3D Movies Run Amok: A Fad That Should Stop… But Won’t

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:27 pm,

3d creature from the black lagoon 3D Movies Run Amok: A Fad That Should Stop... But Wont

When I was a child I got this new toy for Christmas: A fireman’s hat with a rotating red light on top of it that made siren noises. I loved that hat… It was new, shiny, and all sorts of awesome. The problem was that I would wear it everywhere: School, church, friends’ houses, the mall, outside to play, etc. It didn’t take long for it to become old, tired and broken.

I’m starting to feel the same way about Hollywood and its newest toy: 3D technology.

We have no one to blame but ourselves, really. Maybe if audiences hadn’t made Avatar the highest grossing film of all time, then Hollywood studios wouldn’t be mortgaging their mother’s heirloom jewelry to convert their films into 3D.

Recently a couple of studios made announcements that three big upcoming films would be converted to 3D – which at this point seems sort of obvious. Why don’t they just hold off and tell us when something ISN’T going to be in 3D; like say, Battleship?

Now Fox is releasing the Alien prequel and Warner Bros. is releasing Sucker Punch and the Green Lantern films all converted to 3D in post-production. And people, there is a difference in quality between CONVERTED 3D and SHOT IN 3D. Don’t believe me? Alexander Murphy at Gizmodo recently wrote an article explaining the difference between “Released in 3D” and “Filmed in 3D”. Here is a quick excerpt but check out the rest of interesting article HERE.

“The process of making a movie 3D after it was shot is a complicated and time consuming process but can be somewhat convincing. The problem is it will never reflect the same results as if you were filming using two cameras, simultaneously, from slightly different perspectives. Endless rotoscoping provides layers that can be separated to fake a different perspective for the second eye, but that’s what it looks like, layers. So yes, you can push things away and pull things forward and enhance the depth, but the content within each layer has no depth.”

Alex makes a good point, one which I agreed with in my Alice in Wonderland review. I absolutely did not care for how the post-3D conversion turned out. Avatar on the other hand, which Cameron planned for and shot using 3D cameras, was beautiful to look at. That’s really the only way to make this technology work properly in the final product.  I wish Hollywood would figure out that converting a 2D film to 3D is like Ted Turner converting a black and white film to color – something about it just seems… off.

colorized robin hood before 3D Movies Run Amok: A Fad That Should Stop... But Wont

What’s even funnier is the blatant money grab Hollywood is making right now which they have no shame in hiding. There were several 3D movies released before Avatar that didn’t fare so well in theaters – yet Hollywood didn’t jump on the bandwagon with both feet until after Avatar became the highest grossing movie of all time. Where were they with the 3D announcements for major tent pole releases after Journey to the Center of the Earth or The Final Destination? I don’t remember all the studios clamoring to throw money at 3D after Chicken Little, Up, Polar Express and A Christmas Carol hit theaters.

So if most of the 3D films before Avatar were mildly to less than successful, why are studios clamoring to push their next big films out to theaters using the technology? Let’s look at a few statistics about 3D movies and theater screens you may not have known:

  • There were 20 films released in 3D in 2009 but only 8 in 2008.
  • The number of 3D capable screens across the US and Canada jumped up from 1,514 to 3,548 in one year. Overseas that number increased even more – from 1,029 to 5,441!
  • 3D movies made up less that 4% of the total films released last year but accounted for 11% of all gross receipts.
  • The president of the MPAA (Bob Pisano) said the following, “Whenever screens are converted or built in 3D the public. seems to be embracing it.”

Out of all the 3D films that have been released to date, only Up and Avatar can really be considered financial successes. Also, Avatar was the only film in shot in 3D using live actors successfully (Tron is another, but that won’t be released until this December); all the rest were 3D animated films and those look better converted because the depth of the objects can be manipulated more easily, and they exist in 3D form in the computer. I don’t consider Beowulf and A Christmas Carol using 3D motion capture to be the same as shooting live actors in 3D.

