Unfamiliar with ScreenX? So was I until recently. To sum it up quickly ScreenX essentially is a “270-degree panoramic film viewing experience within a theater setting”. This new premium format is being brought to us by the same company behind the 4DX technology. When I first heard about ScreenX I was very curious how the whole thing worked. I sort of just made the assumption that the screen would be stretched super wide or providing something similar to an IMAX Dome experience. But what is it they say about assumptions?
ScreenX was honestly like nothing I have experienced at a movie theater before. It is more comparable to something at a theme park, which I believe to be the desired intention. When you first sit down your attention is drawn to the large wall-to-wall screen, which is going to be your primary focal point (just like any other theater). Whatever trailers are attached to the film your seeing will play as you sit in anticipation to see how this is any different than your normal theater going experience. And then the demo kicks off.
The demo before the movie starts is when you first actually experience ScreenX, and looking back it is also what I enjoyed the most (but more on that later). As soon as the demo begins projectors facing the side walls turn on, encompassing 3/4’s of the theater. But the projectors aren’t playing whats on the screen or just wrapping the edges around you. These projectors are actually providing additional footage. This footage expands what your seeing on the main screen, allowing you to look left and right to see the world around you. In the demo for example you are basically on a ride through a city, cutting and turning as you whiz down a street full of blockbuster action. As you go down the streets you can literally see the buildings your passing and the action that just happened in front you now on the right side as your turn left with effects of debris going in all directions. Honestly when it first starts it could be slightly disorienting as I was turning my head back and fourth trying to take it all in and figure out precisely how this technology worked. This was quickly creating more of a headache then necessary. Once I gave up trying to over analyze what exactly was happening and just enjoy the experience, I was fully immersed.
Using the projectors to provide supplemental footage, ScreenX fills in the environments you are watching on the big screen, essentially putting you right in the middle of the movie. As soon as your brain and eyes adapt the experience becomes quite immersive, at many times providing the sensation of actual movement. This can best be compared to a stationary theme park attraction, or the feeling you get when using modern VR technology (but on a much larger scale). You aren’t really meant to stare off to the left or right. The idea is you stay focused on the screen and the projectors fill in your peripherals. I was honestly pretty jaw-dropped throughout the whole demonstration. The actual movie is a bit of a different story.
For my first venture into the world of ScreenX, I was able to see Matthew Vaughns’ highly anticipated sequel ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’. Although I was incredibly excited for both this movie and a chance to check out the new technology, I have to say this this wouldn’t be my first choice for the format. The action scenes in a movie like ‘Kingsman’ are incredibly frenetic and have a lot going on, before adding additional encompassing footage. Seeing as how this movie opens with a big and fast paced action sequence, ScreenX is on full display right out of the gate. This was not nearly as polished as what I experienced in the demonstration. I immediately found my self way too distracted by everything around me and was struggling to pull focus onto the main screen. This wasn’t true for all the action scenes, but it was the case for most of them.
Once the initial action sequence came to an end I was then hit with my next surprise. The projectors on the walls faded out. Only the primary screen remained. This held true for a few moments before the film once again decided to take advantage of the format. This was the case throughout the entirety of film, jumping back and forth between formatting, without any real apparent rhyme or reason. At first I thought okay it will just be all the action scenes, but that theory was quickly proved wrong. We got some action scenes without the projectors and we got some dialogue driven scenes that made full use of the technology. Sometimes the projectors faded in or out with the scene, feeling very polished and at other instances the projectors would just cut on and off. This felt as though the studio was just testing out ideas and playing with the format.
I actually thought the “slower” moments were the best part of the ‘Kingsman’/ScreenX viewing. During some of the more choice scenes the projectors were used to creatively expand the world around you, providing interesting and fun attention to detail. This was much easier to digest than the high velocity action sequences. I was really enjoying the feeling of being in some of the different environments, surrounded by a crowd of people or walking into a room with the ability to glance all around. ‘Kingsman’ also to provided a cool visual with a very realistic heads up display every time a character put on the glasses and cut to a POV shot. Unfortunately these moments were few and far between.
Overall I enjoyed my first ScreenX experience, and would recommend checking it out if your a fan or premium formatting, technology or just looking for a something new. I can’t promise you will like it, some may find it distracting. If your the type of person that finds 3D nauseating I would hold off on this one, at least until the actual films and use of the technology become a bit more refined, as i describe the demonstration. Personally I can’t say I will be seeing every film that comes out in this new format, but I will definitely be going back soon.
There are currently three U.S. ScreenX locations, two of them being California based; the CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles and Buena Park (where I attended), along with one at AMC Town Square 18 in Las Vegas.
You can check out our video review of ScreenX below!