Big Picture: New SilverCity seats offer moving experience

It isn’t every day a movie lover gets to test-drive a Mars-bound spacecraft and experience the rumbles, vibrations and zero-gravity thrills we assume are all in a day’s work for an astronaut.

OK, so I didn’t get to ride shotgun on a real NASA spaceship, but reliving sequences from The Martian from the comfort of a D-Box Motion Seat at SilverCity was a virtual approximation.

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“Wow, that was awesome!” a D-Box user nearby blurted out before the film’s early storm sequence even began.

Indeed, watching scenes from Ridley Scott’s space adventure, starring Matt Damon as the marooned astronaut of the title, from one of SilverCity’s 33 new D-Box seats was exhilarating.

It begins as you sense a subtle sway that, depending on what is happening onscreen, will segue into a roll, or a succession of rumbles and vibrations in sync with the action.

Three rows of the red, body-hugging padded seats have been installed in the multiplex’s largest auditorium, the 438-seat theatre No. 6.

While there’s no question these futuristic seats provide a more immersive moviegoing experience, they come at a steep price — an $8 surcharge.

Whether it’s worth it will depend largely on the potential for thrills that the D-Box-compatible movie you choose to attend provides, and personal taste.

For those of us with privacy issues, the side benefits — feeling as if you’re sitting in an airplane’s first-class section, the relaxation the massage-like bonus provides and the extra personal space the double-armrests allow — might be enough to justify reserving one from time to time. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but being lifted up and down, backward and forward, and feeling some good vibrations does enhance certain moviegoing experiences.

The experience is achieved through an embedded power drive. “Motion actuators” create movement by translating cues from codes scripted by programmers.

The process of generating motions as subtle as the feeling of a rowboat on a lake to the ups-and-downs of a roller-coaster ride is labour-intensive, I’m told, requiring up to 400 hours of work for a movie.

Motion effects are used only when justified, and filmgoers can “dial up or dial down” the intensity as desired, said Pat Marshall, vice-president communications and investor relations for Cineplex Entertainment.

“From our perspective, this is all about providing our guests with choices, whether it’s traditional moviegoing or 3-D or our VIP Cinemas and now our D-Box experience,” Marshall said.

While the electro-mechanical generated movement is ideally suited to such D-Box enhanced films as Jurassic World or San Andreas, you wouldn’t want to sit in one during a Woody Allen film.

“Not every movie is designed for this advanced technology,” Marshall said. “With D-Box, they have a motion-code system embedded in the movie frame-by-frame.”

The technology is similar to the 4DX systems available in some U.S. theatres, although without the wind, fog or scent effects.

Seating in the new D-Box section near the back of SilverCity’s largest auditorium is by reservation when you book your tickets online, at the box-office or using the Cineplex app.

And just in case you might be tempted to jump into an empty D-Box the next time you’re at the multiplex, you’re out of luck. Only purchased seats become activated.

With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, giant high-definition TVs and other viewing alternatives, it seems there’s no stopping exhibitors from rolling out such innovative novelties to set themselves apart.

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