March of the Gimmicks: Cineworld introducing wobbly seats
Today, the day after I wrote of 3D cinema’s recent decline in popularity, I have discovered that Cineworld are installing D-BOX seats in a Glasgow screen for the release of Disney’s upcoming sci-fi action flick John Carter. Confused? In other words, your average cinema trip is being turned into riding on Star Tours. It’s a Disneyland experience for a Disneyland price tag, invading your multiplex with the subtlety of your average Main Street USA Parade.
Already doing the rounds in the US since 2009 D-BOX chairs are produced by a Canadian firm of the same name. The chairs resemble your average cinema seat, but are controlled by a relay box which issues commands in sync with the film playing. Combine that with a pair of 3D glasses and you have one expensive way of missing a large part of the film or chucking up.
The good news is that once you’ve paid the excess for your D-BOX seat, you can turn the effect off with a dial on the seat, for when it all gets too much or too irritating. It gives you something to play with too, when your mandatorily 3D film turns out to be really terrible.
Cineworld insists that D-BOX creates a “multi-sensorial revolution in film watching” and an “unmatched realistic immersive experience”. Nothing, truly, is more immersive than trying to watch a film whilst being jerked around in your seat and wearing dark-tinted, thick-rimmed glasses. Doesn’t that sound much better than being able to focus on a motion picture without anything in the way?
I can’t even imagine this technology will do much to immerse you in what’s going on, much in the same way that 3D didn’t either. As I discovered back in the days of Cars 2, the barrier of glasses and the darker, poorer picture actually created a barrier between the film and I - and D-BOX seats will no doubt make that barrier ever more obtrusive.
Cameras can do wonderful things to create a sense of depth on a 2D plane with light and shadow, focus and blur, and all without some funny spectacles; they can also create a sense of motion without the help of some wiggly cinema chairs. I also can’t help but feel sorry for the audience members who have chosen regular seats, who will be subjected to two hours of the rows in front wobbling back and forth whenever the action heats up.
The problem with the modern film industry is that it keeps seeking new gimmicks to keep audiences coming back, even though they’re not going anywhere. 2011 saw around 171.5 million cinema admissions, while 2010 saw 37 million less than that. What’s the need for gadgetry like this?
The answer lies in 3D: or, rather, it’s probable decline. 3D isn’t pulling in audiences like it did when Avatar hit the big screen, so pulling out the stops with a new expensive gimmick will, for distributors and cinema firms, increase the cash flow, at least for a little while. As for 3D? It’s very much on its way out with your average moviegoer, as my unscientific Facebook poll conducted this morning will testify.
However, much like 3D, audiences will tire of D-BOX. Maintaining the seats will become too expensive as people grow tired of wobbling around, and they will probably be discarded. D-BOX’s ever declining share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange shows interest in the firm and the tech is rapidly going south. Cineworld is essentially installing an already-defunct technology in its otherwise perfectly functional cinemas.
I know I can’t stop the onslaught of D-BOX for now, but I beg of you: when John Carter hits your local multiplex next month, make a statement by leaving your 3D glasses, and your sick bag, at home. Come for the movie, stay for the movie - not for cinema’s next big trick at seperating you from what’s happening on the screen.
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