MY IDEA of the perfect movie experience is to catch the latest film on the biggest screen I can find, with the best sound system ever engineered, while sitting on the plushest seat I can afford – and accompanied by friends, of course.
However, Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) sees the future of cinema as not being such a passive experience.
The cinema chain has already set in motion plans to shake cinema-goers from their comfort zone, with the introduction of its first 4DX cinema hall in the Klang Valley.
The newly-renovated Hall 7 located at GSC 1 Utama in Bandar Utama uses South Korea’s CJ 4DPlex technology that can create 20 signature motion and environmental effects to enhance the movie-viewing experience.
This is the second such hall for GSC in the country, after the opening of its first 4DX hall in Johor almost a year ago.
I was invited along with other media personnel to get a first-hand experience of the CJ 4DPlex technology with the screening of the science-fiction action movie, Bumblebee.
On entering Hall 7, I was faced with the intimidating sight of groups of four seats resting atop an accordion-like structure, making them taller-than-average cinema seats.
Each seat features a footrest to help movie-goers climb on to their seat, armrests to brace themselves with, and a cup holder on each side.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I noticed nozzles at the top, front, and back of each headrest.
High up, suspended on the walls on each side of the hall was an array of fans pointing directly at us, and plastic tubes connected to large plastic tanks partially hidden behind blackboards labelled 4DX.
According to the mandatory health and safety warning video before the start of the movie, the 4DX experience is not appropriate for infants, small children, the elderly, and people with health issues.
It also warns viewers to keep their legs within the footrest at all times, not to get up from their seats unnecessarily, and that hot drinks are strictly prohibited in this hall.
I ignored the safety video at first, only to find out during the movie why we should heed its warning.
The 4DX literally turned Bumblebee into an almost two-hour-long, exhausting roller-coaster ride.
As early as the parade of company logos that always preceded the start of a movie, the seats were already bumping to simulate quakes, and there was rumbling to emulate the deep bass, and lights flashing to bursts of thunder.
Bumblebee opens with a battle scene on the planet Cybertron.
Within the first jolt of the seats at the start of the action, a handful of popcorn escaped the box I was holding.
I was immediately thankful that my iced lemon tea in the cup holder came with a plastic cover.
The shaking and sudden movements continued, with bursts of cold air coming from the fans right above us on the ceiling.
Then a smell (purportedly of war, but which smelt like betel leaves to me) filled the air, and ‘fog’ from smoke machines beneath the theatre screen started to obscure it.
If that wasn’t enough, spurts of water came from nozzles on top and behind each headrest.
Thankfully, these water effects can be turned off at a push of a button.
By the third action scene, when Bumblebee encounters Blitzwing on Earth, I was dreading what would come next.
I had spent most of the time trying to keep myself on the seat while it thrashed around, and was wishing I had put on a coat because of all the water and wind effects.
Good thing I had watched Bumblebee before this, as my mind was definitely not on the movie at all.
The whole experience made me come to the conclusion that 4DX is for the young – those young enough to be fascinated by fake snow and bubble machines (which are part of the 4DX repertoire of
environmental effects), strong enough to survive the violent jolts and shakes of the seats, and hardy enough to withstand the cold from the fans and sprays of water.
To really experience the full range of this technology, I feel the right movie is important.
I would prefer a movie where the camera is part of the action, like First Man (which may be too much for viewers to handle), or Aquaman.
Also, I bet if the seats shifted in tandem with the movements of the camera, instead of based upon what the characters are experiencing, it would be a better experience.
GSC has plans to open two more 4DX halls later this year, one in Putrajaya and a second hall in Johor.
There are also plans to open its first multi-projection ScreenX cinema this year.
This Korean-based technology literally turns the whole theatre hall into a 270° panoramic movie experience.
Maybe this will be more to my taste.