First 4DX Theater in U.S. a Hit with Audiences, Data Shows (EXCLUSIVE)

It jerks. It rumbles. It sprays. It smokes. It smells.

Now 4DX, the souped up theatrical experience that premiered at Regal Cinemas LA Live location this June, is outperforming traditional movie theaters, according to statistics shared exclusively with Variety.

The 104-seat theater, the first of its kind in the U.S., played to sellout weekend crowds and enjoyed a 63% occupancy rate regardless of the day of the week or the showtime, despite being unveiled right as the summer box office suffered a sharp plunge. Ticket sales for the summer were down 15% year-over-year, but the theater took advantage of its uniqueness in order to draw crowds. Most theaters operate at between 10% to 15% capacity.

“There was certainly the ‘new kid in town factor,’ but we’ve seen in other territories that we have three to four times the occupancy rates of most theaters,” said Angela Killoren, chief marketing officer of CJ 4DPlex America, Inc.

The technology has been around for some time, just not in the States. In 2009, a 4D version of “Avatar” was released in South Korea, which is where CJ 4DPlex’s parent company is based.

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A subsidiary of a distribution and exhibition company, CJ 4DPlex provides the technology for 112 4D theaters in more than 20 countries throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas. Tickets Stateside cost $22 on average, but for that premium price, moviegoers get to kick back in motion-based seating in a theater that spays water, emits odors and jerks visitors around, all synchronized to the on-screen action.

Moviegoers seem interested in taking this particular ride. Over its 13-day 4D engagement, for example, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” generated $105,016 in ticket sales compared to a U.S. average of $44,054 during the same period. That’s an 138% improvement. Likewise, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” capitalized on its action-heavy plot to deliver $94,247 in ticket sales in one 4DX location over its first 13 days compared to an industry average of $38,404. That’s 145% better.

To be sure, the higher ticket prices guarantee higher revenues, but the results are still impressive. Other films that got a 4D bump include “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which generated $46,203 in receipts over a six-day run in August, 49% higher than the $31,069 made on a U.S. per-theater basis. Same goes for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which racked up $44,361 over six days, 101% better than the per-theater average of $22,088.

Box office disappointments, such as “The Expendables 3,” also benefited from the extra bells and whistles. The action sequel racked up $22,604 during a seven-day run, which was 248% better than $6,494 per-theater average.

“Even films that were considered off their game or didn’t perform as well, did even better in 4DX,” said Killoren. “Those people who did want to see these films wanted to see it in new and exciting formats.”

CJ 4DPlex is in talks with other theater chains about building new outposts, but no deals have been set, Killoren said. For theater-owners looking for ways to make moviegoing a seven day a week proposition, 4D could be just the ticket.

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