EDITORIALS

3D Gets a Boost of Positive News - Really?

by
June 26, 2008
Source: Hollywood Reporter

Jeffrey Katzenberg

I have to admit that I share much of Alex's opinion on 3D movies being a gimmicky money-maker by and large. While James Cameron seeks to change the game in his upcoming Avatar with what seems like intelligent, judicious use of the technology, most 3D endeavors rely on the hokey treatment of having things fly at your face to prove how "cool" of an experience it can be. A recent screening of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D didn't do much to change my opinion. While the film certainly has merit, the experience was plagued with technical difficulties, so it came as a surprise when the director and Brendan Fraser boasted about the future of cinema being 3D. I'm equally surprised by two recent articles that appeared in Hollywood Reporter that cast the technology in a very promising light, this time actually citing statistics.

DreamWorks Animation's CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is a known proponent of 3D. He's quoted as saying that 3D "is the single greatest opportunity in 70 years. Not since the introduction of Technicolor 70 years ago has there been something so impactful to what we do." That's truly a bold statement and one that honestly doesn't excite me at all. Watching a film in 3D thus far has proven a distracting chore and a much less fulfilling moviegoing experience. However, I could be in the minority.

A Neilsen PreView study of 4,000 theaters seems to indicate that 3D movies have some quantitative support as well. Ann Marie Dumais of Nielsen PreView said, "With all the upcoming hype around 3D, we wanted to take a hard look and see if there is truly a consumer appetite for 3D. Our new research approach contrasted theaters in such a way to demonstrate consumers, when given a choice, will choose 3D." Apparently those establishments that showed the 2007 movie Beowulf in 3D experienced a 65% increase in total box office results. To my mind, that doesn't say much about the viability or artfulness of the technology. Again, seeing something in 3D is an interesting experience that folks might be curious about -- the study also cites a general unawareness of what 3D actually is -- and willing to pay a bit more than normal, but I doubt whether the appeal can sustain.

I'll definitely see Cameron's Avator and am looking forward to his more sophisticated use of 3D, but I still have my doubts. The studios not only make money off pure curiosity in the technology, but they also secure a strong footing in combating piracy (that is until 3D capable TVs start hitting the market). It clearly makes sense to them. But with so much reflex support for the technology, I wonder if our movie-going experience is a secondary consideration to the decision-makers. I also wonder when the environmentalists will set their sites on theaters for the waste produced from the one-use 3D glasses. Why exactly is 3D getting so much studio support? Do others share a similar positive outlook?

