Seoul's 4D theater takes special effects way too seriously

Seoul's 4D theater takes special effects way too seriously

CGV's self-proclaimed "world's first 4D theater" will never let you sleep again during a movie
CGV 4D-X
The seats may be cushy and expansive, but you will not be able to fall asleep with it constantly jerking you in all four directions.

"4D film" has been around for a while. The idea of enhancing a regular screening with haunted house effects like wind, water, movement, and scent is not wholly new.

But these gimmicks were solely the domain of amusement park rides, a wholly different category of entertainment -- not films. An amusement park ride is, at most, five minutes, while a feature film can run for two hours. 

Yet Korean movie theater titan CGV seems confident that it can win audiences over with its 4-D cinemas, which they have branded "4D-X." 

For CGV, the 4D-X theater is only one of many in an impressive roster of specialty theaters, including the couple-oriented "Sweetbox" theater, with its couch-like double seats, and "Gold Class," a luxurious theater that mimics the interior of an aircraft's first class.

These "4D-X" theaters, which have opened in several CGV locations across Seoul as well as in Daegu and Busan, feature large, cushy seats with footrests, and all manner of gadgets, hidden and visible, embedded in the seats themselves. 

"4D-X is the first of its kind in the world," said CGV public relations representative Kim Dae-hee. 

"We only opened officially in November. So we're still young, and so people don't know how much we've improved on the 4-D concept." 

The theater literally employs special effects such as wind, scent, water and vibrations, hoping make theatergoers feel like they are actually in the film. 

For example, "Immortals," the Tarsem Singh film currently in 4D-X theaters across Seoul, is accompanied by appropriate jerking motions of the seat when characters stumble, and puffs of wind when there is wind in the film, among other effects. 

CGV 4D-XThe dramatically-lit entrance to the 4D-X theater in the Cheongdam Cinecity CGV.


Due to the dynamic nature of a 4D-X screening, anyone who may be susceptible to heart attacks or back pain, is pregnant, or less than four years old, or less than 100 centimeters tall will not be admitted. 

But even for movie fans well enough to attend, the question is whether the hiked-up 4D-X prices -- at ₩18,000, almost twice that of a regular ticket -- are worth it. 

"It was very fun," says theatergoer Lee Jae-min, after seeing "Immortals". "But at points it was almost painful, especially when the chair simulated punching." 

Another audience member, Cherry Choi, was more cautious in her praise. "It was enjoyable because it was my first time," she says "But I wouldn't want to go again. The effects were cool, but unnecessary." 

Maybe 4D-X isn't the best bet for film buffs who just want to see the damn film without being jabbed in the back or sprayed with perfume. 

But if you're more flexible about what a movie viewing experience should be, or looking for a bit of novelty in your movie dates, 4D-X wants you to give them a chance. 

You can find 4D-X theaters in the following CGV locations: Gangbyeon, Sangam, Wangsimni, Cheongdam Cinecity, Ilsan, Busan Centum City, Incheon, Jukjeon, Gwangju (Terminal), Daejeon, Yongsan, and Yeongdeungpo. The Cheongdam Cinecity branch guarantees the best sound. 

651-21 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu (서울 강남구 신사동 651-21); +82 1544 1122; www.cgv.co.kr

Violet Kim is a freelance writer for CNN Travel.

Find her online @pomography.

Read more about Violet Kim
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