Motion pictures

In a world where it seems everyone has a flat-screen, surround-sound, high-def home theater with Blu-Ray, how will theaters protect their bottom line, preserve the communal movie-going experience, and live to play another day? This summer, one technology comes to the rescue … D-BOX: The Power to Move You.

Multiplex managers across the country are banking on this scenario, charging an extra 8 bucks a ticket for the privilege of watching the film in a motion-equipped, vibrating seat. While 3-D has become the latest ploy to lure audiences back to the theater, and IMAX still touts its larger-than-life screens and sound, D-BOX offers the most immersive experience yet for those those willing to pay the upcharge. You may have seen the demo booths in the lobbies of the Santikos Palladium and Silverado theaters (currently the only two places in San Antonio that feature it). Using “motion code” technology synchronized to the action on the screen, D-BOX seats vibrate, tilt, pitch, and roll to create the sensation that you are feeling the action you’re seeing. Sounds like something at Universal Studios, right?

It’s similar, but the effect is much more subtle and immersive than an amusement-park ride. D-BOX seats provide a surprising range of motion that can simulate a wide variety of onscreen visuals. Of course, the more varied the motion in the movie, the more the seat engineers, or whatever, have to work with — which is why Inception is the perfect film to see in D-BOX. In addition to vibrating gunshots (which a trailer for The Expendables proves to be the least inspired use of the technology), Inception is full of physics-defying scenes that take full advantage of D-BOX’s capabilities.

Like Inception, the D-BOX seats work on four levels — anyone uncomfortable with lots of motion (but for God knows what reason is still willing to pay extra money to watch a movie in a motion-equipped seat) can set the dial down to level one, but I recommend going all the way. This allows you to feel the full effect of more subtle movements, like the remarkable recreation of a slow elevator (which only sounds lame if you haven’t seen the movie) in one of Inception’s pivotal scenes. And there’s no need to worry about becoming numb to the sensations, since they’re mostly reserved for scenes with significant activity — when you’re meant to be focused on the action — so as not to distract from the dialogue.

The greatest potential for D-BOX to change the way we watch movies is revealed about halfway through Inception, when you experience its ability to transform a time-honored cinematic tradition: the car chase. Movies like The French Connection and The Bourne Identity innovated new ways to ratchet up the tension, but camera work alone can’t replicate the feeling of careening around a corner or the sudden momentum change caused by a high-speed wreck. Upcoming films on D-Box’s slate, such as Tron and Harry Potter, will offer even more opportunities for fun with physics. Like 3-D, D-Box has the potential to actually enhance the moviegoers’ experience for that extra money, as long as filmmakers use it as more than a moneymaking gimmick.

Inception is currently playing in D-Box-equipped seats at Palladium and Silverado. The Expendables is scheduled to open August 13. •