Polynesian Cultural Center’s Digital 4D Theater

January 19, 2018

Transforming a traditional visitor center into a multimedia immersive experience that appeals to visitors and residents

Laie, Hawaii


Hawaii is a major travel destination, attracting millions of visitors, but it’s not easy for tourists to explore and understand its wider history and culture. The Polynesian Cultural Center fulfils that role. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the Center wanted to transform the visitor experience and bring it into the 21st century. Working with Michael Lee Design and Technifex, Electrosonic was responsible for upgrading the original IMAX system into a digital 4D theater with multiple special effects creating a totally immersive experience.

Guests enter the Center through a replica volcano and follow a labyrinth of glowing lava tubes to the theater. The aim was to build an immersive experience to accompany ‘The Hawaii Experience’ on the screen. Moving seats, steam and blasts of air recreate a volcanic experience with an audio system designed and integrated to recreate the low rumbling sounds and hissing of an eruption.

Volcanic steam, rumbling sound effects and vibration through the seats create a memorable immersive experience in the digital 4D theater. 


Electrosonic installed the digital audiovisual system of 4K projector, 4K media server and 40x74 feet screen. This solution eliminated the high running costs associated with the IMAX system. The 7.1 surround sound audio system and multilingual seating speakers recreate the sounds and sensations of the film with special low-end audio for volcanic rumbles and vibrations. Additional audiovisual connections enable the theater to be used for live presentations.


The Polynesian Cultural Center was already successful, welcoming over 37 million visitors since its original opening. The transformation of the center has helped make it Hawaii’s number one paid attraction and gain numerous awards including the Themed Entertainment Association’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award in the Attraction Revitalization category. In addition to improving the visitor experience, the transformation of the theater has significantly reduced operational costs.

"We have been able to grow our attendance back at a solid rate since 2010 by providing experiences that interest our visitors. We definitely see in our history, as we’ve introduced new experiences, we see the bump in attendance. Our new ‘Hawaiian Journey’ show opened last month and has been popular with both local residents and visitors."Alfred Grace President and COO Polynesian Cultural Center

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