I was in Ft. Lauderdale recently with my daughter Casey, visiting my mother for a couple of days. We spent the first one going through old photo albums mom had uncovered and found some beautiful old snapshots, some of which were of people my mother actually recognized. For the most part, though, the pictures could have been purchased at random from a garage sale. Sure, that could be my great uncle in that picture at someone’s wedding, but for all my mother knew, it could have been the caterer.
I’m not one of those people who lament the passing of film cameras, but I will say there was an obvious, if unnameable quality to those now-ancient pictures that you just don’t get with digital imagery. Maybe it’s just the knowledge that you’re not looking at reconstituted zeros and ones but, rather, at the actual images of real people frolicking at that beach, kibbitzing at that long-defunct Catskills resort, thinking it made them cool if they took a photo with the entertainers at a hip Greenwich Village hotspot. It also helps when you’re looking at aged, professional prints instead of the screen of someone’s smart phone. (In the photo above, that’s my father at the far right; I don’t know what the wifeless occasion was, or why every man photographed prior to 1960 looks like a gangster.*)
But I’m not here today to talk about still pictures. I want to talk about moving ones.
We couldn’t spend a second day hanging around my mother’s apartment, because she keeps it at a refreshing 80 degrees. So we went to the movies to see Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, who, although he is a fine actor, has never been able to totally erase the memory I have of him in drag on Bosom Buddies. However, Tom and his latest release are also not the subject of this post.
No, I’m writing today about a horrifying poster we saw at the theater, which was a Muvico in Pompano Beach. Muvico is a chain of multiplexes, most of which are in Florida, but there are some in California and Illinois as well. To give you an idea how big these joints are, Muvico’s website tells us that they “operate 152 screens in 9 locations,” which comes to 16.88 screens per location. (Tip: Don’t buy tickets for the theater with an eighth of the screen missing.) They also contain full restaurants, arcade games and, in one location, a couple of bowling alleys because, really, the sound of a ball smashing into pins is as much a part of an evening at the cinema as the buttery substance on your popcorn.
Speaking of popcorn, you’ll be happy to know that if you enjoy a nice chardonnay with your movie snacks, the concession stands at Muvico offer a selection of wine and beer along with a wide variety of gummy things.
But, guess what? I’m not writing today about movie concession stands, either.
I’m writing to warn you about that poster we saw, which was not for a movie coming soon, but for a piece of technology that is, unfortunately, already here, at least at Muvico.
It’s called “MFX D-Box.” It’s a new kind of theater seat…that moves. According to the website:
Well, first of all, I’m not sure I want to be immersed in a movie, especially if it’s Captain Phillips or, worse, Titanic. And I don’t care how much the damned chair moves; I’m not going to feel as though I’m really piloting an X-wing Fighter with a tub of popcorn in my lap and little Billy screeching behind me because big Billy and his wife were too cheap to hire a babysitter.
As I’m sure you’ve surmised, this D-Box thing is a seat that is somehow coded to the movie so that it vibrates, or rocks, or, I don’t know, launches you into the air during appropriate sequences of the film. In this way, you’re supposed to feel like you’re experiencing what’s happening to the characters in the movie. I bet you can’t wait for Fifty Shades of Grey to come out now, huh?
I don’t know about you, but to me, this sounds reminiscent of those theme park motion rides where you feel like you’re hurtling Back to the Future, or flying through outer space or, as is always the case with my wife Barbara, sailing on a small boat in a stormy ocean with no Dramamine. I can just imagine theater audiences having similar reactions, and I’m looking forward to lots of projectile vomiting during the next Avengers movie.
I have one other question about this innovation: Is it really appropriate for South Florida? I mean, if you immerse your typical movie-goer there in “an unmatched, realistic experience, right in their seats,” that might not be the only thing that happens right in their seats, if you get my drift. This is an audience for whom a shock from their chair might be closely followed by a shock from a defibrillator.
In any case, I’m really in no hurry to have D-Boxes or something similar come to a theater near me.
I would hate to have to tell my doctor that I pulled a muscle while watching a movie.
See you soon.
*Turns out that The Savannah Club in this photo was a mob-owned, “Negro Burlesque” club, where the entertainment included “China Doll.” who let customers pop the balloons that comprised her only apparel and a 25-person act called “The Tahitian Pagan Love Dance.” That might explain the wifeless occasion (I’m guessing bachelor party). In spite of the venue, however, it doesn’t explain why the guys look like gangsters.