So, what’s up with Dbox?

Posted: March 28, 2013 by jennroig in Commentary, English, Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Drive-in

“Como sigan evolucionando el cine con tanto 3D y tanta pollada para darle realismo, al final van a terminar inventando el teatro”. This sentence, atributed to an @albertpelias, became meme a few months ago in Facebook and other social media, in reference to the continuous attempt to “improve” our cinematographic experience.

Movie theaters have been linked to our life experiences, the good and the bad ones, pretty much since they were invented. For many people it means the weekend getaway. We all felt somehow adults when we were finally able to get in the theater to watch that film rated “R” or “X”. We went there as teenagers to spoil everybody else’s time. kiss movieSome of us had some great epiphany watching a dramatic scene. Even, some of us went to the theater to do anything but watching a film.

Bedrich Grunzweig Times Square Movie Theatre Marquee, New York City.  Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

Bedrich Grunzweig
Times Square Movie Theatre Marquee, New York City. Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC.

But in just few years the experience has dramatically changed. The theaters are not as large as they used to be. The room has lost that aura of temple to become a prophane location where you can eat nachos or pop corn while sipping a coke or a sprite.

In terms of technology the story is different. Progress and change have been constant in its history. First, getting the 24xsecond right, then turning from the silent era to sound, and then technicolor, cinemascope, substitute the flamable film for another, less sparky,  type of material, and then dolby surround, and then a big ETC. Later the digital came to provide the HD experience, and now I’m finding myself paying a ticket to watch Resident Evil, exclusively because it was on 3D. 3d

I’ve gotta say that I do like 3D. Actually, mostly I’m willing to allow movie theaters to rip my pockets off only when they are screening films in 3D, or 35mm. I think last time I was there to watch “Oz, the Great and Powerful”, in 3D -and oh my Lord this is one horrible film, worse than Resident Evil because it’s more disappointing!- but that’s another day’s story. So, when we got there, the employee told us we couldn’t take the red seats, because they were Dbox and were reserved.

DBOX

DBOX

So, what’s the deal with Dbox? That was my question. When the film started and the seats start moving along, then I realized what the trick was. It’s basically a motion system, and note to self, I think I would get dizzy in those chairs, so stick yourself to 3D, too much progress can be just way too much.This is how Dbox is officially described: “Our technology is leading edge, yet simple. After sound and image, D-BOX is the natural evolution of cinema. Much like a movie soundtrack, motion effects or MFX are created frame-by-frame by our Motion Designers in our California Studio creating the unique patented D-BOX Motion Code. (…) D-BOX is smooth and blends perfectly with the sound and image to make your cinematic experience complete. Its motion is multilevel; it can whisk you as if you were speeding in a car chase or wipe you off gently as if you were by the ocean side.”

First surprise, at least it was for me, D-BOX Technologies is a Canadian company based in based in Longueuil, Quebec. According Wikipedia, “the company first introduced its motion generating systems in 2001 to the home theatre and PC gaming markets.” What else? The value of the its stocks in the Canadian Stock Exchange has been steadily falling during the last 6 months.

But more questions came to mind: who’s getting all the extra money that people pay for the Dbox ticket? Do the film producers get some cut? Is the pie divided only between the theater and the Dbox owner? What cut for each? We are talking about 8 extra dollars for a moving seat.

First clue comes from an article in the WSJ, Hollywood studios are involved: “‘It’s a periphery business for the moment, but as they grow their network, we’re interested in pairing with them for additional titles,’ said Jeff Goldstein, the executive vice president for domestic distribution at Warner Bros. Pictures.” Makes sense the studios get a cut, considering that the films content and the motion of the seats must be related.

It’s gotta be expensive, the price of each chair is around the USD 10.000 and it may costs hundreds of hours to program the motion sequence: “Guy Marcoux, D-Box’s vice president of marketing, said that it took 600 hours to program seats for “Fast Five.” Engineers go through movies frame-by-frame to create a “motion track”—analagous to a soundtrack—that controls the seat.”

The answer to the percentage that each takes is still hidden from me in the web, or haven’t been tackled yet. But the case of the Dbox, whether or not it’s a worthy expense, has big question marks at the end. Will it depend on the state of pockets? Will it be the case that it spoils or improve the experience? Is it just one more change?

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