Action seats tested at Ridge Cinema

Aug. 4, 2014

New Berlin — Action seats for action movies seem to be catching the fancy of local moviegoers, but it's still too soon to tell if they will be the next innovation to hit movie theaters, officials of the Marcus Theatres Corp. said.

Marcus installed programmable cinema chairs in a single auditorium at Ridge Cinema, 5200 S. Moorland Road, New Berlin, this summer, and moviegoer reaction is being measured.

The chairs are programmed to help movie watchers not only see the movie but feel it, too. When a bomb explodes in an action movie, viewers feel a sensation in their seats.

"It's like a shake," but it's extremely subtle, said Clint Wisialowski, assistant vice president of sales/research and development.

You can't see the chair shake, he said. A piece of paper on the seat might flutter a tiny bit, "but I don't know if you'd see that."

The sensation is produced through sound, said Mari Randa, director of communication for the Marcus Theatres Corp. "But it's not at all loud."

This sound is created by a pair of attenuators, Wisialowski added. One is in the seat, and the other is behind the lower back.

Patrons are being asked to fill out feedback cards to tell Marcus how they like the seats, and some are being surveyed as they leave, Randa said.

It's early, but people seem to like the new seats, especially for action movies, she said.

One patron wrote on a card, "It was so relaxing, I wanted a pedicure at the same time," Wisialowski said. He added that those viewing action movies tended to really like the seats.

The negative comments from early feedback complained they didn't feel anything at all, he said.

But that could be because the previous person sitting in the seat turned off the feature. According to Wisialowski, people may have wondered what the small on and off switch was for and inadvertently flipped the feature off. The theater presents information on-screen about the new seats, but inevitably people come in late for shows or they are distracted getting settled into their seats while the information is presented, he said.

The pilot period is for six months, and Randa would not say what happens after it's over in November. Marcus will look at its options then, she said.

The Ridge was chosen for the test because it has good patronage and because it is more representative of the kinds of theaters Marcus operates, Randa said.

At first they thought of holding the pilot in a shopping mall theater because of the high volume of patrons. "But we thought it would be better in a traditional setting," she said "We don't want the information to be skewed."

Running the test at Ridge, she said, "will help us better understand the future."


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