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  • yeah, when will those commie environmentalists get in an uproar.
  • Jamie Goldsmith
    I have to disagree without the benefit of seeing Journey yet. I thought Beowolf in 3D was amazing and helped bring the story to life. I think that just like anything else, there will be movies done well in 3D and movies done poorly.
  • Boris Van Der Ree
    I have to AGREE with you %100. 3-D seems like a carnival trick to get you to watch more movies, and to get fanboys to pay double and then some just to see their favorite movie in regular and "pain-o-vision" For a new technology, it sure seems cheap. This is mainly because I am a purist when it comes to film; seeing those imags pop out just tries to distract you from how bad the movie really is. Note how every film that plays in 3-D is sub-par to the standards of today's cinema goers. This is why they prefer to see it in 3-D. Example: "Well I heard some bad things about this movie, but the special affects are awesome so I'll go see it in 3-D because the plot is garbage anyway." 3-D is not the way of the future unless you get a high from being temporarily blinded after you take those accursed environmentally unfriendly goggles off.
  • Zzzzzz. Same old, same old. LOL. Hey Alex and Kevin - its time to lighten up a bit! Give 3D a chance as clearly others are - the numbers are showing that yes, you two are in the minority and people love 3D. I am not saying JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3-D is going to be the best thing since sliced bread (Avatar will be though), but what I am saying is let your readers have the opportunity to go see it and judge for themselves! You are saying it yourself: "To my mind, that doesn't say much about the viability or artfulness of the technology." - there you go! Let your readers decide if they like it or not. Remember JOURNEY 3-D is meant to be an entertaining RIDE - not an epic movie like Avatar, but a good time for a family and thrill seekers. Do you think about laughing when you go into see a Hostel movie? No. So prepare yourself to have fun and go see it. And regarding Katzenberg - he is merely the conduit for many many people working in the 3D movie industry. I have had the pleasure of growing closer to a lot of folks now in the 3D world over the past year and they are truly awesome people who have clear vision and goals. Achievable goals. Katz is one of them. 3D is distracting? Huh. I don't get that statement at all. So when you are trying to pick up your car keys from your desk and using your STEREOSCOPIC vision to pinpoint exactly where to send your fingers to obtain them, you suddenly get repulsed? Humans use 3D everyday - it is as natural as seeing in color! I don't buy your rant at all. I mean not even a smidgen. Why should we allow you into see "Avatar"? :-) - Cameron is going to have special technology on site to keep "the world is flat" types at bay. Seriously though, if you are "distracted" with 3D, why would you bother going to see what is clearly going to be the pinnacle of your distraction?
  • hey Jim...I meant distracting in the sense that my experience with 3-D hasn't been without hiccups...the focusing is off (slightly or a lot), the glasses are shoddy, etc....so I spend a fair amount of time positioning myself and questioning whether I'm seeing it right or not. obviously, there are establishments that do this better than others, but it's certainly a more dicey experience than traditional viewing. however, you bring up a good point. existing 3-D films are all about "the ride". however, the industry and these statistics imply that the success so far can be applied across the board. not every movie is "a ride", so I find it hard to believe that 3-D is "the future". but again, I'm definitely interested to see what Cameron does b/c it sounds like he might be able to bridge the gap between showcase 3-D and sophisticated 3-D.
  • Jont
    i thought avatar wasnt going to require glasses any eyewear = bad
  • 3D tech keeps improving and I certainly didn't have shoddy glasses or experience off-focus issues during Beowulf. I think we're going to see a lot of gimmicky stuff in order to launch 3D and build interest, but to me the real excitement of 3D in movies is in the more subtle effect of seeing actual depth of field in a room or a vista - not in having spears poking out at the screen at me. Oh man... I just got a nasty shudder thinking of the porn implications. Ick. Vic
  • Speaking of porn... lol - though seriously "Final Destination IV" which WILL be in 3D will also have 3D sex scenes in it. Softcore of course, but it will happen. "Avatar" may very well have sex scenes as well - perhaps interspecies sex... Interesting. Regarding the 3D "ride" - yes some directors love the "comin' at ya" aspects of 3D and are experimenting - but I GUARANTEE YOU as someone who is up to my ears in 3D right now over at MarketSaw, that Avatar will NOT be gimmicky. It will be used when it should be used and will have minimal impact on the reason to go see it. Will it enhance it? You bet! It will be like you are actually in the movie. Total immersion is a good thing. Yes, the new Real D glasses as awesome - very light and attractive looking. Can be branded for a movie, taken home and REUSED. Not thrown away or washed. I don't mind them AT ALL.
  • 3D is as much of a gimmick as color.
  • duca
    My problem with 3D movies is that I've never seen one outside of an IMAX (Oh, those shiny happy fishes swimming so happily). I (like many people in Canadaland) do not live anywhere near a major city. In fact I would have to travel 8-10 hours just to arrive at a 'modern' cinema. So this raises an interesting question in my mind: What kind of technology is required for a 'proper' 3D experience and how hard/expensive would it be for smaller theatres to convert to this technology? If a movie comes out in 3D and my local theatre does not have the proper equipment to show it properly, will I be able to see it at all? I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of money is made by the small town crowd packing into the theatre on a Friday night because there's nothing better to do. Are the studios willing to sacrifice that market for a flashy gimmick? Do they even care? -_- I dunno.
  • Jim - Whereas Kevin and I are advocates against 3D, you are our nemesis being an advocate completely for it. I've said time and time again that I won't be convinced that 3D is any good until Cameron's Avatar comes along. Journey 3D is the worst, absolutely worst, offender of the use-it-to-make-money game that the studios are playing. Like I have said, they "fell into" an innovation that moviegoers would pay extra money to see, so they thought sh*t, let's keep making more because they'll keep paying! Woohoo, moeny! Only Cameron is finally taking the technology and putting it to use as an actual element of storytelling... #10 - The industry is finally starting to implement digital cinema systems in more and more theaters, which is all that is necessary for 3D. IMAX is a marketing gimmick in its own, so don't be fooled by it. All you need is a digital cinema with some RealD technology and you'll be good to go. Back on topic, unfortunately 3D has and always will be a sales gimmick until someone proves that it can be used as a vital part of storytelling. I don't want this "ride" of Journey 3D in my movie theaters, it belongs in a theme park and should stay there. Just because more and more digital cinemas are popping up in theaters across the nation doesn't mean that we should start converting all of our movie theaters into mini theme parks. 3D came from the theme park world where you pay money to see gimmicks... There's no escaping its origin and I'm certain it's not going to get any better until December of 2009.
