Sunday Discussion: Is 3D Really the Future of Cinema?

March 16, 2008


Since we never did a Sunday Discussion last week we've got to make up for it big time this week. With the announcement of Crank 3 coming in 3D this morning, I've been pushed to the edge with my acceptance of 3D. You combine that with the endless 3D buzz coming from the industry trade show ShoWest last week, and now I can't let this subject go to rest. With the success of both Beowulf and Hannah Montana, it's become apparent that the industry is starting to develop more and more 3D content and the public is eating it up. However, that doesn't mean it's the future and it's a question I've been meaning to bring up for a while now. Is 3D just an entertainment theme park gimmick or is it actually a feature that could be used to enhance the artistic side of cinema?

Let's start this by looking at this morning's announcement. Crank 3 is the perfect example to prove that 3D is purely a gimmick. Just look at the title, now they can call it Crank 3D! Sure they might like the idea of 3D, but now they can easily change the name to also promote the idea that 3D is in this. And immediately when I hear something like that, I instantly feel like its quality is much lower. It's just my own personal reaction to anything 3D because I've built up such a hatred and dislike for it, and I know they're just using it as a sales gimmick. To me, 3D is NOT the future. I don't want our movie theaters to become mini theme parks because 3D has played well in recent years. I want them to focus on the user experience, not on gimmicks.

The reason why people believe that 3D is the future is because it has, through natural progression, become the latest "big" money-maker for movie theaters. Initially, movie theaters and cineplexes were financially successful, but as home theater technology advanced, people lost interest in the "big screen" because they could get the same quality at home. So theaters experimented with "alternative content" to attract audiences. When 3D played very well and made them lots of money, they took note. 3D is unique because you can't pop on the glasses and watch it at home - for a while you used to only be able to see it in IMAX theaters, but now they've expanded to digital systems. So now the theater chains are calling it the future because it's been so financially successful. It's the biggest money maker and thus that's the path they want to pursue. How screwed up of a business progression is that?

Filmmakers should be looking at 3D as an element of cinema and how they can use it to their advantage, instead of just as a way to make even more money and attract audiences. Take Beowulf for example. For the first time ever I actually appreciated their use of 3D in that movie. It wouldn't have been the same if it weren't in 3D and it was designed from the ground up to be presented in 3D. That is the only film in recent years to do so, and I give them credit for that. I might come to accept 3D if more filmmakers attempt to use it as an additional storytelling and visual element rather than purely a gimmick.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3DJourney to the Center of the Earth 3D is the biggest offender in the gimmick game. That movie is essentially a theme park ride; there is even a scene where they ride a rollercoaster in mine carts with a first person camera angle. Why would anyone want to see a 3D theme park ride in the same movie theater where you can see incredible films like No Country for Old Men or The Departed? There is a place for theme park rides and is it not in a movie theater. When you hear of all of the films that they're turning into 3D in the next few years, almost all of them sound like the same theme park gimmick, give or take the Pixar and DreamWorks animated films.

Looking towards the future - although I'm hoping for the best, I'm expecting the worst. I have a feeling movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D are going to continue to be overly successful and it's only going to show the theater owners and Hollywood studios that 3D is the way to go. While I don't personally think 3D is the future, I don't want it to completely die either. I think there is a place for 3D movies, but I don't think everything is going to become 3D. In addition to the aforementioned Beowulf, there is one movie that I'm waiting for in hopes that it will change my opinion and me forever - James Cameron's Avatar.

Set to arrive in theaters on December 18th, 2009, a mere 21 months from now, Avatar is the one movie that I feel like could change our world the way Tron and Star Wars have previously. I think Cameron understands how to use 3D as a cinematic element instead of a gimmick and I feel the technological advancements that he has been developing will show us what a movie that uses 3D well can actually achieve. Unfortunately that means I've got 21 months of bad 3D movies to go through before we finally reach a point where it will become an accepted mainstream format.

Do you think 3D is the future of cinema? How much have you enjoyed 3D movies so far? I really want to hear your opinion, because I'm curious to know whether I'm in the majority or the minority on this one, so bring it on!

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Opinions



Unfortantly i think 3D movies are going to be the future specially if money keeps pouring in and all the people go see them just because there 3D. I don't care too much about 3D it doesn't bother me and can make a movie really kool if done right, but the directors who just throw it in to make more money bothers me, spend sometime making the 3D a aspect of the story and not just thrown in. As long as people keep going to see them 3D will be around for a long time, in till something more revolutionary comes out. (Avatar will be best 3D movie)

Curtis on Mar 16, 2008


I enjoy 3d when it isnt used as a gimmick but to pull you into the movie more. It was used fairly well in Beowulf. There was a scene or two that was gimmicky. But using 3D to immerse you in another world is a great idea.

Heckle on Mar 16, 2008


As someone blind in one eye, I don't give a shit. 🙂

OwlBoy on Mar 16, 2008


The only 3D movie the world will ever truly need is Friday The 13th Part 3.

