NORMAL -- Move over 3-D, here comes D-Box.
Instead of delivering movie thrills straight between the eyes, D-Box lifts and separates, so to speak -- detaching the moviegoer from his or her seat via three levels of pitching, rolling and heaving.
Moreover, the moviegoer also has control over the intensity of that action, via a control knob that can reduce the movement, or, if it all becomes too much, shut it off.
Beginning next weekend with the opening of "Super 8" at the Starplex Stadium 14 in Normal, the Twin Cities becomes only the second location in Illinois to feature the motion seating technology (the other is in suburban Chicago's Rosemont).
Currently, only 80 cinemas nationwide have installed the seating, according to Traci Hoey, marketing director for Starplex, the Texas-based chain with 236 screens around the country.
Though it's been available for more than two years, theaters have been slow to adopt the complex technology, which requires the installation of special seating engineered to move, vibrate and deliver physical sensations in sync with the action onscreen.
At the Starplex, says Hoey, two rows of regular seats in one auditorium were replaced with 23 of the mechanized D-Box seats.
Though moveable seating has long been a part of theme park rides and video arcade games featuring movie elements, D-Box is the first time the technology has been applied to feature-length films, with 2009's "Fast & Furious" the first major Hollywood showcase.
"I've been at places with those rides, but this is totally different," says Hoey. "There are an infinite number of movements and vibrations. It's pretty amazing."
The seats respond to signals embedded with the digitally delivered film itself, she says, and can be regulated by the patron via a control on the side. The movement is not continuous, and is triggered mainly during action sequences involving concentrated physical activity.
Even so, disclaimers will be posted advising people with medical issues, as well as pregnant women, of the possible hazards involved.
For those wanting a taste of D-Box before committing, a free test chair will be available in the Stadium 14 lobby for a limited time.
Though "Super 8" was not shot in 3-D, the next D-Box attraction at the Stadium, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows Part 2," opening July 15, is a 3-D release.
That means patrons wanting both the 3-D and D-Box experience in tandem will be paying for the privilege via separate user fees on top of the regular ticket price.
According to Hoey, the "Super 8" D-Box fee will be $14 before 6 p.m. and $16 after. She says the 3-D fee for "Harry Potter" will likely add another $2 to that total.
Because of the limited seating, an advance ticket purchase at www.starplexcinemas.com is recommended, Hoey says.
As for patrons occupying the non-movable seats in the D-Box auditorium, she says there is no cause for concern that they'll be distracted. "You see the seats swaying a little, but you don't hear anything."
Outside the box
Following are details about next weekend's debut of D-Box at Normal's Starplex Stadium 14:
• Unveiling D-Box to the Twin Cities is the Steven Spielberg-produced, J.J. Abrams-directed "Super 8," premiering June 9 with a midnight show.
• Just one of the Stadium 14's auditoriums will be equipped with D-Box seating, with only two rows (or 23 seats) of that auditorium impacted.
• A D-Box seat responds to signals digitally embedded in the film's soundtrack.
• The seat is equipped with three types of movements: pitching, rolling, heaving, all in synch with action on screen.
• A knob on the seat will allow patrons to adjust the level of movement intensity, or turn it off completely.
• The D-Box experience involves a higher ticket fee; for "Super 8" at the Stadium 14, it will be $14 before 6 p.m., and $16 thereafter.
• Because of the limited D-Box seating, advance ticket purchases are recommended.
• A free test chair will be available in the theater lobby for a limited time.
• Next up in D-Box at the Stadium: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," which, unlike "Super 8," is also in 3-D -- meaning two extra user fees will be appended to ticket prices.