Tuesday, 28 August 2012

D-BOX Cinema Seating

Have you ever been on a rollercoaster and after the three minute ride though to yourself, “I wish that could have lasted another couple of hours.”? Well a few months ago my local cinema introduced D-BOX seating to one of their screens. Having read up on it at the time I came to the conclusion that it was another ridiculous and expensive gimmick which would surely detract from the cinema going experience rather than as advertised, enhancing it. Several months later I finally decided to give it a chance and went to see The Expendables 2 in one of the new seats. Here is my review.

In case anyone hasn’t heard of them (and I hadn’t), D-BOX seats are seats which vibrate and tilt in time with the on screen action and are advertised on it’s website in the following way “You will live the action... D-BOX creates an unmatched realistic immersive experience, the most amazing Home Entertainment experience you have ever tried”. D-BOX is advertised as bringing you closer to the action and as being a more immersive experience. We’ve heard that claimed for 3D which is generally starting to be regarded as an expensive gimmick which rarely improves a film. Is the same so for D-BOX?

When I bought my ticket for the film I asked the guy serving me if they’d been popular since their introduction. He told me that they had been very popular for some films, such as The Dark Knight Rises but less so for films such as The Expendables 2. At the time I wondered to myself whether this was merely that The Dark Knight Rises had been an extremely popular film which constantly sold out, compared to The Expendables 2 which has taken less than £2m (on latest figures) in the UK. By the time the film started, admittedly on a Tuesday afternoon, there were thirteen people in the theatre, five of which had opted for D-BOX.

The seats themselves are very comfortable, much more comfortable in fact than regular cinema seats. The back is curved slightly like a racing seat which gives added support and as a very tall man I felt that my neck was supported while I had ample leg room in front. An added bonus is that all the seats are separate units meaning that if someone moves a few seats down you won’t move with them. The seats have a sensitivity adjustment button on the right hand side which allows you to choose between slight sensations or the full D-BOX experience. I initially went for the full, blender style setting.

The sensation when the film started was actually surprisingly good. The seats moved with the action so as a plane banked to the left, you would bank with it. If a tank rolled passed, your seat would start vibrating and then shaking before easing off as it passed. If a man was punched in the face, you’d jerk back violently as if being punched yourself. Overall the movement accurately reflected the on screen action as much as feasibly possible. As an experiment I bought an overpriced Coke before the film and drank it quickly. Despite being a little burpy, I was never nauseous and felt fine as I was shaken about. In the opening minutes I actually had a smile on my face as I rocked, vibrated and tilted my way through the action of The Expendables 2. I was enjoying the sensation and actually thought it did add to my enjoyment of the film. After a while though these feelings left me slightly and I started to become a little uncomfortable and fed up with thrashing around like a whale in a bathtub each time Stallone let of a volley of bullets. Another problem I had after a while is that my back started to hurt.

Here is a notice from my local multiplexes website;

  The D-BOX motion-enabled seats may be harmful to women who are pregnant, persons with heart conditions, the elderly, persons with back, head or neck conditions or injuries, those with other pre-existing medical conditions, or those with a weak or nervous disposition. The D-BOX motion-enabled seats should not be used by such persons unless they have first obtained their doctor's approval to do so.

The D-BOX motion-enabled seats should not be used by children under the age of ten years old without parental supervision. Booster seats must not be used on the D-Box motion-enabled seats.

Hot drinks must not be consumed or held whilst using the D-BOX motion-enabled seats.

Neither D-BOX Technologies Inc. nor Cineworld Cinemas Limited shall be liable for physical injury or damage to property, in either case arising from or in any way connected with the use of the D-BOX motion-enabled seats, save as caused by its own negligence.

After that warning I was worried that I was taking my life into my own hands and as I did say, my back started hurting around the mid point. I do have a history of back problems though so perhaps should have heeded the warning. It feels fine now though, a couple of hours after leaving. When I started to ache I did turn the sensitivity down first to ‘four’ and then to ‘three’ but the feeling in my back remained the same. I’m not trying to say that it was the seats fault as I already have a dodgy back but I believe they didn’t help it.

One of the main problems with D-BOX, as with 3D, is the price. For me to choose these seats over regular seating it cost me an extra £4.50 ($7.11 US). When tickets are already around £8.00 ($12.63), it’s a lot to ask, especially if you have a family with you. As a one off experience I think it was worth the £4.50 but I didn’t enjoy it enough to pay again.

In the end then D-BOX may be a gimmick but it’s a gimmick that has some plus points to it. I did feel more involved with the film, if only for a short while and the movement did put a smile on my face when it first came on. After a while though it became quite annoying and the price is enough to put most people off. I don’t think I’ll be using the seats again and will instead be choosing my usual dark red, stained seat At The Back.

D-BOX is currently available at twenty-eight theatres in North America in addition to six here in the UK, including Didsbury, Manchester where I tried them out.

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