4D cinema arrives in Scotland, at a price
Not content with the increased revenue from the higher ticket prices for 3D cinema the multiplexes have decided to take 4D into the cinemas of Scotland, bringing with it a massively increased ticket price and a new experience to shake you, and the people around you, right out of the film you're watching.
I've seen and heard them in action as I've unfortunately sat behind one in a Canadian cinema and I have to say it was more annoying than someone using their mobile, chatting, or rustling paper bags every two seconds to keep a constant supply of crunchy snacks going to their stomach.
Cineworld in Glasgow has implemented D-BOX seats, seats that will vibrate with varying intensity at different action points in a film and, if implemented as they do overseas, there will be a button to allow you increase or decrease the intensity of the vibration.
The seats will cost £5.50 extra on top of the already expensive £8.90 tickets and look like they'll be rolled out across the UK, although the article in The Guardian about them doesn't make it clear how far they've been rolled out so far and how many more seats and cinemas they intend to take over.
The article does say that five more cinemas are selected to receive the technology in the next few months and some twenty-four at a "later stage". They have the rather confusing statement:
They will form about 10% of the seating in theatres selected for 4D.
So there's another 90% of the 4D seating going to be used for other types of audience interventions? That is rather worrying as this means there are more off screen audience distractions coming.
The defence of the move comes from the cinema chain who is obviously delighted at the near 62% rise in the cost of tickets for the seats as Matt Eyre, Cineworld's Vice President of Operations, says:
"This is the next step. I think filmgoers are always looking for that little bit extra."
They are looking for cheaper cinema tickets and food, not more expensive tickets that provide you with an experience that's going to keep taking you out of the film.
This is my problem with the D-BOX seating is that it's the equivalent of someone shaking you on the shoulder during the film. When you're into a scene and getting involved with the story and that happens you're suddenly focussed on the shaking in the here and now, your senses are focussed back on the events in the cinema not on the screen.
For me the whole beauty of cinema is being absorbed and lost in the story being presented to you, captured whole-heartedly and the role of any film is to try and capture your imagination and emotions and make you feel something. However the film is going to suddenly lose your attention to the shaking seat and you're straight out of the film.
How have the writer, cinematographer, director, editor and everyone else involved in crafting that film to capture you going to feel about you being constantly shaken and reminded "Hey, you're in a cinema".
So many film fans talk about the distractions and annoyances in the cinema already from mobile phones, hugely noisy snacks, people talking and generally being impolite to other viewers, and this is going to be another one of those distractions for all audience members.
Matt Eyre believes otherwise though and says of the seats that:
"It's a choice at the end of the day...We have VIP boxes, for example. This is another evolution."
However it's not a choice for those who are sitting around these seats.
Believe me, I've sat a few seats away from one of these D-BOX seats and the sudden jittering of the person in the seat continually caught my eye and interrupted my viewing, not to mention feeling the vibrations through the seats. Thankfully there was only one person in the row of D-BOX seats in front of us but can you imagine a whole row with different intensities set on each?
My advice is to find out if your cinema has these seats and book a row well away from them. This is just another distraction from the film that the film-makers are trying to present to you, interrupting the viewing of the people who have paid £8.90 or thereabouts for a ticket and delivering another gimmick for those foolhardy enough to pay another £5.50 to have the immersive experience of watching a film on a huge screen constantly interrupted.
Guy Marcoux of D-BOX says that they work closely with film studios' motion designers at the post production stage of a film to match the vibrations of the seat with the film allowing some thirty separate movements in a frame and meaning that the task of adding vibrating seats to your film can take up to six hundred hours per film.
I wonder if the director has any say in whether the D-BOX seats can be used during their film?
Marcoux goes on to say:
"We are trying to reflect everything you would feel in real life without crossing that line of being like a theme park ride."
A theme park ride.
It seems to me that cinema chains are providing me with more and more reasons to stay at home and watching films on my home cinema streamed from online services or delivered through the letterbox. No interruptions, accessible 2D screenings and no vibrating seats.
Seriously, is this what you want? Next we'll be having people in costumes dressed as characters in the film running up and down the aisles, water thrown at us during storm scenes, wind machines down the front of the cinema, strange smells being pumped into the air conditioning, electric shocks in seats. It's back to the days of William Castle.