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We tried 4DX immersive movie tech with 'Blade Runner 2049,' and found it worth the $30 ticket

  • 4DX is a format that looks to turn traditional, passive film-going into something more experiential, like seats shaking, tilting and gyrating.
  • Tickets are priced at $30 for 4DX in one New York City theater, compared to $21 for 3D showings and about $17 for old-school 2D.

Let's be honest, movie theaters are constantly having to think up new ways to bring in audiences. With the Internet, television and streaming video on demand in their space, movie industry players have many new and nimble competitors threatening their business.

So, what's the movie industry to do as it struggles to give audiences something they simply can't get online or from their TVs at home? Cut to 4DX, the motion-based "immersive" film format.

CNBC.com editors Jim Pavia, Ken Kiesnoski and Eric Rosenbaum take in a 4DX showing of "Blade Runner 2049."
Jim Pavia | CNBC
CNBC.com editors Jim Pavia, Ken Kiesnoski and Eric Rosenbaum take in a 4DX showing of "Blade Runner 2049."

4DX is a format that looks to turn traditional, passive film-going into something more experiential, like seats shaking, tilting and gyrating, while special effects such as air blasts, scents, sprays of water and in-theater fog and strobe lighting mimic what's happening on the screen. The motion of the seats essentially tracks the movement of the camera from shot to shot.

There are now more than 50,000 4DX seats operating in 410 theaters in 49 countries, according to data from the National Association of Theater Owners.

I recently went to a 4DX screening of "Blade Runner 2049" with two CNBC colleagues, Eric Rosenbaum and Ken Kiesnoski, at the Regal Cinemas' Regal Union Square Stadium 14 location in Manhattan.

I would have to say the overall experience was a great deal of fun. As for costs, seeing the movie in 3D carried a $21 ticket price, while the 4DX experience set us back 30 bucks. The extra $9 per ticket was well spent.

After getting our 3D glasses (which is required, of course) we noticed a warning sign outside the designated 4DX theater. It read:

4DX is not recommended for anyone with the following:

High blood pressure or a heart condition
Back or neck injuries or conditions
Medical conditions or disabilities affected by seat motion or environmental effects
Epilepsy
Pregnancy
Breathing problems or allergies to scents or chemicals
Sensory sensitivities
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants
Motion sickness

Also, at the top of that sign, the poster showed off the different sensations we might experience, including rain, fog, wind, lightning, vibrations and scents (yes, scents).

Once at my seat, I noticed a button for "Water On" or "Water Off." We all decided to leave it in the on position, willing to experience an indoor rain shower.

We got what was coming to us. The water shoots up into the air from the seat in front of you, and several seconds later it falls down onto your head as if it was coming from the ceiling. I had to keep cleaning off my 3D glasses to remove the rain drops.

The bottom line: That $30 ticket (New York price) is well worth it for any moviegoer who isn't afraid to get wet and is OK with feeling a bit woozy after a somewhat jarring and jolting ride in his or her seat. (It does make it difficult to time eating your popcorn or sipping your soda.)

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