All photos by Eli Green
On Friday, The Cineplex VIP Cinema at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto opened up its latest attraction, cutting the ribbon on the first 4DX auditorium in Canada. We were invited to the ceremony for a screening of Doctor Strange, and now we’re back to tell you everything you need to know about the latest trend in cinema.
For starters, the fact that Toronto’s first 4DX movie is about a man with the ability to manipulate time was merely a coincidence. Though 4DX is new to Canada, the concept was developed in South Korea by CJ 4DPLEX and there are already hundreds of theatres in dozens of countries around the world. It’s basically the next IMAX, with a rapidly expanding number of locations.
As for the details, 4DX is a new premium screening format that blends conventional cinema with theme park practical effects. The motorized seats are organized in banks of four that shake up and down throughout a film, while the auditorium is packed a slew of other tricks. We were sprayed with water when Stephen Strange crashed his car during a rainstorm. Later, snowflakes drifted in front of the screen when he made a short excursion to the Himalayas. We were hit with wind and fog on multiple occasions, while the seats vibrate like massage chairs that are synchronized with the fight scenes (the sensation is actually rather relaxing).
All in all, it makes for a more immersive movie going experience. Some of the effects are better than others – you feel like you’re falling into the frame whenever the seats tilt forward in conjunction with the camera – but the sensation is not so extreme that it distracts you from the movie (I had no trouble following the mind-bending logic of Doctor Strange). Sometimes it feels like you’re focused on either the movie or the 4D trappings, but for the most part the two complement each other in an organic way.
So is 4DX worth the upcharge?
It depends. At $25 for a single seat, the 4DX theatre is far more expensive than your average ticket, and the upsell is by no means mandatory. If a movie is well made – and Doctor Strange is well made – you’ll have just as much fun in 3D (or even 2D) as you will in 4D, which is to say that 4D does not make all other types of theatres obsolete.
With that said, 4DX is worth the price of admission. It’s a gimmick, but as gimmicks go the price isn’t too obscene. For a little more money, you get a slightly more intense experience that enhances a movie without overpowering it. I wouldn’t want to go every week, but as an occasional novelty it’s a way to make a big movie feel more special. Cinema chains have struggled to compete as home entertainment systems have improved, and 4DX unquestionably offers something you can’t get at home.
It’s worth noting that the 4DX tickets for movies screened in 2D are only $22, though there’s only one auditorium in Toronto and no shortage of 3D blockbusters. I’d guess that the vast majority of movies screened in the theatre will make you spring for the extra dimension. I’d also be wary of snacks, if only because moving seats are not necessarily compatible with large bags of popcorn.
However, those are relatively minor concerns that distract from the overall point. I had fun watching Doctor Strange in 4DX. If you’ve got the money to spare, you probably will too. It’s a neat way to see a movie, and that’s ultimately all that matters.