Ready for the third dimension? Hollywood, seems to think so. Once reserved for, you know, real life, movies are rapidly transitioning to 3-D. Is this going to make us spend even more time on our couches and in theater seats, or is it just another ploy to spend more on tickets and buy our entire movie collection all over again? Here to discuss are Press Editor Brad Pareso, Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson and Co-Director of the Cinema Arts Centre Dylan Skolnick.
3-D can be fun, and in the hands of the right filmmaker it can even make a movie more immersive. However, as we’ve seen so many times, no amount of visual trickery can make a bad movie into a good one. This is limited to big-budget Hollywood movies. Even with advances, it’s going to be a very, very long time before independent filmmakers have access to 3-D.
It seems like, rather than create content or products we actually want to buy, media companies are just repackaging already established stuff. I see no need for 3-D anything.
That’s kind of a dead-end argument, and one might suggest the $2.7 billion already collected by Avatar disagrees with you. Would the film have performed so well were it in 2-D? I can’t say, but I doubt it. It’s obviously not Avatar-specific—Alice in Wonderland was a hit, so was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs—and as such, it’s becoming a concern for movie theaters and an attraction for moviegoers, to the extent that Clash of the Titans, which was filmed in 2-D, was marketed and released as a 3-D film. And it will probably be a hit, too.
It’s not fair to say Avatar is the best thing since sliced bread because it made $2.7 billion. Tickets to see it in IMAX and 3-D carry nice premiums over the already overpriced $11 base ticket price. Ignoring the BS that Avatar has reinvented cinema and set the bar so high airplanes barely clear it, Alice and Cloudy weren’t hits because they were in 3-D, they were hits because they were good movies. I saw Alice in 2-D and Cloudy in 3-D—and while Cloudy was better, it wasn’t because there were meatballs coming right at me.
I think the high ticket prices theaters are charging for 3-D flicks, especially the increases last weekend when Clash of the Titans opened, are a big mistake. One of the advantages movies have right now is that at $10-11 they are an affordable night out in hard economic times, but when we get to the neighborhood of $20 a ticket, the cost of two people going to the movies can start feeling like a luxury. This is especially true when the studios start releasing more crap in 3-D, as you know they will.
Will this draw a hard line between Hollywood and independent cinema? Might we reach a point where every film out is in 3-D? It has been suggested that Avatar will eventually do for 3-D what The Wizard of Oz did for color. Today, nearly every film in the world is made in color; black and white is an infrequent aesthetic choice. Will all theaters eventually feature 3-D projection abilities? If so, are we looking at something in the distant future, or will this switch occur over the next decade?
We’re looking at it sooner because as garbage like Vin Diesel’s XXX movies, the Saw franchise and Twilight Saga have shown, if there’s one thing Hollywood loves it’s a big profit. Shoot a movie with a different camera, alter the editing process and charge 50 percent more? That noise you just heard is every studio exec high-fiving at the same time.
It’s possible Hollywood could go all 3-D, but I think that would be a tragic loss. It’s not just a matter of adding an extra dimension. You’re also losing numerous techniques of visual storytelling that either don’t work in 3-D or make the audience nauseous instead of enthralled. The distinction is not between Hollywood and independent, but rather, what are the types of movies that are good in 3-D? Hollywood is very good at creating big, noisy, kinetically exciting flicks. 3-D is a natural match for these, but I wouldn’t want that to become the only thing playing. I also want to see the quieter movies that for esthetic and financial reasons work better in 2-D. I do think most theaters will have to install 3-D, even though it costs more than $100,000 per screen.
A cost theatergoers will be forced to eat. I know it would make my dad incredibly happy, but the day the newest Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy debuts in 3-D is the day I throw in the towel.