York, PA - Motion pictures were a novelty 130 years ago. Since then, upgrades include Technicolor, surround sound and 3-D technology.
This week, Frank Theatres added a new sensory element that literally makes movies move. The company is installing D-BOX MFX seats in five theaters, including Queensgate Stadium 13 in York Township.
Moviegoers, who pay an extra $8 to $10, will get to use the seats today during screenings of "The Hunger Games."
D-BOX chairs tilt, quake and bounce in sync with onscreen action to make moviegoers feel like they're part of the scene.
Crews came to the Queensgate movie complex earlier this week to install 30 seats in two rows of theater No. 2, said general manager Kevin Scott. Each one is equipped with its own computer and controls, so the user can choose the intensity of the movement.
Thursday morning, Scott let his 5-year-old son, Michael, take a test run. He said Michael's jaw dropped.
About an hour later, Michael was just as excited during his third and fourth D-BOX experiences.
"These chairs are fun," he said. The best part, he added, was when his seat pitched forward when "The Polar Express" plunged down a steep track. Scott said the seats haven't been shown to cause motion sickness, so they're suitable for kindergartners to seniors.
For skeptics, Queensgate has a two-seat testing kiosk in its lobby. It lets people test the D-BOX chairs, which are synched to movie trailers, before they buy a ticket. But Scott suggested people purchase tickets online, since he expects D-BOX seats to sell out.
"A lot of people are going to be fighting for these," he said. The chairs are separate -- no sharing armrests -- and wider than normal movie seats. The D-BOX section also has numbered seating, so once someone reserves one, they can skip the pre-premiere lines.
D-BOX seats are activated with a movie ticket, Scott said. So if they don't sell out, the spots can be sold as motionless movie seats.
The big D-BOX debut will be for the midnight screening of "The Avengers" May 4. After that, Scott said there will be D-BOX screenings for other summer blockbusters -- mostly action flicks. Schedules will be posted up to a week or two before premieres.
A year ago, R/C Hanover Movies installed D-BOX seats and has seen good returns, Scott said. If Queensgate gets similar results, he said he'd think about installing more moving chairs. It's the latest hope to boost box office revenue in world of increasing entertainment options.
Scott predicted the next movie trend would be more sensory elements, like smell and taste. But he's not quite sure how that would work.
Regular adult movie ticket at Frank Theatres: about $9
A ticket for a D-BOX seat during a 2-D screening: about $17
A ticket for a D-BOX seat during a 3-D screening: about $19.50
Cost to install a D-BOX seat: about 10 times the cost to install a regular movie seat
D-BOX Technologies designs and manufactures high-tech motion systems mainly suited for the entertainment industry.
Kevin Scott, general manager of Frank Theatres in York Township, said that in four years, D-BOX seats have been installed in about 130 theaters in 8 countries and 38 states. Today, the Queensgate Stadium 13 theater unveils 30 D-BOX chairs, which move in sync to movies.
D-BOX contracts with film companies. Movie directors coordinate how the seats should be set. Once installed, the chairs are linked to a server, which is connected to the digital film, to coordinate the timing of movements. Scott said the coding is similar to how movie sound works.
For example, when a character in "The Hunger Games" pulls back an arrow on the bow, the seat will tilt back slightly. When the character lets the arrow fly, the seat will pitch forward.
Since the movements are quiet, they won't disrupt other viewers. But the chairs shake, so Scott suggested people leave the lids on their beverages and avoid over-filled popcorn containers. In case of spills, the D-BOX seats are made from cloth, which is easily cleaned.
Before screenings, a short tutorial will play to instruct the audience about how the seats work.
For details about D-BOX, visit www.d-box.com.
For details about Frank Theatres, visit www.franktheatres.com.
Other changes at Queensgate Stadium 13:
Kevin Scott, general manager of the Frank Theaters in York Township said that, the movie theater discontinued its beer theater.
When the theater opened in May 2010, one of the auditoriums allowed adults 21 and older to drink a beer.
Scott said that the idea didn't take off as planned.
"We are a family-oriented event," he said.
He added that the theater is looking into installing an IMAX-type screen in one theater as well as a full-service restaurant. Food and beverages are currently sold in the theater's Starlite Café.
"We're always changing," Scott said.
Also of interest
Check out what's hitting theaters this summer. @FlipSidePA; 771-2051