Varsity VIP at Yonge & Bloor is known as the only Toronto, ON-based theatre to visit if you're looking for a "VIP" experience. But Canadian company D-Box is hoping to change that by placing a row of motion-coded seats that move along with on-screen action in a Toronto theatre.
Much like theatre-goers can already buy upgraded tickets to see a movie in 3D or IMAX, visitors to Cineplex Odeon Queensway Cinemas in Etobicoke, ON will now be able to pay an extra $7 to sit in one of 18 D-Box motion-coded theatre seats while watching select movie titles. The first film to be released with the motion coding in Canada, which shimmies, shakes, and rumbles in sync with the on-screen action, will be Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, due out on July 15.
I had the chance to try out the seats last night via a demo of Fast & Furious, another D-Box motion-coded theatre release (although that film was released prior to the Queensway partnership). Each seat has its own intensity controls with four levels from low to high. I set mine smack-dab in the middle, and found the experience enjoyable. Movements were subtle, but they added another dimension to the movie. During a car chase scene, for example, my chair rumbled and shook as the character revved his engine and swerved to avoid a burning truck so that I felt like I was right there with him.
Note that the chairs don't jerk or shake to the point that you'll drop your popcorn and Nibs: movement is relatively subtle, even at the highest setting. More important, however, is that movement isn't constant throughout a film, but rather only occurs when a scene warrants it. The seats aren't meant to mimick an amusement park ride, D-Box explains. They're just meant to add to the experience of movie-watching. Case in point: during a subdued romantic love scene in Fast & Furious, my seat remained inactive.
While D-Box has yet to line up its next motion-coded theatre release, company reps say they hope to always have the seats available for sale without gaps in time, and are currently working with a number of studios. Of course the process of adding coding to each movie is lengthy: think of it much like sound editing, whereby a motion coding expert spends upwards of 300-hours with the film, analyzing where motion should be added and how. Indeed, D-Box says Harry Potter took at least 250 hours to code. Nevertheless, if there isn't a motion-coded movie playing at any given time, the D-Box seats will revert to normal theatre seating.
Note that not every movie type will warrant use of the seats: high-action films like Fast & Furious and Harry Potter are the most logical choices, as would be horror flicks and intense dramas. But you likely won't see a "chick flick" with coding; nor a slap-stick comedy.
Though the additional $7 to park in one of the red-finished chairs might sound like a lot, keep in mind that it also affords reserved access in the second-to-last row of the theatre (not sure why D-Box didn't select the "sweet spot" centre for the seats). This fact alone might be enough to entice viewers who loathe being forced to crane their neck while sitting up front to fork over the extra dough.
Currently, you can only purchase the upgraded seats through the Cineplex ticket window: it's not yet available as an option via the automated debit/credit card transaction machines. To entice theatre-goers of the upgrade is a demo in the lobby; and Cineplex staff has been trained to offer the "upsell" tickets to customers. The Queensway theatre, located at 1025 The Queensway at Queensway and Islington, is the only location in Canada to include the theatre seats, but D-Box hopes to expand the initiative to more locations going forward.
D-Box motion coding is also available in five movie theatres in the U.S., including the Galaxy Cannery Theatre in Las Vegas, NV, the Mann Chinese 6 Theatre in Hollywood, CA, UltraStar Cinemas in Surprise, AZ, Galazy Highland Theatre in Austin, TX, and Theatres at Mall of America in Bloomington, MI. Two films have already been released in the latter four theatres, including Fast & Furious and Terminator Salvation. The average occupancy rate in many of the locations has been about 65%, but the response has, by and large, been positive. In fact, D-Box says it has already added another row of seating in the Mann Chinese location.
Revenue for D-Box is generated on a recurring basis, although the company does not disclose the breakdown. In addition to the theatre seating, D-Box motion coding is also available pre-installed or as a third-party installation in home theatre seating, but it will set you back thousands of dollars. Close to 1,000 DVD movie releases already incorporate the D-Box motion coding.