May 12, 2012

The Avengers - Starplex East Brunswick (D-BOX Review)

Mike: A while back I read about D-BOX, a fairly recent theater seat technology that turns your movie going experience (or home theater experience, since they're also available for personal use) into something like a theme park attraction. Your seat shakes, moves, tilts and vibrates along with the film.

There are no theaters with D-BOX in New York City, but I knew of one about an hour and a half out in East Brunswick, New Jersey. We were heading in that direction so we planned a slight detour to take in a screening of The Avengers in D-BOX on the way back.

Our timing could have been better. We went to see the film on Saturday, May 5th. Two days prior, the theater - formerly Mega Movies - was taken over by a different chain, Starplex Cinemas. And we were in for a headache. You see, D-BOX seats take up only two rows of seats (premium priced - we paid $16.50 for a Saturday 3D matinee and the rest of the seats were only $6.50). And on the Mega Movies site, you were required to pick your seats. With tickets sold on the Starplex site, we weren't able to select our seats. When we arrived at the theater an hour prior to showtime, we were told that we wouldn't be able to sit next to each other, because the other seats were all reserved. Of course, I can't fault the management - they just took over the theater two days prior and were figuring all this D-BOX stuff out. And today, the issue is fixed because you can go on the new site and reserve specific seats. Furthermore, the manager later came in and re-arranged a few things and allowed us to sit together, anyway. So it all worked out in the end, but it was a bit frustrating at first considering we had traveled so far to see this movie in D-BOX.

I was a bit disappointed that the D-BOX showing was only for the 3D version of The Avengers. It wasn't shot that way and I read some bad reviews of the 3D conversion, so our preference was for the original 2D version. But whatever, we didn't have a choice. Before I get into the D-BOX experience, I should note that this theater had a serious problem with its 3D projection. The lower right quarter of the screen was not properly aligned. So the top and left half of the screen was fine - everything was sharp and in focus - but in the lower right corner, I saw everything double. It was slight, but easy to notice and extremely distracting. Something must have been wrong with the projector or the set-up. It wasn't bad enough to ruin the movie for me, and since it was a theater outside of our neighborhood and under new management, and we were really just there to experience the D-BOX seats, I didn't complain. But it was really annoying and it really bothered me, and if it wasn't isolated to our screening, I hope enough people complain to get it fixed.

As for the film itself, I really dug it. It was mindless fun, and the culmination of four years of anticipation. The movie provided me with everything I hoped for. And it was a start-to-finish thrill ride, so it was a great choice to see in D-BOX.

My thoughts on D-BOX: The D-BOX seats are fairly standard - your typical movie theater seats, but spaced out a bit, so everyone gets their own armrests. There's not a lot of space in front of you, but I somehow managed to survive with my long legs.

I was impressed with how well the seat movements synch up with the action on screen. I had no idea what to expect, and my expectations were leaning towards some generic movements. But after sitting through the film, it's become apparent to me that a lot of care went into programming the seats for the film.

Your seat has three levels of intensity and the option to turn it off. Throughout the entire film, I had my seat set to the maximum level. It wasn't distracting to me, but I could see how it might be annoying to some people and I could even imagine it will make some folks queasy. But the amount of movement and vibration seemed just about right to me. During some scenes, when there are just characters talking, the seat doesn't do anything, obviously, so it's not like you're in a non-stop simulator ride.

The running time of The Avengers is two hours and twenty minutes, which might not be the best kind of movie to use to try out these seats, but we were fine. I think the movie has to be engaging enough to keep the seat movements from being distracting, so we had no problem getting through the running time.

My only problem with the D-BOX experience is the noise. I don't know if it's really noise, but the vibration from the seat movements equated to noise for me. The movements are generally fluid, but you're always aware that there's a machine underneath you, and with every tilt or shake you feel the mechanical movements.

The pricing is tough to judge, because we weren't in the expensive market where we normally see our films. We paid $16.50 for the weekend matinee, which is $10 more than the normal price. I think a ten dollar premium is about right - these seats are expensive and there aren't many. I don't know if this is still in a testing phase, because D-BOX seats have been in theaters for a few years now, but it's odd that this hasn't made it to NYC yet. If there were D-BOX theaters in NYC, I would definitely visit them from time to time. Overall, it was a fun experience and I'm really glad I tried it. I just wish the projection wasn't problematic.

Erica: I enjoyed the D-Box seats. They kind of freaked me out at first but then I thought it was fun. I didn't really notice the noise but I did notice the right side of the screen being slightly off. I also had my seat intensity all the way up. I wasn't going to set it there but just knowing I can change it but my mind at ease. The movie was entertaining, it was far superior to any superhero films of 2011 so we are off to a good superhero start 2012. I think Ruffalo as The Hulk was a great casting choice and he played it well. Downey Jr. was great as Iron Man, as always and the two of them alone is enough to see the movie (which clearly everyone has with its 200 mil domestic opening). I feel bad that we dragged my poor mother to this movie, especially with the D-Box seats but she seemed fine with it and enjoyed the experience. The Hulk smash in the D Box seats was super fun! Oh and on another note...does Chris Evans' hair ever move out of place?? You're fighting I want your hair to be messed up, not perfectly coiffed

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