If you're looking for wind, snow, rain and the scent of fresh-mowed grass with your movie, then head to Vista, where the county's first 4DX cinema opened Thursday at the Cinépolis theater.
The theme park-like movie experience - which costs $8 more than a regular ticket - puts show-goers on a sometimes wild ride with the film they're watching.
The auditorium's 165 seats buck and roll, vibrate and pound your back, machines spray mist and rain droplets, a mix of pinpoint and wall fans can churn up a windstorm and other devices fill the auditorium with fog, bubbles and snow-like suds. There's also a small rubber wand that may tickle your ankles and a scent sprayer pumps out up to nine different smells, including gunpowder, peach, wood, rose and beef.
The 4DX theater is one of two "experiential" auditoriums now open at Vista's Cinépolis, which on Thursday also opened Cinépolis Junior. The colorful 133-seat auditorium has been converted for the exclusive use of parents with small children. A huge enclosed play structure lines one wall of the theater and there's a tot play area down front, as well as choice of beanbags, padded loungers and traditional chairs for film-viewing.
The Junior auditorium will only show G- and PG-rated films, and tickets cost $1 more than the regular movie price (which is $10-$14).
Annelise Holyoak, national marketing manager for Cinépolis USA, said the company has been adding specially adapted auditoriums to its theaters in Latin and South America for the past decade as a way to counter the trend toward home movie-viewing.
"This is something you can't get at home," Holyoak said. "These days people have home theaters and digital movies so they need a new reason to get off the couch."
Cinépolis, which is based in Mexico, chose Vista and Pico Rivera for its initial rollout of 4DX. The Junior theater in Vista is not only the first for Cinépolis in the U.S., it's also believed to be the first movie theater designed for children in the United States, Holyoak said. Vista and Pico Rivera were selected for the U.S. introductions because they're family-oriented communities, she said.
4DX was developed in 2009 in South Korea and has since been introduced at 360 theaters in 44 countries. In the U.S., there are 4DX theaters in L.A., New York, Chicago, Orlando and Puerto Rico, with another planned next week in Seattle, according to Jane Lee, a 4DX marketing associate.
"What 4DX does is allow the audience to feel the story as it's happening onscreen," Lee said. "It's a completely immersive experience."
4DX software designers works with film producers to embed software cues into the film's digital code, a process that can take one week to one month, depending on the number of effects desired. Action, sci-fi and superhero movies are an obvious fit for 4DX, but the codes have been written for films as benign as Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which played in Vista on Thursday night.
At an afternoon media screening of "Kong: Skull Island," the seats were in near-constant motion and vibrating with the chop of helicopters, then turning and shuddering as the giant ape Kong knocked them out of the sky. Whenever characters splashed into the water, raindrops fell from overhead, and fog and water spray accented the misty environment of Skull Island. One of the most amusing effects was the droplets of water that fell on your face when giant spider guts or blood was spattered onscreen. And when Kong pounded his chest, you could feel the thuds reverberate with simultaneous pumps of pressure in your back.
Films play for one week only in the 4DX auditoriums, Lee said, so there's always a demand and sellouts are common. In weeks where there are no new releases, Lee said classic titles and recent releases will be presented so there's always a 4DX option available.Tickets went on sale Thursday morning, so it was too soon to say how well the new auditoriums will play with Vista moviegoers, but Lee said that at Regal Cinemas with 4DX, those auditoriums are among the highest-grossing in the chain. Moviegoers can check for upcoming 4DX releases on the Cinépolis website.
Lee said moviegoers like the idea of a multisensory experience, and there are some elements that are everyone's favorites.
"The real 'ooh ahh' moment always comes when snow starts falling in the theater," she said. "And the bubbles are fun. Like when you're watching 'Finding Nemo.' I was watching 'Moana' recently and the wind in my face was really nice."