Experiential cinema technology company, CJ 4Dplex, has reported record results for both of its technology formats: in 4DX, its motion with environmental stimuli seating and Screen X, the multi-screen/projector format.

Experiential cinema technology company, CJ 4Dplex, has reported new milestones for both of its technology formats: in 4DX, its motion seating with environmental stimuli technology and Screen X, the multi-screen/projector format.

CJ 4Dplex’s 4D format set another record for gross box office and admissions in 2018 with 4DX screens grossing $290m, up from $230m and $200m, in 2017 and 2016, respectively. The annual uplift equates to a 26% rise, which also marks a larger percentage increase over 2017’s growth rate. Admissions to 4DX screens also hit 24m (up by a similar 26%), up from 19m and 15m in previous years.

For Screen X, a new milestone of $40m at the box office worldwide and total attendance of 4m in 2018 was achieved. Attendance equated to over three times the previous year's tally. There were six Hollywood titles released in the Screen X format in 2018, reportedly doubling the number of titles year on year. Screen X finished with an installed base of 195 screens in 17 territories, up from 132 sites in eight territories a year earlier.

In terms of new Screen X openings, China set a new record with 18 new screens in 2018, while Europe recorded 12 new locations and eight in the US. A strong line up of content has driven Screen X’s attractiveness with audiences.

CJ 4DPlex, the leading 4D technology company also reached a milestone of 600 4DX theatres installed worldwide as at mid December 2018. This was achieved thanks to a new high of over 130 new 4DX theatres installed in 2018, according to the company. This milestone represents significant growth for the company and 4D format more generally.

In 2018, there were 61 territories with 4DX screens installed up slightly from 57 in 2017, as reach to new territories has slowed based on fewer new markets to launch in (Pakistan was one of the 2018 new territories). The significant activity has come from growth hotspots namely Europe in 2018 as well as ongoing momentum in China. 

Our analysis

The growth of the Screen X platform to 195 installed screens, in more than double the number of territories year on year, is significant and in turn makes it more attractive for Studios to continue to release titles. The momentum comes in contrast to the failure of fellow panoramic format Barco Escape which never really took off, failing to get past 30 screens. The main stumbling block for Escape had been procuring a consistent line up of compelling content, despite some promising works in the pipeline. For panoramic screens, content can be specially curated to make better and more creative use of the multi-projection set up. Screen X already has a strong supporter in Warner Brothers, who will release six movies in the format in 2019. 

4D too, is clearly in a strong growth phase, partially due to the emerging nature of the technology and the still compact nature of the screen base, but nonetheless, outpacing growth in other technology formats such as PLF. 4D offers a clearly differentiated experience that cannot easily be replicated in the home environment and one that boosts the overall experience for suitable movies to a target audience. The number of 4D screens remains niche overall, representing fewer than 0.6% of global screens, but with potential to continue to proliferate significantly over the next few years.

CJ 4Dplex remains the dominant 4D technology provider accounting for 62.2% of the 4D market, (not including immersive motion seating). Total 4D screens (with external stimuli) reached 833 in H1 2018, which represents a large annual growth rate of 43.3% from H1 2017, according to IHS Markit data. 

Nonetheless, the average box office per screen average for 4DX equated to approximatley $479,000 in 2018 which was stable on 2017's result and underlining continued strong demand from audiences. Admissions per screen, have also kept pace with close to 40,000 in 2018, as in 2017, again underlining the strength of the format  - although it is worth noting that some screens will have opened later in the year and full year results are therefore not directly comparable. Nonetheless, the total of $290m box office for 4DX equates to under 0.7% of total world box office coming from approximately 0.6% of the world’s screens, and while a very small proportion statistically there is clear and growing exhibitor investment taken on the per screen results. There is, however, a noticeable larger per screen average for 4DX over Screen X, but that can be directly attributed to the higher volume of titles released and confirms the strong role content has to play in the support of a new format.

Nonetheless, strong growth in both experiential formats in terms of both screens and revenues comes amid a wider push to 'premium' in the cinema industry as exhibitors look to provide more immersive screens and seats at higher price points and customers seek out a more clearly defined immersive experience. 

CJ 4Dplex has also been a pioneer in merging immersive technologies launching a separate format known as ‘4DX with Screen X’ in 2018 and representing the latest twist on entertainment and technology. The rise of the popularity of experiential formats is helping to reposition cinema as a general entertainment destination as well as furthering the range of premium formats and experiences available to consumers.