EDITORIALS

The Weekly Moviegoer - Fanning the Fading Fad of 3D

by
July 15, 2009

3D Moviegoers

I finally went to see Pixar's Up in 3D on the eve of the release of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I knew that the latter movie was going to take over most of the 3D screens in my area, so it seemed this might be my last chance to catch the Pixar film in the heightened format. Why had I waited so long in the first place? Well, besides being a chronic procrastinator, I was still attempting to introduce some friends to digital 3D, and I was waiting for them to come around in order to see it with them. Unfortunately, a lot of people, including many I'm acquainted with, continue to have no interest in this 3D "fad" as it's being called.

And if this recent post on the LA Times' Company Town blog is to be believed, the rest of the country has "been there, done that" as far as interest in digital 3D goes. Reportedly the gap between per-screen average earnings of 3D and 2D versions of the same movie is narrowing. This either means that audiences are no longer preferring to see movies like Up and Ice Age 3 in 3D like they were with My Bloody Valentine 3D; or it means a number of factors, such as that increases in 3D screen availability and increases in titles offered in 3D are saturating the statistics (see SlashFilm's response to Company Town's post for more factors).

As someone who has championed digital 3D for a long time, I think I can be a fair gauge of the excitement around the format. I may not represent every moviegoer, but I am evidence that the rage over 3D is indeed waning. There was a time where I was so enthusiastic about the format that I would see nearly anything in 3D. I even came close to seeing the Jonas Brothers concert film. But as more and more titles are offered this way, it's more common for me to exclude new 3D releases, such as Ice Age 3, which I have no interest in seeing in any way, shape or form.

It won't help matters, either, that I wasn't that enchanted by the 3D presentation of Up. Perhaps it was partly the delayed circumstance of my viewing, partnered by the dismissal from my friends, which had me going in with less devotion than usual. It was the closest I ever came to refusing to pay the additional charge, and I really would have paid for 2D and snuck into the 3D auditorium if only I had remembered to smuggle in my own 3D glasses, held onto from a prior 3D experience. Once inside, I felt more annoyed and inconvenienced by the glasses, which seemed to be of cheaper quality than I'd remembered (in reality they were the same RealD glasses as always).

In the end, I walked out of Up with little memory of its 3D enhancement, and for the past couple weeks I wondered if maybe Roger Ebert was correct and I should have just seen the film in the 2D format. But this week, while contemplating the idea that the 3D “fad” may be over, I came to the conclusion that my failure to notice or remember the 3D aspects of Up may be a good thing. I am certain that the film featured a great deal of landscape depth, which was augmented by the format, and the fact that there wasn't much in-your-face spectacle could be a sign of maturity in digital 3D. So, maybe as a gimmick the “fad” is fading, but as a supplementary tool there is still a future for the format.

In that regard, however, my curiosity with James Cameron's Avatar increases. As far as waning interest in 3D, the expected-to-be-groundbreaking film will come along at just the right time to keep moviegoers excited. But if it's all about spectacle, as Cameron's films sometimes are, it might take away from the potential for 3D to really mature and assimilate into the film medium, like sound and color before it. Personally, I think the extra cost of 3D is what keeps the format relegated to terms like “fad” and “gimmick,” because added charges make it come across as an attraction rather than a type of movie (the glasses somewhat hurt the format in this way, too). And while it's not “smart” business given the highly profitable alternative, if Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron really want to revolutionize cinema with 3D, they should equalize the format in price with the 2D films they seek to replace.

Despite my original attempt to get people to see Up in 3D with me, since seeing it I've been recommending it to people in whatever format they wish, yet I've leaned more on the encouragement of 2D because of how tight people's wallets are these days. Does this mean I'm abandoning my promotion of digital 3D? Not entirely, but I'm not as excited as I used to be. And this decrease in excitement is probably proportionately lessening with other moviegoers as well, or so I'd expect. It may not mean that 3D is dead or that it should be, but it may indeed mean that the “fad” is on its way out. So do you think the 3D "fad" is dying?

