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March 24, 2010

Is 3-D Spinning Out of Control?

'Avatar' set box office records in 3-D, and now 'Alice' is doing the same. Is it overkill?

The first time I saw Avatar, on opening weekend, was on a regular 2-dimensional screen. The second time, a few weeks later, was in 3-D in an IMAX theater. I can't say that the second viewing was any "better" than the first, though there were a few things that definitely looked cooler in three dimensions on that giant screen. And you just can't beat the audio in an IMAX theater -- it sounded great.

Still, I regarded that viewing as a rare event, a break in routine from watching movies on typical screens in the usual two dimensions. "Rare" for two reasons: 1) It's just a bit too much stimulation to take in too often, and 2) IMAX averages a good $5 more per ticket, meaning your usual $60 movie night for a family of four ($40 in tix, $20 in treats) is now an $80 movie night, and seriously how often can anybody afford that -- especially in a recession?

But Hollywood, it seems, is banking on it, with at least twenty 3-D films to be released in 2010. After Avatar's incredible success -- between 2/3 and 3/4 of its worldwide $2.6 billion haul has come from 3-D sales -- and now the smashing run of 3-D Alice in Wonderland ($570 million worldwide, and counting), two more 3-D films (How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans) are slated to release in the next two weeks.

In an informative story titled "The Future Will Be in 3-D," Entertainment Weekly recently asked, "Are there enough screens for all of them?" And the answer began, "Not even close. . . . [T]heater chains are racing to meet the demand, installing 100 to 150 new screens a month."

Even films that weren't planned in 3-D -- like Clash and the final two Harry Potter films -- are being converted to include the third dimension. Jon Landau, one of Avatar's producers, tells EW that every movie will some day require us to don those funky glasses: "I'm going back to the black-and-white-to-color analogy. You had color films in the 1930s; it took until the late 1960s/early '70s for color to become ubiquitous, but it did. I think there's no reason that an intimate drama won't be in 3-D in the future."

But is that a good thing? Even if you don't have to pay IMAX prices, even if they're shown for "normal" prices, do we really want everything in 3-D? I think I'd prefer it to be the rare treat, instead of the norm. And now it looks like it's going to be coming into our homes more and more, especially as the price of 3-D TVs begins to drop in the years ahead.

What about you? What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Related Tags: 3-D, Alice in Wonderland, Avatar


I hate 3-d movies. I hate throwing on glasses that who knows what pimpled faced 13 year old has already worn. Also I wear regular glasses and putting the 3-D on over my glasses just isn't comfortable. And is it just me or does it take like 15-20 minutes for my eyes and brain to adjust. I think I can do without

I'm with Ebert on this one. 3D is a gimmick. You already get the effect of 3 dimensions on the screen. Separating the planes doesn't make it anymore realistic.

Oh I hope not. I get motion sickness from 3D movies.

There are a number of user issues to be conqured with multi depth display.. but the real pay off will be when grandchildren in 2025 will watch family picnics and birthday parties of their relatives long since gone get to see and act in multi depth preception and get an opprotunity to realize perspective on these people as they view these images in a multi depth and holographic environment.

3d will have a short life span as blue ray is not the embreyo of 3d but holographical display technology.......

Until 3D no longer required glasses, today's offerings are better than that of the red and blue oldies. The circular polarization gave an incredible depth and rich color field and yes, I wore glasses and it doesn't bother me to put on an extra pair over my prescription pair. Unfortunately, some can not see the 3rd dimension on screen or on print while some get motion sickness by the effect, I feel for you. I am thankful that I can see and see that third dimension which is becoming the norm. I don't consider 3D to be rare or sacred because the vast majority can view movies in 3D albeit not enough knowledge about what is 3D. I still hear people's first impression about 3D is that it is the red and blue and it's a child's play thing.

3D is just another technology. Like sound, color, digital photography, CGI, etc., which all contribute to the story telling, it must remain ever paramount that the point is the story. No amount of technical wizardry will turn a poor script into anything more than a curiosity. I would rather watch a well crafted movie like "It's a Wonderful Life" than most of the current offerings, no matter how well they are dressed up. I expect 3D to get increasingly better with time, but I am far more pessimistic about the likelihood of great stories being told.

I also have to agree and say that I think 3D is a gimmick and will not become ubiquitous like colour TV. However, considering a huge number of movies being made today are just eye-candy anyway, I think it's certain that 3D will become more commonplace as providing a higher level of that eye-candy.

As for the cost I have to say I no longer think it will be a big obstacle. One thing I do for a living is repair video games consoles and when I started doing that more full time recently I was surprised to see how much money people are willing to just throw away on entertainment. When suggesting a guy confirm whether he still had a warrant or not (thus getting a cheaper and 'safer' repair) he simply told me not to worry about it. If it didn't work he'd just buy another one. We're talking about a $300 machine! More and more people now live for entertainment. So no, I don't think the cost will be prohibitive but rather, for the industry, profitable!

Of course, one thing they are going to have to allow is for people to re-use the glasses. I can't believe you spend money on 3-D specs just to be told that although you can walk out with them you can't use them again! Ridiculous!