4DX wants to take you inside films like 'Batman v Superman'

Using seats that shake, wind that blows and even a little water, 4DX theaters hope to upsell movie goers as the tech expands to New York.

Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
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Mike Sorrentino
3 min read

Note: Small spoilers from the opening moments of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ahead.

It's a chilly day at the funeral of a married couple shot on the street by a thug. The cold wind blows by as their surviving son runs into the woods, stricken by grief.

I don't know the family, and truthfully, I'm not actually attending this ceremony.

I'm sitting in a movie theater at a recent press demo of the "4DX" technology being used to bring "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" to life both on-screen and in the room.


A representative advised to not keep my coat on the back of the seat, as water effects could get it wet.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

The Regal Cinemas at Union Square in New York is the third location in the United States with this tech, which can be found in about 35 countries around the world. It opened its new 4DX theater on March 25.

"It took us five years to get to New York City finally," said Brendon Choi, the CEO of CJ 4DPLEX, the Seoul, South Korea-based entertainment firm that owns and manages the 4DX experience, at the demo.

Another 4DX theater is set to launch April 28 at the Regal E-Walk 13 located near Times Square. The tech is also being used at a Regal theater in Los Angeles and a Marcus Theatres location in Gurnee, Illinois. There are two 4DX theaters in the UK, according to the company's website, but none currently listed in Australia.

The technology brings seats that shake, blowing wind, lighting effects, fog that fumes in front of the screen and even water that sprays out from the seats. All of this is designed to draw movie watchers deeper into the cinematic experience. Blockbusters like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Jurassic World" were among this year's movies to get the 4DX treatment.

The 4DX seats are larger than the usual movie seat. Instead of placing your feet on the floor, they sit in a foot rest attached to the chair. The demo, which took place last week, lasted for about 20 minutes. We saw a short reel highlighting several of the effects and the first few moments of DC Comics' new superhero showdown.

Some of the effects were both subtle and profound. The wind in the opening of "Batman v Superman" enveloped me as if I was standing at that chilly funeral. The vibration of the seat added some context as to what it could feel like running through the ravaged city seen in the beginning of the movie


A switch that toggles on and off the water effects in the theatre is located next to the drink holder.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

However, a number of the effects were jarring. The most obtrusive was the occasional blast of air right into my ears. There were also lighting effects and smoke, and while neither obscured my view, they called more attention to the theater than the film itself. I didn't notice the water spritz during my demo (an effect that can be turned off by flipping a switch on the seat).

CJ 4DPLEX works with the final version of the film to create effects used inside the theater, but movie studios do get involved in deciding how the experience plays out, said Sang H. Cho, the company's head of content partnerships. Upcoming movies mentioned that will use the tech include "The Huntsman: Winter's War," "The Jungle Book" and "Captain America: Civil War."

In New York, 4DX adds $8 to the ticket price. That means seeing the 3D edition of "Batman v Superman" with the added environmental effects costs $28.10. That seems fair when likened to the cost of going on rides at a local fair, but makes a fairly expensive movie-going experience.

Also, even if you are paying the premium to go on this ride...this particular superhero film is 2 hours and 33 minutes long. While I did not get to demo the entirety of "Batman v Superman" in 4DX, I'd probably want to start with a shorter film like "Zootopia," which was screened in the theaters earlier this year.

What film would I most like to see in the 4DX? "Titanic," if only to feel the wind whizz by as Leonardo DiCaprio holds Kate Winslet on the bow of the doomed ship.