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  • Steven
    Yes, I agree that the 3-D fad is dying and the fact that it is being hyped to death is probably not helping. I have seen most of the 3-D movies since it's re-invention so to speak and after Coraline, I was certain that it was here to stay. But something seems to have happened to the 3-D excitement since Coraline and now I'm beginning to think that it is in fact just a fad (Again) The reason for my change of heart is due to the fact that it's costing a lot more to see 3-D films than it's worth and when you throw in the cost of having to upgrade your new big screen and blu ray players so soon to enjoy it at home, well, let's just say that the consumer is fed up with having to dish out big money yet again. Besides, when all is said and done, 3-D isn't pure cinema the way it's meant to be.
  • Tony
    Dude... I noticed that if the whole film isn't in 3D then it's so not worth paying the extra fees...
  • Caleb
    i hope it fades away...
  • GCC
    3D isn't going anywhere....here to stay
  • Xerxex
    I going to quote Tim Robbins: "Would you miss it? Would you miss it?"
  • esophus
    it always will be the script that stands out no matter how much 3d you throw at us.
  • teyhtr
    3d doesn't work because we all have to keep in mind that these movies are gonna be on DVD/blu-ray down the road and whot he hell watches 3D in the comfort of their own home wearing stupid glasses?
  • Roderick
    its the damn glasses that cost an extra 5 or 6 bucks. seriously, why am i paying 16 dollars to watch a movie....
  • Xerxex
    #6 100% agree!
  • Sancho
    I still want to see final destination in 3d! lol i want to see how they make the death scenes with just making blood pop on screen. I think what they should do is have a thing where if you have your own glasses you shouldn't have too pay the extra fees. I got a few pairs already, if im going to pay for them i might as well keep them.
  • Tra la la la la di da
    Like any movie, ya gotta weigh it in and see if if it's worth it. Comedy in theater or big explosion movie? One's good for home the other is worthy on a big screen and surround sound. Never the less, is 3D ever worth it? We've all seen it before and it's nothing spectacular that it's worth the insane amount of money. Heck, I'm not even in the expensive states. it was a gimmick from the get go and it'll slowly die off, hopefully.
  • Xerxex
    Hey #11 how about not wasting money on a movie that shows a woman be killed by a car wash, or a rock from a lawn mower, or someone dying on an escalator, or a nascar track becoming a death trap.
  • Joe Ho
    Just want to say that I love the picture you got for this article, lol.
  • link1983
    It wasn't your last chance to see UP in 3d. If you come to the UK in October you'll find it in 3d in most multiplexes. Why? Because that's when Disney/Pixar can be bothered to release UP in the UK. I am envious of my cousins across the pond when it comes to things like this. Also for you amazing country.
  • dom
    Well, I only recently saw my first 3D film (Coraline) as its only JUST starting to spread here in the uk.. Our 2 local cinemas just upgraded to 3D. The difference in their presenatations of the same film are huge by the way! Anyway... I have since seen Ice Age in 3D and will see Up when it finally gets here in Oct in the same mode. Its only just taking off here, and the fact its just arriving in the cinemas suggests its far from dead.
  • http://www.galaxykid.net Johnny Neat
    I might be getting annoyed with the sly ticket price hicks going on but I think kids LOVE this 3D fad or trend. I personally think it's cool sometimes but not all projects need or work in this format.
  • Jason
    3D sucks. 38 years of disappointment and counting. Maybe Cameron can save it with Avatar, but I doubt it. You'll notice that ALL the reviews of AVATAR just mention how real the creatures look. No one ever mentions the 3D. Up was a total rip-off in 3D, and the glasses dulled the colors! I'll pay for Avatar, but after that, I'm out. * I wear glasses, so maybe 3D just doesn't work for people with glasses? Can't find any documentation about this online or at the theater.
  • bozoconnors
    Protip: Upon a creator/collaborator stating a product/service is "groundbreaking" - with few exceptions, said product fails miserably or hangs on by a thread.
  • gary m
    the 2-d people speak of is 3-d...your viewing 3-d image on a flat plane...if regular movies are 2-d then what are cartoons? movies have depth and thats why some parts are in focus and others arent....if it has depth than its 3-d
