D-BOX Will Rock Your Socks Off at the Movies

Motion-enabled seat offers realistic motion effects in sync with the movie

Watching "Inception" at the cinema was quite a mental ride, but experiencing this movie in a D-BOX seat was another unexpected thrill! The motion-encoded movie chair will rock your socks, shake you awake and sway you in almost imperceptible motions perfectly synced to the action and soundtrack on screen.

Just make sure you read the disclaimer carefully when the box-office attendant hands it to you along with your premium tickets. What you read is what you get!

“Warning: The D-BOX motion system and motion-enabled seats may be harmful to…” Any experienced roller-coaster enthusiast knows the rest.

Technology for the movement-encoded seats has been around for about 10 years. It started with home theaters (you’ll have to shell out about $10,000 for a home system) and gaming products, but has started to cross over to the big screen in the last year. With a total of 17 movies, either already out or scheduled future releases, audiences can sit in one of the enhanced-motion seats in 30 theaters across the United States, Canada and Japan. California has 12 theaters offering D-BOX-outfitted seats.

This is a prodigious lineup for the film industry newcomer considering each movie requires between 300 and 500 man-hours of frame-by-frame viewing by motion designers who tailor each of the 53 patented movements into the distinctive software and hardware.

Encoding a feature film takes place during post-production and requires an agreement with the studios that provide the content ahead of time.

"The Fast and the Furious," "Terminator" Salvation," "Prince of Persia," "Jonah Hex," "Clash of the Titans," the last "Harry Potter," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Inception" are among the titles already released with motion-encoded seats, and they've been very well received by moviegoers willing to pay the $8 surcharge for the Ferrari-red, extra-comfortable seats. 

No more sharing armrests with strangers, either. You get two to yourself, and you're separated from your neighbor by a few inches and an oversized, extra-sturdy metal cup holder, which will keep your drink from spilling while your chair is leaning at a 10-degree angle.

I had the opportunity to sit in one of the extra-high crimson chairs (at 5’2” my feet were not touching the ground, but criss-cross applesauce took care of that inconvenience for me), which reminded me a bit of the red velvet seats of yester-Hollywood. Each motion-capable chair can be controlled by the viewer with varying degrees of motion, from high to completely off; you are the master of your immersive experience.

Though initially skeptical of the theme park-like ride I expected from the chair, I was pleasantly surprised by the sophistication and range of sensations I was able to appreciate from a stationary piece of furniture.

During a telephone interview with Guy Marcoux, D-BOX's VP of marketing, told me the seat’s special effects are not meant to take the focus away from the film. “We don’t want to distract you (from the storytelling). We want you to blend with the D-BOX so you can enjoy the experience,” Marcoux emphasized during our conversation.

During the preview clips, the seat comes to life, rumbling almost immediately with the first sounds from the projector. This is your opportunity to play around with the varying degrees of motion until you feel comfortable. I purposely left the default setting on my control on high to get the most powerful effects of this incredible technology.

My favorite movement was the hardly noticeable water simulator, gentle and calm. Quite in contrast to this floating feeling, I almost jumped out of my seat a few times (accompanied by audible shock!) thanks to the sudden jolts and thrusts reproducing the effects of car crashes and explosions — I almost needed a seat belt!

I took my teenager along to try out the D-BOX seats and got a predictable reaction, “Sweet! What other movies can we watch in these seats?” The gadget-dependent teen set surely will enjoy this heightened movie-watching experience, since every other aspect of their modern lives seems to be technologically enhanced by an assortment of ubiquitous devices.

Marcoux also noted they have experimented with encoding D-BOX seats for a variety of film genres — drama being the least exciting. The more action or effects in a movie, the more you feel you are getting your money’s worth (yup, pun intended).

Some may think this added feature will distract you from the movie, but Marcoux added a good point: “Usually during the first experience in a D-BOX, it takes about a half-hour to try to understand and anticipate the movements. Then you relax and go on.”

For film purists, the gimmicky aspect of the motion-simulation seats may not be a welcome feature. However, after a few test drives, the motion chairs might be more universally accepted — much like wearing the cumbersome 3D glasses necessary to watch expensive 3D films.

Currently, only theaters equipped with digital projection systems can get the motion-enabled chairs, and the cost for theaters wanting this unique technology is based on a revenue-sharing model between the D-BOX manufacturer, the exhibitors and the studios. As a result, there are only a few rows in each theater with motion-enhanced seats; they're placed in the back to avoid obstructing the view of regular-seated patrons.

So far, this motion technology has had to prove itself in the very critical film market, and Marcoux said it has been able to deliver the expected bang for viewers willing to pay the extra bucks – and I concur.

The Canadian-based company continues to make steady inroads in the film exhibitor arena, and is working on several new releases with motion feedback for viewers. Upcoming films already encoded and revving up their engines to purr in your D-BOX seats are "Tron" and "The Expendables."

But wait. There’s more!

You might want to start saving up to take your family to the movies to enjoy watching a show combining the latest trends in the movie industry.

In December you’ll be able watch "Tron" in a D-BOX and in 3D.

Going to the movies has never been this much fun … or this expensive!