Greetings, you may call me….keeper for I am the keeper of tales. Now when I’m not hanging around the lighthouse watching over my fair Islands I’m at another place where tales are told. I work in a movie theatre. As such I’ve lived thru my fair share of gimmicks from Hollywood designed to enhance the telling of a tale. Truth be told, I’m a sucker for them…just going into a room with a real 6-8 story IMAX screen still sends a chill up my spine, and that’s before anything on the screen. I’ve lived thru THRRE version of 3-D mania (I know how the story ends but that’s another tale) and even ran an interactive movie called Interfilm that even with a debut product with Bob Gale and Chris Lloyd involved still died after a merciful 3 movie run.
A couple years ago I saw a demonstration of D-Box technology at a theatre trade show and was fascinated by the product. A theatre seat is programmed to move in sync with the action on the movie screen. It’s kinda like your own mini motion simulator without being in a theme park. At that time it seemed that the makers were concentrating on the home gamer market as they had a lot of logistical hurdles to make it work in a theatre atmosphere. They had no answers to the basic question “how to you limit the seats to someone who paid for it?” A couple months ago I noticed that a Muvico theatre in Pompano Beach was advertising a D-Box equipped theatre with their showing of Tron and later Green Hornet. It was a trip I HAD to take but the timing was never right for a road trip and the Mrs. thought I was crazy considering a 3 hour drive to see a movie. I did have a couple of takers in my movie posse willing to ride shotgun but the timing was never right to make it happen. Imagine my delight when I heard that the Premire Cinema in the Fashion Square Mall added this to one of their theatres this past Friday.
Because I’m all about being the eyes and ears (and as I soon found out butt) for you guys I headed out for an adventure. Now first off you need to know this cost $17 a head. No matter the time of day…adult…child…senior…student…$17. I went to an early bird show where non D-Box seats were only $4.50. I paid $17. If you compare it to the evening price of $12 for an evening 3-D movie the premium of $5 might be a tad easier to swallow but in the light of day…$12.50 extra….um wow. There is a test unit in the lobby where you can watch a preview while sitting in a seat to see if it’s worth your extra cash. Once you decide you go to the cashier to buy your ticket and get to look at the monitor and pick a seat, just like going to a concert. The theatre has 22 D-Box seats in two rows smack dab in the center of the room. I got instructions from the cashier, picked my seat, loaded my drink into the imposing looking shock-absorbent cup holder and waited….and waited… and waited. I was told my numbered seat was activated when I bought my ticket and I needed to do nothing but adjust the intensity (3 levels) when the movie started.
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The movie started…all kinds of crazy action was happening…yet the light on my seat remained red. After two trips to the lobby and missing the first 10 minutes of the movie, my seat activated, just in time for lots of non action talking. Now I had no desire in seeing “I Am Number Four”, sometimes a preview just does nothing for me. Well missing the set up for the entire movie made it worse but I had scheduled my day around this so I saw it through. After some time the story won me over enough to care about what was happening to the characters and I pieced together what I needed to know but this isn’t a movie review and I suspect this film wasn’t as good an example of what the technology can do as Tron or Green Hornet were.
When you are in a theme park ride (for the most part) movement mirrors the movement in the 20 minute story you are watching…you are in a rocket ship, Delorian, submarine, etc. The difference with a movie that was not designed specifically as a ride is the same thing we experienced at the Polar Express experience at Sea World over the holidays. To keep using the technology the programmers have to get creative with movement. First you’re in the Polar Express, and then you’re the ticket floating on the breeze. So within 20 minutes I felt the motion of a car the characters were riding in, a train rumbling nearby, the floating feeling from a boom shot, and the crawling of a lizard even though the camera did not show the lizards point-of-view. This is really something to get used to and kept taking me out of the story on the screen because the effects seemed to exist just to “show off”. Now I’m not sure if the effects started to match the story better as time went on or I just got used to it, perhaps a combination of the two, but it seemed a better blend during the second half of the movie. The chair was nothing short of amazing. It had a full 360 rotation of movement in addition to up and down capabilities (think T-2 3-D) and a deep rumbling capability where the chair stayed still but you still felt it. The fights and chase scenes were as amazing as you would expect them to be but the real surprises to me were the more subtle effects, the rumbling of thunder, a person running, or the feeling of floating. Like 3-D this technology really needs to be matched to a suitable movie. There was a section in a carnival haunt walk thru that really makes me want t o see this attached to a horror movie. There was a “jump” scene not even in this section that made me yelp as loudly as the character on the screen. My guess is no one will be dozing off in a D-Box theatre.
The biggest question is, as always, will it last. In the audience of about a dozen I was the only one who shelled out for the extra. After the novelty wears off will there be enough people willing to do so…had to say, but I wouldn’t bet my 3-D glasses on it.
Every Day’s An Adventure