Ultra AVX and D-Box. Are they really worth the extra coin?
With the rise of the digital format only gaining momentum, things are slowing down for entertainments that actually require people to leave their homes. Video stores are quickly becoming extinct, Rogers Video and Blockbuster, not to mention a whole host of locally owned shops have pretty much been snuffed out, with retail stores like HMV probably not far behind. Apple TV and Netflix, not to mention torrent sites, are making it much easier and cheaper to just download (in standard or high definition) movies from the internet, rather than go out and buy them new. And if you don't care so much about quality, most new release big screen movies can be found and (illegally in some places) downloaded the same day they're released. But we know all that. We've all seen the CD dying a slow but inevitable death for the last few years, Blu-Ray is pushing DVD out of the market and even companies releasing Blu-Rays are having to come up with more and more inventive and enticing extras to get people to go out and buy them.
Well, amidst all this digital warfare, it seems the cinema, particularly the multiplex, is poised to outlive and outlast its younger brothers in movie entertainment. But for how long? What if movie production companies start striking deals with satellite and digital cable providers and you have the option to see new release movies at home? How big a hit would movie theaters and multiplexes take if our increasingly lazy and pampered society was given one less reason to leave the comfort of their homes? Like anything that wants to Darwinise itself, that is, make itself fit for survival, evolution and adaptation are essential. In regards to the movie theater experience, that means new ways for people to experience movies.
3D was making a hell of a comeback since the original fad faded in 1955, then again in 1984 before IMAX and advanced digital techniques gave it a renewed look and Hollywood took that ball and ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. But even (and thankfully) that's starting to fade now as the gimmick is again losing its charm with audiences and less and less people are paying the extra money for a 3D ticket if a 2D option is available.
Cineplex Entertainment, the largest film exhibitor in Canada, seems to be anticipating all these things and has introduced two new ways to see a movie:
The first is called Ultra AVX (audio video experience). AVX, claims Cineplex, is the ultimate way to see a movie. Most major cities have one or two AVX screens that boast more comfortable seating, more leg room, more room to recline, bigger screens with sharper picture and better sound. Sounds amazing!
The second is called D-BOX motion seats. Which are pretty self explanatory. In one of the theaters there is fourteen seats wired to move and vibrate along with the action on the screen. That sounds cool too! Although they call this D-Box a breakthrough, it's really not. I remember as a kid going to Canada's Wonderland in Toronto and going on a ride called Days of Thunder, which was just basically a race scene from the movie Days of Thunder on a big screen and everyone strapped into these seats that moved with the action. I think West Edmonton Mall has, or had, a similar thing as well.
Of course, with the movie industry, nothing extra comes for free, so there is a premium tacked on to the ticket price of a movie to see it with one of these two new innovations. So is the extra few bucks on an already expensive ticket price worth it? Really, the only way it would be worth it is if it enhanced the entertainment experience of the movie, or made the movie better. I've seen a handful of movies on an AVX screen and a movie in a D-Box seat. I'm a guy who sees a lot of movies. Is it worth it? For me, no. For you, maybe.
The AVX theaters are really nice. New, clean, that nice new car type smell that hasn't been invaded by the smell of a million bags of popcorn and nacho cheese. The seats are comfy, but the leg room is a lie. If anything, the extra reclining room means that the poor guy behind you, if you choose to use that reclining room, has even less leg room than he would in a normal theater. The screen's not that much bigger, I'd say barely, if at all and as far as the picture's concerned, I can't tell a big difference. I don't claim to be some visual genius, but I know the difference between something that looks good, and something that looks better. And here, there really isn't much difference. Actually the only noticeable, cost worthy upgrade is the sound. Much more crisp, clear and robust than normal. But is it worth an extra two or three bucks for better sound? Not for me.
The D-Box seats are like a gag that wears off pretty quick. They move with the characters, they vibrate with the action, they do what they claim to do, but it can get annoying after the first twenty minutes or so, especially if your movie is over two hours long and is pretty much straight action from beginning to end. Again, that's me. If you're someone who would get a kick out of that, the extra few bucks for that little bit of fun might be worth it (don't forget, there is no combo deal at Cineplex, if you see a movie in 3D and in an AVX theater or with a D-Box seat, you're paying both premiums. A 3D D-Box movie will end up costing you over $20 after tax and before snacks!)
I just want to close by saying the two greatest movie theater experiences in my life had nothing to do with 3D, picture size, definition or sound. It was who I watched the movies with. The first was The Simpsons Movie a few years ago. I went on opening night, the show was sold out, everyone in the theater were young fans of the show and they are what made my experience better. Every time a character (especially Homer) first came on screen, they would cheer and whoop and clap. Every joke got a huge roar of laughter, the end credits were met with more riotous applause and a standing ovation. Seriously. So cool.
The other was similar, a different tone, but no less fun. It was Paranormal Activity, again on opening night, again a sold out show. Instead of laughter though, it was screaming, jumping and people chuckling at themselves and their neighbors for being such wimps. They ate that movie up. Again, so cool.
See, if theaters and movie companies want to keep filling the seats for years to come and hold their ground with the digital day and age that we find ourselves in, they need to focus less on adding more D's to their movies, and more on just getting good movies up on the screen.