While awards season has hit the headlines and UK box office takings have reached a record high, there has been another under-the-radar update from the world of cinema. London has opened its first-ever 4DX cinema, described by Cineworld as the “biggest innovation in cinematic technology to date”.

Cineworld Wandsworth now plays host to a super screen, with high-tech moving seats and special effects. 4DX is designed to stimulate all five senses, with effects including wind, fog, lightning, rain and scents experienced in sync with the film. It has seen a surge in popularity recently; the technology has now been installed at 350 screens worldwide, and 42 films were released in 4DX in 2016 alone.

With admissions up YoY, cinema has never been stronger. It has fought off the threat of home entertainment and is putting up a fight against the streaming giants and their mind-boggling budgets (Netflix is spending £4.8 billion on content in 2017). Ad revenues and box office takings continue to grow, with 2016 breaking UK records as cinema’s most successful year to date.

Although it’s looking up, cinema needs to innovate to stay ahead of the curve. As a channel often relied on to support others, it’s always more at risk of being cut from media plans than TV, for example. 4DX and other innovations, such as pop-up screens and boutique cinema events, are brand extensions that are crucial to keeping cinema advertising front of mind.

4DX isn’t just a novelty for cinema-goers, or, as film critic Mark Kermode complained, a way for “buck-hungry Hollywood producers” to maintain their bank balances. There is also an opportunity for brands to do something new and exciting.

ITV this month used 4DX to push the new series of The Voice, with moving seats and strobe lighting re-creating the experience of being in the audience during the audition. A multisensory experience increases the impact of ads, making them immersive and memorable. Ads designed with 4DX in mind will work best, but the format lends itself to updating existing creative. Some seat movements and a splash of water might just do the trick to reinvigorate a tried-and-tested 30” creative.

Advertisers in the food industry, for example, should relish the opportunity to showcase their products via 4DX, providing they smell as good as they look. Outside of that, entertainment brands seem the perfect fit for 4DX, bringing films, games and music videos to life.

That’s not to say 4DX doesn’t have its drawbacks – not all films are suited to the format. It is up to filmmakers and advertisers to use the technology in the right way to stop it from becoming a gimmick. For the sake of innovation and variety, let’s hope 4DX finds its audience and doesn’t go the same way as the ill-fated Smell-O-Vision.

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