Make us your home page

D-Box seat is newest movie gimmick

For an extra $8, the reserved D-Box seat tilts, mildly bucks and/or vibrates in synch with the action on the screen.

Photos special to the Times

For an extra $8, the reserved D-Box seat tilts, mildly bucks and/or vibrates in synch with the action on the screen.

I've enjoyed motels with Magic Fingers beds. Drop in 25 cents and receive a few minutes of relaxing vibration rocking you to sleep.

The newest movie gimmick — I hesitate to use the word "technology" since that implies a breakthrough — is something like Magic Fingers in your theater seat, plus those ridges on highway edges alerting drivers to drifting out of their lanes, and a touch of the jerk behind you kicking your chair, so dozing isn't an option.

Oh, and it adds $8 to your base ticket price, and $3 more if the movie happens to be in 3-D. That'll be $20.50 per adult at evening shows, please. And don't forget to stop by the concession stand.

Introducing D-Box, available Friday exclusively in Tampa Bay at Muvico Starlite 20 in New Tampa, and then only attached to 24 chairs in a single auditorium. It's way too early to deem D-Box revolutionary but not too soon to predict it's a fad with the same future as Smell-O-Vision, Sensurround and other discarded performance-enhancing devices.

D-Box was originally invented for home theater systems, where it may have some benefit as a parlor trick to impress guests. The Canadian company behind D-Box expanded to theater design, with similarly limited availability in nearly three dozen North American venues. Muvico has exclusive D-Box rights in Florida; Hialeah 12 near Miami is the only other example so far.

A test run Wednesday at Starlite 20 didn't impress me. Chairs are outfitted with a tri-motor hydraulic system underneath, and vibrating pads everywhere. We watched clips from The Polar Express and Terminator Salvation with seats tilting, mildly bucking and/or vibrating in synch with the action on screen. An armrest control panel allows you to adjust the intensity or just turn it off, wasting $8.

D-Box isn't an amusement park ride, although it reminded me of those rockets to the moon at state fairs that shake and shimmy when a meteor shower passes on a video screen. Certainly children or rabid fans of a particular movie (the next Harry Potter or Capt. Jack Sparrow flicks, for examples) will take a chance on D-Box. Maybe video arcade regulars accustomed to games that rumble for effect.

But you should read the D-Box disclaimer posted at the Starlite 20 box office, noting the process "may be harmful" to pregnant women, people with heart, back, neck or head conditions, "the elderly," and kids under 10 without parental supervision. No hot liquids, and it might be a good idea to check with a physician first. The theater and D-Box absolve themselves of any and all responsibility.

Muvico regional managing director John Andel assured me that those brief clips were chosen for their action to demonstrate the process. A full-length movie, he said, would reveal the "subtlety" of D-Box, not always reacting to what's on the screen.

However, I arrived from a conventional screening of Battle: Los Angeles, the D-Box debut film at Starlite 20, and found it to be hyperkinetic and concussive enough. The camera stops jittering for only scant minutes here and there, and alien invaders have rarely displayed so much bombastic firepower. I might be black and blue after a D-Box screening, if only from the persistent, two-hour tapping on my backside.

At a whopping $4,000 per seat, the chances of D-Box becoming a multiplex staple are slim, indeed. Two dozen seats seem about right, and Andel said the Hialeah theater has consistently sold out its D-Box section. People with more disposable dollars than common sense will buy anything if it's new.

But I wouldn't do it, or want to be sitting behind the D-Box rows with people dipping, jerking and audibly reacting to the process. Movie audiences are already distracting enough. I might do some seat kicking of my own, just to get away with it.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

D-Box seat is newest movie gimmick 03/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours