Outside of virtual reality, 4DX movie theatres might be the most immersive experience in entertainment today. Despite the drawback of a smaller screen overall, you get the added senses of smell, touch, and movement. So when the protagonist in a movie is on horseback through snow-covered fields, you get to feel the wind and snow lapping at your face, or at least a taste of it.
So with seats that move side-to-side and throw you back and forth with every action sequence, which is objectively the best?
Well, in a far different direction than IMAX, 4DX has taken to immersion in a far different way than screen size and resolution. Due to this, the size of the screen is notably smaller than most competing types of theatres, which will play a factor in where exactly you want to sit. The rule of thumb does tend to be the smaller the screen the closer you should sit towards it, though reviewers have reported nausea from sitting too close to the screen in tandem with the often-moving chairs, so be wary if you do sit too close.
Contrary to what Einstein said, the fourth dimension is not in fact time. Well, actually, it likely is but not where these theatres are concerned. The 4DX name comes from the several different senses that are used to create the fully immersive experience of 4DX Theatres. The chairs can roll, pitch, sway, twist, even flick at your ankles and they can do all of these things in tandem with one another.
These theatres also offer a front panel that can shoot air to represent action or force, when it rains in the film you will get a spritz of water (more of a gentle drizzle than a super soaker, thankfully) that shoots from the front panel of the seat in front of you. They have added scent effects or smell-o-vision to add a number of different aromas to fit the setting of the film, including sea breeze, grass, and even coffee. They also offer bubbling effects, fog machines, fans throughout the theatre to add gusts of wind on top of a warm air dispenser behind your neck.
For those in the market for an action or horror movie, these added effects are likely a perfect compliment to an already invigorating or terrifying experience. Imagine watching a horror film and feeling something touch the back of your leg. If you are the type of person who enjoys this horrifying depth to your slasher flicks, perfect! If you are going to see the film Sense And Sensibility you probably don’t need the added effects, however.
Typically speaking when it comes to the theater, going with a center seat is usually ideal. In the case of 4DX, I think that would be a poor decision that would limit your ability to enjoy all of what it has to offer. Not only do you have to consider the considerably smaller size of these screens compared to most cinemas, but you also have to realize that several of the sensory effects are limited to the front of the cinema. So while you will still feel the terrifying tickle at your heel, the snow effects will be so far away they will seem like they are part of the film.
For both of these reasons, the best seats seem to be somewhere more towards the front, while horizontally positioned in the center of your row. This doesn’t mean you wanna be within tickling range of the screen itself, but you should position yourself a few rows away from the screen to get the entire experience, bubbles and all.
Sitting in the middle would likely be the next best spot if you can’t get front to fifth-row seating, though some of the effects will come across as flat during the experience. The upside is you will likely get a slightly better perspective than those directly next to the screen, and you should still feel most of the effects without much issue.
The bane of the 4DX experience seems to absolutely be the back rows, despite my usual praise of this often-overlooked spot. The small screen will give you a bit of trouble taking in everything from a farther out position and this isn’t even considering the fact that there will be times your chair is rocking you around like The Zipper at a state fair. On top of this, the effects that come from the front, like the bubbles and snow will be practically nonexistent for you. 4DX tickets do not come cheaply, you deserve the full experience if you are going to pay for them.
As far as sound placement goes, like most theatres, your best served plumb in the middle of your row. There does seem to be a benefit to positioning yourself more towards the middle of the cinema vertically due to the placement of the surround sound speakers, though not enough to recommend it over the seats in the front rows (ideally the fourth or fifth back). Your opinions may justifiably differ, but I believe if you go to a 4DX film you go there more for the effects than the impressive surround sound.
Tips & Tricks For 4DX Cinema
While researching for this article I came into a lot of knowledge that is likely very important for those of us experiencing 4DX for the first time. For the sake of your overall experience and ensuring that you don’t spill soda all over your date, I’ve decided to list a few helpful pieces of advice to keep your experience enjoyable throughout.
Be selective and patient when consuming snacks or drinks, for the sake of yourself and those in your immediate vicinity. Have you ever tried to take a sip of water going over a speedbump and accidentally doused yourself? Well, imagine trying to take a sip of water while your chairs are reenacting the drift of a sports car or the roll of a fighter aircraft. You should also make sure you have a cap on whatever you bring in or at least a lid.
Try to keep your hands and feet resting on things that they are supposed to, you don’t wanna find them between chairs or on one of the effect panels. While most people like to relax and lean back in a 2D film, this might be uncomfortable with the added movement of the seats, so bear that in mind when seating yourself.
The last thing I’ll add is that several people have noted that when they sit in the very front rows, they can tend to feel nauseous. So if you are someone prone to motion sickness or nausea in general, it may be wise to sit a few rows back to lessen the likelihood of an upset stomach.
If you have access to a nearby 4DX theater, you should absolutely give them a try. They are thrilling the first time they are experienced, even if the novelty may wear off after a few movies. If you can handle the closer perspective of the screen, I would strongly recommend sitting at around the fourth or fifth row. This doesn’t mean the movie is ruined if you sit somewhere else, but for my money, these two rows offer the best experience in 4DX!