Sunday, April 18, 2010

2D or not 3D? That is my question.

The Internet has caused a lot of technology to be obsolete and severely cut into the profit margins of the entertainment industry.  Depending on who you ask, theatre attendance is down (blamed by the MPAA on piracy) and DVD sales are down (also blamed on piracy). Indeed, the news headlines are filled with stories about how brick & mortar video rental chains are losing large business to internet downloads and internet rental services such as NetFlix. So, this has forced the entertainment industry to rapidly evolve their business model by investing in new technologies and gimmicks in the hopes of getting asses back into movie theatres, where they can recoup the largest percentage of profits.

Hence, 3D in cinema.  With the experience that simply cannot be replicated at home with a reasonable price (the glasses alone will set you back $150+ per pair, the TV will cost over $3000), they are able to tack on an extra $3-5 on the price of a ticket, all for the promise of a more enhanced movie experience.

I call bullocks.

While 3D films have been with us for years, back with the red and green lenses, computerized technology has allowed it to be done much more effectively, now using polarized lenses which do not distort colour.  While we were only seeing a few films a year since 2005 with 3D, the phenomenon has exploded as the film industry has caught onto the profitability of 3D cinema.

I don't pretend to speak for all movie goers, and if it does enhance the experience of the film or helps realize the vision of the film maker, then by all means, yes, 3D is a great thing.  However, I wonder if the film industry's intentions are misplaced if they wish to achieve long-term profitability and success. With 3D films now coming out on almost a bi-weekly basis (at least fifteen films released in 2009, at least 20 films in 2010), studios are also taking 2D films and converting them into 3D.

When films are shot specifically with the technology in mind, the results are breathtaking.  Avatar (2009) is probably the most notable, shot with cameras specifically designed to achieve the types of shots that James Cameron wanted.  With the sheer amount of detail packed into each frame, it goes beyond eye candy and starts venturing into eye crack.  But otherwise, once you get immersed in the storyline, you actually start to forget that you're watching a 3D film to begin with.

This was the case with Up (2009), which pretty much has you fall in love with all of the characters, and does have all the beautiful visuals that one would expect to find in a Pixar film.  It's all done in such a subtle manner and it doesn't have stuff jumping out of the screen to poke your eyes out (as is the case of Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), in which the opening scene is a person playing with a paddle ball, which repeatedly attacks the audience).

Filmmakers are pretty divided on the issue, with some of them actually preferring the 2D versions over the 3D versions.  This is the case with Louis Leterrier, director of Clash of the Titans, which was a remake. The film was originally shot in 2D, but was converted to 3D, pushing its release two weeks later.  Critics compared the two and felt that the 2D version was superior, as did the director.

Sadly, this has become more of a gimmick than anything else, with even more 3D films on the horizon.  Thankfully, most exhibitors are giving the option of going watching the film in 2D, scaling back the costs to a more reasonable level.  As it stands, you know it's going to excess when we can look forward to a Jackass 3D movie and Step Up 3D. 

As home technology drops in price, the interest in 3D will also start to wane, leaving theatres with the costs of maintaining their expensive 3D digital projectors and the film industry blaming this all on illegal downloads and piracy.  Howabout we start investing more dollars in developing and promoting new talent, taking risks on different and inventive film properties, and putting money into education and furthering the art form? Making movies that challenge audiences, make them think, entertain them, would probably cheaper and more profitable in the long run than just doing another remake/sequel/reboot.

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