D-BOX movies: is it worth it the eye-popping price?

A view of the D-Box Technologies booth during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at Caesars Palace, on April 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: ALBERTO E. RODRIGUEZ / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Amid slumping ticket sales, cinemas are increasingly trying more creative ways of getting television-addicted audiences into theatres.

3D. IMAX. IMAX 3D. Prestige. Forty-eight frames per second (fps) films. And now, there is D-BOX, a seat that vibrates and moves as it mimics the live action happening on the screen.

Ster-Kinekor, which launched this new technology earlier this month, calls it “a hyper-realistic immersive entertainment experience… that will boost and elevate you, literally, and let you live the action."

While film reviewers were waiting for the start of the premiere of The Last Jedi – the film chosen to showcase this new technology – a long advertisement for D-BOX promised those who are asked to fork out R170 per ticket “a highly believable, one-of-a-kind movie-watching experiences that pulls you into the story in ways you never thought imaginable”, without being distracted. The ad repeatedly promised the experience would not detract from the film but would be a seamless encounter.

WATCH: Movie time with Tania Nefdt

Lies. On the contrary, D-BOX is an irritating and disruptive experience, akin to that annoying mosquito that disturbs your sleep, a dripping tap you can’t get to, a nagging three-year-old repeatedly tapping your leg to gain your attention. The motion and vibration turn the film into the kind of theme park ride I found at Euro Disney.

The D-BOX does have a “volume control” for the motion and I quickly turned mine down from its highest to its lowest setting.

The seats are much narrower than those you’ll find in the IMAX cinema and while the film is still screened in 3D, the motion can disrupt the visuals when at its highest setting.

In their bid to fill theatres, cinemas are trying to reinvent the wheel, kind of like a certain pizza chain that is determined to make pizzas that are no longer pizzas.

I draw the line at 3D. A certain director-friend of mine regularly throws curses at this format and secretly hopes it will die because he feels it ruins films. I rather enjoy movies shown in 3D on the massive IMAX screen, which is way more immersive the D-BOX because there is nothing else crying for your attention.

I’m the old-fashioned purist kind of filmgoer who prefers to watch movies in a dark cinema rather than on the small screen. But, at nearly double the price of a normal 3D ticket (R97) and almost R40 more than an IMAX 3D ticket (R129), I’d choose my Netflix over the D-BOX every time. And don’t think you can score half-price with your loyalty cards the way you can with any of the other films. It’s full price or nothing for the privilege of watching a film in a bad massage chair. 

If you find a film so boring that you need a shaking chair to make it interesting, you’re wasting the money you could have spent on a monthly Netflix subscription.

The idea that movies need to be hyper-real is destroying film.

If you’re looking for a theme park or arcade experience, the D-BOX is for you. Otherwise, this is more miss than hit.

D-BOX-equipped cinemas have opened at Mall of Africa and The Zone Rosebank in Johannesburg, Gateway Shopping Mall in Durban and Cavendish Square in Cape Town.


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