Coming soon, maybe, to a cinema near you: a new technology designed to make moviegoing an even more moving experience.
The North American company that manufactures seats which are programmed to rock, jerk and vibrate according to the on-screen action and sound hopes to introduce the revolutionary system to Australia by mid-2011.
Called D-Box motion chair technology, it's available in nearly 40 US cinemas and in a handful of screens in Japan and the Netherlands.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the latest film released in the US with the D-Box motion code system, and next month's TRON: Legacy will have that feature. Numerous titles incorporating the technology are available on DVD in the US, including the Alien franchise, Apocalypse Now, Robin Hood, Back to the Future, Killers, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The enhanced format was introduced in US cinemas in April 2009 with Fast & Furious, for which the Montreal-based D-Box Technologies created about 5,000 different motion effects occupying about 34 minutes of screen time.
Sydney-based Wavetrain Distribution & Wavetrain Cinemas is the Australian distributor of D-Box products. The immersive experience is proving to be so popular in the US that D-Box is struggling to satisfy demand. “They can't keep up with the rollout worldwide and are targeting specific areas of the world to grow,” Wavetrain director David Moseley told SBS Film. “The demand for D-box has grown as D-box has been proven to raise revenue streams in the cinemas fitted with the technology. About a year ago there were about half a dozen cinemas with D-box. There are now 42 and D-box has scheduled to fit-out 100 cinemas by April. Although there has been interest from Australian cinemas, D-box are looking (to launch) approximately middle of next year and will not sign agreements until they are ready to proceed.”
Executives at Event Cinemas/Greater Union, Village and Hoyts confirmed they are aware of the technology but none is yet prepared to commit to launching it at their circuits.
Moseley said he was approached six months by Australian cinema owners who wanted the technology, and he alerted officials at D-Box. “The demand is certainly there,” he said. “As the Australian distributor for all their domestic products, I am certainly looking forward to that day. With a back catalogue of over 1000 films, it's about time the public discovered the fourth dimension in movies.”
The Surprise Pointe multiplex in Arizona was among the first to provide the service in the US. It has 22 seats fitted with D-Box and charges an $US8 premium above the regular ticket price, but offers discounts at matinees and on some weekdays. Normally D-Box, the film's distributor and the theatre owner each get a one-third split of ticket receipts from its installations.
Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta sampled the D-Box experience by watching the latest Harry Potter adventure at Hollywood's Chinese Theatre and was impressed, noting, “The beginning was very cool with the Dementors flying about. The chair would buck left and right as they turned and vibrated when they crashed through walls.”
He couldn't wait for the talky middle section to finish (he wasn't alone there) and for the action to resume, his seat moving in synch, and concluded, “All in all it was a great experience.”