In the ’50s, as theatrical exhibitors fretted over the looming threat of television decreasing ticket sales, some movie houses courted audiences with gimmicky new offerings like Cinerama, a method of projection that joins three separate images into one panorama on a huge curved screen, and Smell-O-Vision, which is exactly what it sounds like. Things eventually cooled off, movies and TV established a peaceful coexistence, and many theaters laid some of the more desperate ploys for attendance to rest. But now here we are, with the menaces of online streaming, On Demand, and TV being so good right now once again putting theater owners in a nervous sweat.
This time around, huge technological advances have lent the panicky measures taken by exhibitors a more futuristic slant. Earlier today, at the annual movie-exhibitor convention appropriately named CinemaCon, theater chain Cineplex Entertainment signed a deal to introduce the first commercial 4D cinema to Canada. The contract with CJ 4Dplex, which is a South Korean tech company and not an auto-generated password, would place CJ’s proprietary 4DX equipment in a Toronto theater for a launch this summer, adding everything from rumble-chairs to scent piped into the theater to wind and bubbles into the moviegoing experience. According to CJ’s official site, the United States already has three 4DX screens across New York, Los Angeles, and, inexplicably, Gurnee, Illinois, but this marks Canada’s first brush with the new paradigm.
Meanwhile, yesterday brought the equally jarring news that the upcoming Star Trek Beyond would screen using the newfangled projection technique known as Barco Escape, a close descendant of Cinerama. Instead of overlapping corresponding projections on a single screen, the Barco Escape places connected screens at the front of the theater as well as on either side wall to form a larger image. Beyond‘s producer Ben Rosenblatt explained his reasoning for embracing this new technique: “When you’re on the bridge of the Enterprise, you might see additional coverage of the bridge. Or you might see the Enterprise coming across the screen — and maybe you’ll see more and the attacking forces. There are new ships and antagonists that are well suited to the expanded image.”
Coming July 22 to a theater near you: larger, more detailed bridges!