  • Alex, while I agree with you in that I'm looking forward to the first "non-gimmick" 3D movie, I disagree that IMAX is a "gimmick." Far from it, in fact. The picture clarity and screen size combine to provide a truly amazing experience IMHO. Vic
  • I'm holding judgment until Avatar is released.
  • Conrad
    Number 12 - Vic, Are you referring to IMAX screens in general being an grand experience? if so, I completely agree with you. I saw "Shine A Light" in IMAX a few weeks ago and I was completely enthralled! It was great. The picture was huge, clarity was spot on (of course I thank Scorsese for that, no the fucking IMAX technicians) and the sound. - But there's one important thing that needs to be mentioned. - It WAS NOT IN 3-D. If it was, I probably would've hated it. Why would I want to see Keith Richard's hair (and the things hanging from it) sized up to me eyes. I mean I love Keith as a musician, but as far as seeing him play in 3-D with the rest of the group - simply ridiculous! IMAX is good when not in 3-D, but when the film is enhanced to fulfill the specifications an IMAX theater can offer. I remember when I saw "V For Vendetta" (twice) in IMAX. I was simply blown away not only by the movie itself, but the presentation! Keep fighting the good fight Alex! 3-D should remain in the theme parks. If I want to experience 3-D, I'll go to Orlando, FL. Heck, even Canada's Wonderland would suffice!
  • Alex - As I have said, some directors are experimenting with the technology. So what? Didn't Spielberg film all of Schindler's List in B&W except for a little girl in red? Was that a gimmick in your books? Seems like it might be if you cannot manipulate anything with video. How about sound? We only have two ears right? Two speakers should work fine - but oh wait, no, people like SURROUND sound with a zillion speakers to surround you! Just like we really experience in life - our ears are meant to give us directional sound because we do in fact have two of them. Would you have stood up on your box back in the early 20th century and urged that theaters kept those pianos! Don't do it! No piano? Speakers? Thats a gimmick dammit! :-) Seriously, thats what you guys sound like precisely. What do you mean, we can hear a jet fly from the back of the room to the front? NO WAY. Not in my theaters. Same goes for VIDEO. We have two eyes right? I mean, really - TWO eyes. Like our ears. Its the human condition. Listen to what Cameron has to say about this - it is enthralling. More brain synapses are fired during a 3D presentation - it is physically more appealing. We hear in stereo - period. We see in stereo, period. What the (excuse the language) hell is wrong with bringing us as close to realism as possible? That brings us closer to complete suspension of belief and that my friend is the true goal of the hall of fame directors of the world. "Come into my fantasy - I will make you believe". And we will. With or without you really. I do like the commentary though, because in the future you words that remind me of the naysayers who would literally burn alive anyone who said the world was not flat. Well, the world is not flat - it is 3D. 3D did not come from theme parks - in fact it has a rich Hollywood history. I said that Journey 3-D is a ride because it is. Just like "Speed Racer" would have been if they had of made it in 3D - which they WERE thinking about doing. SR would have been a ride. And I submit - better cinematically and definitely at the box office. #14 Didn't you see "U23D"? That movie was simply awesome. I saw it no less than 5 times in the theater. I have never before seen as many people see a movie, come out shouting and smiling and talking about the experience - then turning around and buying another ticket for the next show. Too bad it was sucked dry by Hannah Montana - but Disney did exceptionally well with that movie. The Stones flick doesn't compare at all in my mind. Just another big, flat movie with gorgeous sound. Alex, you did see the latest polls by Neilsen? Not only did revenue go up 65% for Beowulf in 3D over 2D, but revenues went up an astounding 100% for theaters with more than one 3D screen! 100%! For Beowulf mind you - which was great, but lets face it, not Avatar. Imagine the potential for that movie. Do you think Spielberg and Jackson are going to use 3D "gimmicks"? How about Burton? Not likely. They will use it as an art form as Cameron is. So you can rant on as much as you want about the first iterations of 3D movies - or you can enjoy them for what they are - a growing revolution that is indeed sweeping the industry. Money is being invested. Big time money. All the major studios have 3D projects. Cameron, Burton, Lucas, Jackson and Spielberg all have 3D projects in the works. Heck Pixar, Dreamworks Animation and Disney Animation have ALL committed to create ONLY 3D films from NOW ON. Period. Gimmick? My Canadian ass. That's good ol' American ingenuity at work. In closing I will quote Neilsen giving us the power of democracy in action and definite proof that 3D is not only viable, but the FUTURE: "With all the upcoming hype around 3-D, we wanted to take a hard look and see if there is truly a consumer appetite for 3-D," said Ann Marie Dumais, senior vp at Nielsen PreView. "Our new research approach contrasted theaters in such a way to demonstrate consumers, when given a choice, will choose 3-D." So check out "Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3-D" and "Fly Me To The Moon" this summer and "The Dark Country", "Coraline" and "Bolt" this fall. They are all the perfect warm up to what WILL BE the Year of 3D: 2009. This was the year that animation fell into line with 3D - next year, it will be live action. 2009. Can't wait.
  • Josh
    Well, damnit, isn't that half of all movies? To do something really cool, sit back, and say, "Look what I can do!"? Isn't that why movies were first invented? You're talking as if gimmicks are a bad thing. Movies are a gimmick. It's just a fancier way to show some guy telling a story.
  • I really wish we still had silent movies. Dialog is so.... annoying. 😛 Vic
  • Andrew
    Agree with #15 regarding U2:3D - that was a fantastically well-done 3D IMAX presentation, the world's first live-action digital 3D film, and I believe it proved that 3D can work for feature films. The visuals were stunningly clear, and despite all the concert film movement, never gave me a feeling of vertigo (pun only half-intended), and never blurred. The 3D was fantastic, and the IMAX presentation only magnified the incredible quality of the film. Of course, it was shot on nine pairs of very expensive Sony digital cameras connected to some very, very expensive computers and processing hardware, but the result will blow your mind. I think that as computing power and digital film processes get better and faster, 3D live action will become more and more common, and more and more innovative. I'm looking forward to see what incredible film experiences will come of this
  • Jont
    this is what i am talking about in #6 http://features.cgsociety.org/story.php?story_id=4632

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