Cineworld, the second largest global exhibitor by screen count, has made a significant commitment to the novel ScreenX format from Korean technology brand CJ 4Dplex. The global exhibition circuit has ordered 100 screens across the US, Europe and Israel over the next few years, furthering the technology in Europe as well as significantly growing the platform in the USA.
Following the deal, the total number of ScreenX units will rise to over 242, including the 142 existing locations mostly in Korea and China plus the current three ScreenX systems in the US. Aside from the Cineworld deal, CJ 4Dplex also expects new ScreenX openings in China, Japan, Korea, France, Switzerland, Turkey and Latin America this year. The prospective openings include four ScreenX locations at B&B Theatres in the US, including the largest ScreenX system to date to be located in one of the two PLF (Grand Screens) in Liberty. In Europe, the first ScreenX theatres will actually be installed with Pathe and Arena Cinemas. Arena, will open three screens over the coming months in Geneva, Zurich and Fribough while Pathe will bring two ScreenX auditoriums to Paris including one as 4DX with ScreenX.
CJ 4Dplex has also recently made inroads in the Middle East having recently (in June 2018) signed deals to introduce Screen X technology to the region with KNCC (Kuwait National Cinema Company) and Reel Cinemas for the Dubai Mall in UAE.
Korean based CJ 4Dplex is behind three premium screen formats in 4DX, ScreenX and SphereX and has recently launched a blended solution in ‘4DX with ScreenX’.
The substantial backing from the second largest global exhibitor should be viewed as a significant milestone for the emerging theatrical multi-screen format. ScreenX first launched in 2012 in Korea and initially grew with backing mainly from CJ CGV theatres. The format was initially used for advertising as well as local movies in Korea although this was more of a stop gap before key content was made available.
The commitment by Cineworld for a sizeable order will help push awareness of the multi-projector format and its brand to a new level both in terms of exhibitors looking for viable and differentiated premium formats but also in terms of becoming a more viable platform to content producers. A regular supply of content, especially optimised or enhanced content, will be critical for the success of such a new platform. For ScreenX, that backing had recently come from several Studios and in particular Marvel Studios including enhanced content for the release of Black Panther and prospectively Ant-Man and the Wasp, both major blockbusters.
The growing support from both key exhibitors and Studios alike comes amid the recent demise of fellow three-screen format Barco Escape, which recently closed operations in early 2018. Unfortunately for Escape, the content never truly materialised (despite some promising link-ups) and the number of screens failed to grow significantly above 30.
A more rapid growth trajectory for Screen X could help push the format closer to wider adoption, which in turn will create a strong business case for enhanced content for ScreenX versions of major blockbusters. The link-up of two concepts together in one auditorium (4DX with ScreenX) is so far just a trial concept, and may prove too much of a comfortable diversion from a cinematic experience. VR is also another concept which has been linked back into 4D and more immersive formats although again not yet as a viable option. Nonetheless, the ultimate success of a new format or combined experience of formats will depend on audience feedback and repeat business once the novelty period has expired.