Cineworld has recently invested in a line of D-Box seats that vibrate at pivotal points of effects-driven films. According to a Guardian report last Friday the seats were piloted in Glasgow, the UK’s most-patronised Cineworld, where 35 seats have been fitted. Inevitably, the juddering seats have been dubbed “4D” and if that sounds familiar it’s because that’s exactly what they called Aromascope on the release of Spy Kids 4(D) last summer. Apparently there’s a little bit of confusion as to what the fourth dimension actually is or should be.
One might be forgiven for suspecting that the fourth dimension will be whatever gimmick happens to bring in the most money; the D-Box seats are going to add an additional £5.50 to ticket prices. Given that punters are already paying out an extra pound to view films in 3D, per ticket this is all totting up to quite a princely sum. If you forget to bring your 3D glasses with you you’re looking at another 70 pence into the bargain. William Castle would have been laughing all the way to the bank.
There are various issues with this new scheme that add to the ongoing issues with 3D. Firstly, before introducing a new dimension should Cineworld, and other such chains, not explain why consumers are still paying for the last dimension they sold us? Initially picturegoers were told that the extra cost on 3D tickets was to pay for the instalment of new equipment. Given that 3D began to reemerge in 2005 and has been a prominent part of the cinema landscape for the last 3 years (1 in 4 cinema tickets sold in 2010 was for a 3D film) is it not reasonable to assume that these costs have now been covered? This is a question I’ve asked industry bods numerous times and I’ve yet to receive a straight answer. If there are readers who manage a cinema and are able to explain this extra cost, please do leave a comment below. We want to hear an explanation. In the meantime we have contacted the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association and are awaiting their response.
Secondly, is this really where Cineworld believe their money is best invested? Hopefully, as these seats are primarily for use in loud, effects-driven movies the sound of 30 or so vibrating seats will be drowned out by explosions and space fights. If you are sitting anywhere near these seats, however, it is sure to be visually distracting to see dozens of people being thrown about on your left hand side. Surely mobile phones are scourge enough and besides this have Cineworld seen, for instance, the state of their Hammersmith site? New carpets, speakers and a few more ushers before seats that tilt. Please.
In the end, this technology risks ending up on the same scrapheap as its hardly-lamented forebears. In issue 3 of our print magazine we looked at the, now seemingly quaint, 1970s gimmick Sensurround. It used extended-bass sounds in order to create, wait for it, vibrations in the auditorium. Probably the most notable use of this gimmick was in Earthquake (1974) and Rollercoaster (1977) but unsurprisingly, just like 3D the first and second time round, it didn’t stick.
In the aforementioned Guardian article John Carter ticket-holder Beth Woods was quoted as saying “I don’t think I would have seen this film without it [4D]. It does add something.” Perhaps I am being pedantic; old-fashioned; priggish, but if the only incentive to go and see a film is the incentive of being thrown about in my seat maybe I should give that film a miss? Or at least stay home with my ipad and a spin dryer. I can’t blame the lady for feeling John Carter was missing a certain je ne sais quoi, but I have a suspicion that believability and a name that any of the actors could pronounce properly would have made more of a difference than pulsating seats. The bottom line is: we as audiences should be more concerned about winding up watching a load of arse on screen rather than what’s happening beneath our own.