  • Eric
    I saw a 3D movie for the first time, Ice Age the weekend it opened. It was awesome! It's going to be really hard to go back to watching regular 2D movies. And for the people who complained about the increase in ticket prices, it was only $3.00 more at the theater I went to, and expect part of that was for the glasses. I'm really anxious for G-Force to open.
  • JL
    the only 3D experience i've been to was disney's 'christmas carol' train tour w/ them showing clips from the movie. past that, i have no interest in 3-D. luckily it's been majority kids movies that i have no interest in either (the wife does that). i think 'avatar' will be the one that makes or breaks my decision on 3D. that is supposed to be 3D, right, lol?
  • JL
    sry for the second reply. i forgot to add the cost factor if you're a parent. for the cost of one movie for 4 people, you can buy a pair of sneakers.
  • snickers
    I hope the new 3-D fad goes away very soon.
  • Lola
    It definitely costs too much, but I love 3D. I saw "My Bloody Valentine," "Coraline" and "Up" in 3D, each on opening weekend. I hope it's here to stay... my only complaints are the extra cost and that the 3D is usually underutilized. If I'm going to pay an obscene amount to see a movie, everything better come bursting out of that screen!
  • Jim Krisvoy
    I think you should consider that films like UP and ICE AGE 3 may not appeal to the same audience that made Beowulf, Polar Express (Imax 3D version) Journey to the Center of the Earth and even My Bloody Valentine boxoffice successes, the latter due to its actual 3D technique. Ice Age did not get such great reviews in this country, yet worldwide is now very close to hitting, if it hasnt done it already, the $500Mil mark. Also, exhibitors got their first look at footage from Avatar in all of its 3D glory this past week, and reaction is said to have been extremely enthusiastic. The success and future of 3D lies with the filmakers to be creative and innovative in their application of this method of filmaking. For those not familiar, when CinemaScope was first introduced, it was an answer to awkward 3D presentations (the films were actually starting to get better) along with additional costs to the exhibitors - and the first films lacked sharpness (CScope was a 1930's invention in France and the first bunch of taking lenses were in highly limited supply), causing many to wonder if the process would really make it. After some refinement, which will also happen with digital 3D presentations in the very near future - Scope looked better, but some films were dogs and didnt do well. However, Scope persisted for many years, then replaced by better optics via Panavison and widescreen is still going strong - although many films in any format do fail for a variety of reasons. For all of these reasons, dont believe you have a real handle on which way 3D will really go; for myself, I say bring it on and keep on innovating.
  • Filmmaking Dragon
    I agree with Jim Krisvoy. We really just have to look at 3D along the lines of the evolution all film technology -- like sound, color, & wide-screen. This time, it will not go away . It will evolve. It will not replace 2D movies, but it will peacefully co-exist with them. I also agree that the technique is maturing. And I fervently agree that there should be no "premium charge" added to the ticket cost. People should only have to pay $1 to $2 extra for the glasses or bring their own from a previous movie they attended (at least for the Real-D presentations, anyway). On another note, however, way TOO much in 3D-land is riding on AVATAR's success, and it shouldn't be. From my perspective as an indie low-budget filmmaker, Cameron's habit of making "the most expensive movie ever" each time (which started with T2) needs to come to a crashing halt -- as he raises the overall cost of film-making each time he pulls this stunt. As a result, in my opinion, Cameron is one of many people responsible for the destruction of independent low-budget theatrical features and their distributors. And, considering that his early years were spent at the Roger Corman school of film-making, such behavior seems to be symptomatic of a rebellious mental psychosis. A few years back, Cameron announced that he would responsibly keep the cost of AVATAR below $200 million. But not long ago, I heard that the film had already exceeded $250 million -- well before it was completed. So AVATAR had better be pretty damned good. Maybe someday I'll get to ask Jim to autograph my DVD of PIRANHA 2.

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