4D and immersive effects bolster cinema sector
Tim Kridel catches up with Byung-Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX, a supplier of multisensory effects for cinema theatres.
TK: Does your company have a staff that designs and installs 4DX at each theatre? Or do you sometimes use local partners for that?
BHC: It depends on a project-to-project basis. The 4DX equipment is manufactured in-house in South Korea, then shipped to wherever it needs to go. Our technical support team oversees the installation and implementation but in terms of labour, we work with the exhibitor’s vendors for construction hires.
TK: Some exhibitors rent out their facilities for non-film events such as business meetings, concerts and multiplayer video games. Do any of your customers offer their 4DX-equipped theatres for those applications? It seems like a good fit. For example, many of your effects would enhance the gaming experience. If so, would the content provider (such as a gaming company, in this example) have to do anything to make its content 4DX-ready?
BHC: That could be fun idea, but not yet. As of right now, our 4DX theatres are dedicated just for films – but, with that being said, we’re ambitious and always looking for opportunities to expand and grow. We definitely don’t want to limit ourselves.
More recently, we hosted a very successful joint event with El Rey network’s Lucha Underground, a pro wrestling television series, where we screened their season three finale in 4DX. We saw an opportunity to try and screen a different kind of media, which led to a lot of positive press, at a reach of nearly 200 mil.
We took a detour, and were very pleased with the results!
We have actually also developed our own 4DX VR technology that’s currently featured in theme parks and arcades around the world. The VR world is an interesting, growing industry which with we want to keep up. We’re always on the lookout for interesting collaboration projects, specifically in the gaming and alternative contents field!
TK: Your January 4, 2018, press release says that “a sizable portion of this year’s expansion came from Europe.” InAVate magazine is focused on Europe, so readers would be interested in what’s driving 4DX adoption in the region. For example, is it basically because new exhibitor customers such as Kitag Cinemas saw the success of 4DX in the US and wanted to achieve the same? Or are there unique aspects of the European cinema market that are also driving the sudden increase in adoption?
BHC: We first opened in Europe in 2012. 4DX then expanded throughout Eastern Europe quite readily but took a little bit longer to expand into the Western and Northern European markets. Last year, we finally opened in France with Pathe and in Norway with Nordisk, and saw a rapid expansion of 4DX from there. 4DX performed remarkably well which led to other exhibitors becoming very excited to bring a 4DX onto their sites.
TK: What do you see as the big trends and challenges in the cinema market in Europe and elsewhere? (These could be technological, marketplace or both.) For example, more exhibitors seem to be upgrading to technologies such as laser projection, 4K and immersive audio, mainly as ways to provide an experience that gets people to see films in a theatre rather than at home. What are you seeing around the industry?
The tides are turning in the cinema market right now. As home video streaming became prevalent over the last few years, the movie theatre/film industry got hit pretty hard. Upgrading technologies has been one idea, and converging new technologies has been another.
For us, this moment led to 4DX VR and the development of our latest premium cinema-viewing format – ScreenX. Featuring a three-panel movie screen, ScreenX offers a whopping 270-degree view. Think about seeing a film like Pirates of the Caribbean where you can experience scenes as if you’re surrounded by the waves and the sea. It’s really something to experience and there’s nothing like this out there on the market. We like to try and keep ahead of the curve.
We’re trying to get people back into the habit of going to the theatres again. We see enhanced cinema experiences as the first big step in achieving that, to create an atmosphere that can only be available in theatres. Not to just sit back and watch a movie, but to really experience it, to be immersed in it. We started with 4DX, then came ScreenX, and now 4DX VR. We’re not done yet – we’re still tinkering and developing projects to bring the most innovative, premium cinematic formats to audiences and the big screen. What’s next for us is '4DX with ScreenX' – converging our two premium formats, 4DX and ScreenX, into one. It’s in the works, so keep an eye out.