Business / Tech

Innovative cinemas try to show home viewing is no great shakes

by Anna Masui

Kyodo

Cinema operators are fighting to lure people away from tablets and smartphones and back into theaters, adopting enhancements to the traditional movie experience.

Toho Cinemas Ltd. has introduced what it calls a 4-D system, which adds tactile stimulation to 3-D. Three theaters in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture have received the upgrade since April.

This summer, one of them, Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, screened “Attack on Titan,” a motion picture based on the popular Japanese manga series of the same name. A reporter went along for the ride.

Shortly after the movie began, the seats began to rock in response to the action. Water later sprayed out from near the armrests and smoke belched from around the screen.

“I enjoyed the gimmick, as it was like a theme park attraction. There were even smells,” a 33-year-old woman from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, said afterwards.

The 4-D service is available for a surcharge of ¥1,000 to ¥1,200 on top of the regular ticket price. Toho Cinemas plans to introduce it at more theaters.

Shochiku Multiplex Theatres Ltd. has created 23 spacious “platinum seats” with room for two at its Shinjuku Piccadilly theater in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. The snuggle seats cost ¥5,000 per person. Customers are treated like royalty, with the use of an exclusive elevator to reach a waiting lounge where beverages, including champagne and wine, as well as meals are available.

In the city of Okayama, Aeon Cinema Okayama, operated by Aeon Entertainment Co., has opened a hall with electric seats that recline 140 degrees and are 1.4 times the width of conventional movie theater seats. Accompanied by a glass of either alcohol or a soft drink, the seats cost ¥2,500. The Gran Theater hall attracts repeat customers seeking a more relaxed atmosphere than usual, an Aeon Entertainment official said.

Aeon Entertainment, a unit of the giant Aeon retail group, usually operates movie theater complexes in shopping malls and therefore is promoting family-oriented services.

In one example, since 2014 it has been producing motion pictures of up to an hour in length for children aged 2 to 4, in collaboration with film planning and production companies. The series has so far attracted 130,000 viewers.

The company has also held more than 100 events over the year for children at its theaters.

The series is positioned as “the first step for children to come to theaters and become fond of movies,” said Akira Ikeda, senior managing director at Aeon Entertainment.

Theaters that host kids’ events have their lighting turned up and sound down to avoid scaring younger viewers.

“My boy’s afraid of the dark and loud noises, but he enjoyed the movie right to the end,” said Atsuko Kamoshita, a 44-year-old housewife in Yokohama who watched a movie with her 6-year-old son at an Aeon theater in the city in early September.