Immersion is one of the cinema industry’s favourite buzzwords, and ScreenX is the latest tech to try and deliver it to the filmgoing public – for a handsome ticket premium, naturally.
ScreenX first launched globally in 2015, but only reached the UK in 2018, exclusive to
Cineworld. We’ve seen it in action ourselves, so here’s everything you need to know about ScreenX: what it is, how it works and whether it’s worth paying extra for.
What is ScreenX?
Between 3D, IMAX, D-BOX, 4DX, and more, a modern cinema trip is filled with attempts to persuade you to pay a little extra for some sort of premium experience – usually sold as being more immersive than a regular cinema screen.
ScreenX uses five projectors to expand the film beyond the main screen, projecting it onto the two side walls as well – extending all the way to the back of the auditorium – so that even your peripheral vision is absorbed in whatever’s happening on screen. To achieve the trick, the side walls are lined in a special fabric to match the main screen, while two projectors are used for each wall to display the image.
You won’t have to keep turning to watch the action though, as the side walls are essentially just used for extra footage to extend the scene. The main screen still plays the film exactly as usual, with additional footage – shot with a special ScreenX camera rig – used to show off the surroundings a little more.
That means not every film can be seen in ScreenX, as they really need to made with the technology in mind. Predictably, that also means it’ll mostly be
blockbusters and horror films that get the treatment – the first three UK releases are
Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Meg, and The Nun.
How much does it cost?
In the UK, there’s a £3 premium if you want to watch a film in ScreenX – similar to what you’d pay to watch a film in 3D or IMAX.
It will also be covered by the
Cineworld Unlimited plan, which offers you unlimited films from £17.90 per month, along with other discounts both in and out of the cinema. Like 3D, you’ll still have to pay an additional premium, unless you get the Premium Unlimited plan which includes the option for those screenings.
Where can I see it?
The technology launched at the
Cineworld at the O2 in London, with Speke, Leeds White Rose, and Wandsworth following later in 2018. More screens are expected to follow, but there aren’t any specific details on other cinemas yet.
Is ScreenX worth the money?
This is a tricky question to answer, and naturally it’ll vary from person to person – and from film to film.
Some viewers will no doubt find the extended screen more immersive and impressive, but from our first experience we actually found it the opposite – and even distracting. We saw footage from The Meg, which included some shots that used the ScreenX format and some that didn’t, meaning that the full format essentially switched on and off repeatedly even during individual scenes.
Throw in the fact that the extended screen is interrupted by the fire exit (and worse, the glowing fire exit signs), the fact that you have the bright projector lights in the corner of your vision at all times, and the faintly visible grid lines of the walls, and it’s hard not to feel that the effect leaves something to be desired.
Still, it is cool looking around in the midst of an action scene and seeing the scenery extend around and even behind you. The tech may be imperfect but it is impressive, and if what you want out of the cinema is pure spectacle then ScreenX is at least worth trying once.