It could be a new maxim of energy economics: where oil and gas revenues flow, 4D cinemas are sure to follow. After the opening of feel-and-smell-the-action movie theaters in Caspian Sea energy rivals Kazakhstan, Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan has finally joined the 4D club with its own 12-seat theater in Baku.
The Azerbaijani government paid $150,000 for the theater’s construction as part of its ongoing campaign to turn the Baku Boulevard, a five-kilometer-long seaside promenade, into an arts-and-entertainment destination.
While Azerbaijan may have been among the last of the Caspian Sea energy powers to construct a 4D cinema — Turkmenistan announced plans for such a theater in 2008, but the project’s completion could not be confirmed — the Israeli-designed 50-square-meter theater, which opened on February 4, ranks as a first for the South Caucasus.
Visitors pay five manats (about $7) to see a 10-minute show in which they themselves play a role: vibrating chairs give the sensation of falling down stairs or running into cars, while other equipment imitates the feeling and sense of fog, wind and rain.
At a recent showing, guests had the choice between two Russian-made horror cartoons by director Ramil Bikmuhammetov: “Dead House” or “Haunted Race.”
Longer-run films do not yet exist in the 4-D format, but one Baku cinema employee thinks that may be a good thing. “A show lasting more than 10-15 minutes could be harmful to people’s health,” cautioned the employee, who gave his name as Rashad.
While some guests describe the thrill of clambering through dungeons and other virtual adventures as “just super,” one prominent film director dismissed the theater as a PR stunt. “It is not real cinema. It is an attraction,” commented 49-year-old director Ayaz Salayev “A real movie consists of dramaturgy, a story, actors performing,” Salayev said. He added, however, that he plans to visit the theater “out of curiosity.”
The 4D cinema is the most recent in a series of improvements made to Baku’s waterfront boulevard in a bid to turn the location into what President Ilham Aliyev claims will be “one of the best places for relaxation and entertainment in the world.”