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Are We Past the Point of 3D as a Gimmick?
December 21, 2012Posted by on
I think I saw about twenty different moves in theaters in the past calendar year. The first movie I saw in 2012 was The Grey. The most recent is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Most movies I saw in the theaters this year were in the standard 2D. I saw five films in the extra dimension, three of which I paid a premium IMAX price to see. I could have seen many of the rest, including The Avengers, Wreck-It Ralph, and Brave, in 3D had I really wanted to, but ultimately did not. When I last looked at my local theater listing, approximately half the movies playing had an extra option, either 3D, IMAX 3D, or HFR 3D. I think it might truly be the time to stop calling 3D movies a fad – I think they’re here to stay.
The first recent 3D movie I paid a premium to see, Coraline, grossed a modest but respectable amount of money in early 2009. I loved it, and seeing it in 3D was an added bonus that I was happy I paid for. The animation responded well to the extra dimension, and to this day Coraline remains one of the best films I’ve seen in 3D. It was quite some time before I’d experience this again, but in late 2009 I caught Avatar in 3D, which I actually went back to see in 3D twice more before its lengthy theater run ended. In 2010, I was wowed by the great special effects and lighting in Tron: Legacy, and 2011’s Transformers 3 was also a high-mark for the format. In 2012, I have been visually wowed by the likes of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, and the aforementioned The Hobbit. Regardless of the quality or critical reception of these films, each has been a fairly significant hit and has enjoyed boosted success due to the addition of the 3D markup.
There has been an absolute glut of films released in 3D outside of the ones I actually saw as well. Pixar’s films now release in 3D, as do the Dreamworks and Fox animated films. The big Marvel movies, including Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers, were all converted to the third dimension. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender adaptation, and the Clash of the Titans remake (and its sequel) were also converted to the third dimension, garnering negative critical attention for doing so in the process. There seemed a time not too far back (from about summer 2010 to about summer 2011) where audiences seemed to reject 3D, and a backlash began. 3D however has stuck around, perhaps largely due to unique experiences (the blending of 3D with IMAX just seems so logical) and quality. It doesn’t hurt that 3D adds significantly to the gross of a film, which is good for studios during a time of fractured audiences.
It seems as if nearly every event film is released in the pricier 3D format these days, and I absolutely don’t have a problem with this. It isn’t a big secret that even though grosses go up exponentially, attendance in theaters has actually decreased. A benchmark for a film used to be whether or not it grossed a hundred million dollars at the box office (thus being deemed a blockbuster). Nowadays, the big event films do a hundred million in a weekend. Even the big non-3D films of 2012 (The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises) pull in this kind of money. Whereas the blockbusters of yesteryear (such as Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Jurassic Park, E.T., Independence Day, etc) grossed steady amounts of cash for weeks and weeks and eventually months and months on end, most films nowadays, especially post-converted 3D films I’ve noticed, seem content to gross a huge opening weekend and then fall of a cliff. Of course, this isn’t always the case (see: The Avengers anomaly).
To summarize my lengthy and random points, I don’t mind that a majority of tent-pole releases nowadays are 3D. It gives me, the moviegoer, more viewing options and experiences. Having a local IMAX theater has been great, and I’ve been to it four times in 2012 alone (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Amazing Spider-Man, the decidedly not 3D Skyfall, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). The additional options are great as well because it forces Hollywood to adapt, grow, and expand their horizons. The four different options for viewing The Hobbit may seem excessive, but I really like that we have that kind of availability. Obviously this is not going to work for all films, but I don’t mind it a few times a year during seasons we typically see tent-pole releases. It also gives me more options at home – my 3D television set up is craving content. While it’s true that 3D ticket prices are fairly ludicrous, I can’t blame Hollywood for trying. As budgets balloon and audiences continue to fracture, the big tent-pole releases filmed in IMAX 3D at 48 FPS are a pretty good argument towards filling up a theater.