Nick Gligor on Mar 16, 2008


About the question: no, is going to be meaning of money, and besides just in the united states, because in other parts of the world, don't have the culture of this type of movies and sometimes the media, besides, like me, some people have eyes trouble, i use glasses, once i tried to see a movie on 3-d and i got a headache

Paulina on Mar 16, 2008


Because of a childhood eye problem in 1 eye, 3d does not work for me, so i cant no longer go to the cinema if this is the future, so frustrating 🙁

Charlie on Mar 16, 2008


3D is a gimmick but we are paying and the studios are making money so long live 3D! I personally dont care for 3d but hit films like: Final Destination 4, Toy Story, Ice Age, Step Up, are all in 3d so why wont people that are fans of them all (for me Step Up isn't included) pay an extra buck? I dont get what your problem is Alex, showing No Country in a theater with a 3D movie though. 3D I think will be a fad that will last a bit until it stops making money because every thing will be in 3D but for now it is here to stay.

Ryan on Mar 16, 2008


From where do you get the idea that Beowulf was a success? I believe we're talking about financial success right, cuz if that's the case Beowulf it's still hardly a financial success. Just an observation.

Neo on Mar 16, 2008


I haven't seen Beowulf or any other recent 3-D flick yet, but I think that Crank 3 is a great example of what could be accomplished with 3-D in film. It does have a place in the industry, and those Crank movies are so over the top and utterly ridiculous, 3-D fits in with that experience perfectly. I'm with you, Alex - most of the films slated to come out seem like they are just doing it to "go along with the gimmick," and they are probably going to suck pretty badly (Journey to the Center of the Earth looks TERRIBLE), but I think that Avatar and Crank 3 might show us the proper ways to utilize the "gimmick" to its full artistic extent. Hopefully 3-D won't become the new trend for lazy filmmakers to just start pumping things out just to make money, but if it does then at least maybe they'll stop with all the damn remakes and concentrate on some new material.

Ben on Mar 16, 2008


Total gimmick. I went to see Beowulf without the 3D... without it the movie fails. The story was ridiculous and flat... the animation and perspective in some scenes were goofy. The only movie I can see using it effectively is the next Toy Story. In Pixar we trust.

Kvamme on Mar 16, 2008


The movie industry is getting worse and worse. Soon we'll be seeing 3D torture porn.

Brad on Mar 16, 2008


3D is the future. James Cameron will make sure that every person who is against it gets behind it once AVATAR comes out.

Jojo on Mar 16, 2008


Well of course 3D is the future of cinema! My whole website is bet on it and I stand behind it 100%. I can't wait for all the naysayers to be proven wrong. When I started MarketSaw and focused exclusively on 3D movies and technology there were a lot of folks saying no way. Not anymore. Now it is WOW! Excellent site and information and the success has been staggering for me. I intend to not only revel in the 3D excitement that is changing Hollywood for the better, but to also expand MarketSaw into the one stop shop for all things 3D! So I guess you are my nemesis Alex! Can't wait to have further debates with you - especially as more and more studio tentpoles move to 3D, which they obviously are! I have already stated my peace on why 3D is superior in so many facets and that 3D is as much of a gimmick as color was back in the day. No need to rehash that. But I can't wait to see more.

Jim Dorey on Mar 17, 2008


I can't believe that you're so close minded on this thing. Cinema has always historically been about change. Sound, Color, are of course obvious examples, but when the Television arrived and started eating away at the movie business, cinema had to adapt by implementing better sound with wider screens so that way they could draw more people into the theaters with what was back then a gimmick. The same thing seems to be happening nowadays, Home theaters and piracy have made a pretty big impact on the movie industry, and once again movie makers are trying to change so that piracy and home theaters eat up less of their revenue. So in it's fight for survival, the studios are fighting back to offer what going to the movies used to mean in America, an experience that couldn't be reproduced. Making movies in 3D noways can cut down on piracy and will definitely give you an experience that can't be reproduced. Right now it is mostly used as a gimmick, but that's not to say that it won't develop into something more in the near future. I see this having a great potential. Does that mean I'm gonna go see every movie playing in 3D? no it just means that as a student of movie history I'm not rejecting the idea straightaway.

Zach on Mar 17, 2008


When you're using 3D for an actual movie, I think it is a waste of time. Whether it is partial scenes that are being transformed into 3D or the whole picture. I saw Harry Potter last year and there was a scene near the end which was in IMAX 3D - didn't really care for it. The screen looked blurry, the 3D was cheap (or at least the glasses were). I much would have preferred to alleviate the distraction of showing a signal to take on and off your 3D glasses to watch the scene. Movies DON'T NEED TO BE 3D! They just need to be good in the first place. I have a bad feeling that movies will be come less and less interesting if they keep up with this 3D nonsense. Crank 3D??? What a freaking joke, I can't even take that movie franchise seriously. In the first movie, it was hyped up ride with the zippy camera work, trippy action scenes and lack of plot - I liked it! But I only liked it for what it was. There's a limit to how zany you can make a movie and have it work. Crank 2 sounds promising. But keep as a "movie", not a theme park ride. All you need now with the 3D are moving chairs in the theater that will make you feel like you're falling down out of plane ....in 3D. Stupid idea. I really hope the mass audiences realize this is ridiculous trend to follow and end up boycotting the whole damn thing.

Conrad on Mar 17, 2008

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