear when a bullet rushes by on screen. Or you get a steady gust moving about as you watch a plane flying through the air.
Then there's the water. This comes in mist-and-droplet form, which gave us a nice wake-up shock during a scene with a gush of water. Thankfully though, should you want to stay high and dry, there is a button in the arm that allows you to turn it off.
Combining water and air is an impressive layer for immersion. We felt a splash and blow on the legs as the film's character jumped into a puddle, for example.
If nothing else the movement keeps you awake and stops you from going numb in your seat during the film - it was a bit like a massage chair in many ways. A really violent massage chair.
Are there downsides?
The only thing that we didn't find that effective was the smoke. This came out in clouds at the front when there was an explosion, but it didn't go very far or linger long. It just acted to block the screen a bit, which pulled us back to reality.
Also... the smells. While they were strong in the back room near the blowers, they were barely noticeable during the film. In fact, we'd go so far as to say they seemed not to be turned on at all during our screening.
Should you pay more for a 4DX screening?
So here's the crux. Is 4DX worth it? Should you pay more to be part of a 4DX screening? The answer is... yes!
In all honesty we would happily pay extra for this experience: £15.30 a ticket at present. Once you've overcome the initial shock, it does enhance the film. At first, we thought the shaking and wind would keep pulling us back to reality with physical shocks, but we soon got acclimated. Once at that stage, the extra sensations just enhanced the films excitement while keeping us deep in the action. If nothing else, it's worth paying more for the leg room.
What's next for 4DX?
Cineworld has 15 IMAX screens nationwide, with 84 cinemas in total in the UK. It also has the largest 3D screen in Europe at The O2 with its 24.4 metre offering. But it is 4DX that'll be its future, with plans for Sheffield and Glasgow screens this year and a further four or five each year nationwide.
If you want to give the 4DX cinema experience a go, all you need to do is get to Cineworld in Milton Keynes, where Kingsman: The Secret Service is showing now. Tickets are priced at £15.30 each.