Down a dark, dirty alleyway off of Gulou Dong Dajie is this place called 得瑟 5D -- just one of the new start-up indie movie theaters in the area claiming to offer walk-ins off the street a film experience in one, two, three, four, and five dimensions. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. We're through the looking glass here, people. Welcome to the desert of the real. (Etc. Etc. Etc.)
得瑟 5D has only four chairs -- two in front, two in back -- outfitted with seat belts and furry pads for your bum embossed by (of course) Hello Kitty. It's a tiny room covered with gleaming rosy heart balloons and even more Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
“What movie do you want to see?” the boss asked, flipping through titles on his computer. “We have Road to Doom 1 and Road to Doom 2,” he suggested. Classics.
“Two!” my boyfriend shouted. He was up for epic conclusions -- no backstory, no set ups, just climax. The boss insisted the first was better but offered to show us both.
We put on our pairs of yellow, cardboard 3D glasses, and the lights went dim. I quickly fidgeted with my seat belt, noticing the giant, golden letter balloons floating in the air at my feet.
A buzzing chainsaw surged from the screen and prodded and slashed at my throat as my chair jerked to the left.
For the next quarter of an hour or so, we were jolted and jostled by the Hello Kitty chairs, soaring through some virtual world with giant lobsters and monsters that could climb walls. Zombies fell at our feet and sprayed us with blood (mimicked by jets of water coming from somewhere up above), while we scrambled away. I found myself gradually slipping out of this world and out out of my chair which was becoming more and more like a mechanical bull.
When it was all over I felt: a) cheerful, b) surprised, and c) confused.
So what just happened? Basically the film is the the viewer being from the perspective of either in a car, driving away from zombies or in a minecart trying to get away from gory non-zombie monsters. So, really, it's not so much a "plot" as it is a chase, where you go through mine tunnels, through a haunted house where you watch monsters fight a bloody battle then try to come after you, then you jump in a car and drive through a forest. The monsters were mostly zombies or a gory-looking guy with a chainsaw or spidery-looking things that could run really fast. They have other movies too, and most just involve a lot of "chasing" so that there's always something -- a dinosaur, a shark, a zombie, whatever -- coming right at you... in five... dimensions?
The whole experience is something of a hybrid of a 3D movie, and old horror movie matinee, and an amusement park ride. Although it's not that new of a concept -- the same sort of stuff has featured heavily at Universal Studios and Disneyland for years -- it's appearance in the urban landscape is somewhat new, as is the offbeat content that often makes up the subject material at these places. Chainsaws. Zombies. Splattered blood. It's a "mature" experience, to be sure.
So what’s the difference between 4D and 5D? It all depends on who you talk to. We went and asked Jean-Michel Casanova, a professional actor and action director working in Beijing at Zoomlion, one of China's major film companies. They've engineered a theater that offers a single movie in multiple perspectives, thanks to four screens on all sides of the viewer. Smells and bursts of air are incorporated too. So that's count 'em -- one, two, three, four screens (dimensions) -- and a fifth dimension, which is water and smells sprayed at the viewer.
Casanova is currently finishing up a demo movie: a 20-minute disaster flick, all shot in front of a green screen. It's being shown to government officials and investors in Changsha later this month. Here's some production shots:
Feel the intensity!
For now, the whole thing might be a bit cheesy and gimmicky, but as often is the case with silly Chinadventures, it’s a good way to spice up an evening -- at least you can say you did it and it makes for a passable anecdote. At the end of the show, the boss snaps one of those mini “hipstamatic” polaroids - one for his wall and one for you to keep. Forever and ever... seared into your memory...
Just the details: All said and done it's 17rmb each for a 10-15 minute film, with screenings only accommodating four people at a time at this specific 5D theatre. It's open from 10am to 10pm. The address is 286 Gulou Dong Dajie.