Some 3D films, like Journey to the Center of the Earth, My Bloody Valentine and The Final Destination, where filmed in Stereoscopic 3D – meaning two cameras are positioned together on the same stand roughly the same distance apart as a set of human eyes. The cameras film an object at very similar but slightly different angles, much like your eyes see the world, and then are layered over each other using a computer program to produced one image. Those films looked considerably better than the post-conversion process studios are employing now (Cameron’s Avatar also used Stereoscopic 3D, but a far more technologically advanced camera/computer system).

So if 90% of all 3D films before Avatar weren’t successful, either financially or critically, then why are we hearing about a new film getting the 3D conversion treatment every couple of days? Why are studios wetting their pants with excitement over converting films to 3D so quickly just because one film made boat loads of money?

Click to Find Out Why 3D Is All About the “Benjamins”

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  1. A movie ticket here costs $9.00. I went to see Avatar in IMAX 3-D and it was $15.25. I enjoyed it, but found the glasses annoying when I moved my head in a way that wasn't looking RIGHT at the screen. To me it really wasn't worth the extra 60% markup. So I will be seeing all the films coming out in good old 2-D.

  2. I'm a member of the “I'm Not Thrilled With 3-D Movies” club. At the end of January, I was treated to a showing of Avatar in IMAX 3-D (it was a belated birthday outing). Tickets for IMAX were $16.50, and in Chicago, the price of a movie ticket is $12.75.

    I wish I could tell you that it was a pleasant experience, but I can't. The 3-D glasses I wore were quite heavy, and attempting to wear them on top of my regular glasses was an exercise in discomfort. By the time the movie ended, I had a really nasty headache, and I felt like I'd suffered from vertigo. I couldn't wait to get out of there, go home and go to bed (talk about having a whopper of a 'movie migraine'… I definitely had one.).

    After that experience, it's 2-D movies for me from now on.

  3. I'm crossing my fingers for a Hobbit in 3D, personally.

    Although I consider the technology only in its primitive form, I rather enjoy it and prefer the added depth to the movie. If studios are only going to continue to employ “LOOK! ITS IN FRONT OF YOU!” sorts of gimmicks then it should rightly be put to death, but otherwise I'd like for the technology itself to improve.

    If the requirement of glasses can be removed in the near future, I'm betting the technology will be more readily accepted. Only a matter of time.

  4. I think 3D today is highly overrated. I saw Avatar in 3D and I was very disappointed. Nothing jumped out at me to make say…WHOA. 3D is definitely not how it used to be.

  5. I've said this before… Hollywood is embracing 3D as an anti-piracy measure. There is no way (at least not yet) to capture that 3D image and post the movie to the web without it looking all blurred out.

    Can't say I'm strongly for or against 3D either way. I just want better movies with good stories and characters I can root for and no more … crap! Just. Make. Better. Movies. Hollywood!

  6. I was the same way, too. Shortly after I watched it I was thinking, “Well, I guess that was different.” Then, after I saw Alice In Wonderland, I truly couldn't tell a difference. It was all the same to me because I was going for the movie, not the 3D. I have no plans at being a connoisseur when it comes to how 3D is used, whether filmed with a 3D camera or converted to it.

    If movies get to a point where people are going for the 3D rather than the movie they're watching, such movies will become little better than amusement park rides.

  7. I hate to admit, but I'm part of the problem. It started with me going to My Bloody Valentine in 3D just for a fun gimmicky time…I never thought 3D technology was going to catch on at that point. Then, I went to Coraline in 3D and was amazed. I had forgotten about 3D technology until everyone…and I'm not exaggerating, I mean even elderly women on the street told me to go see Avatar. So, a month or two after it was released, I finally went to it. Thought the visuals were pretty cool, but wondered how well that movie would have been received if it was only released in 2D. Then, I went to Alice in Wonderland because I'm a Burton fan. I thought the 3D in that movie took away from Burton's style. My name is Spawnacus and I'm addicted to 3D.

    Seriously though, I will not be seeing Clash of the Titans in 3D. I'm sticking with 2D movies from now on. I usually feel disappointed after watching a movie in 3D. I'd rather see a great story than a gimmick. Plus, like you said, if I want to truly see something in 3D, then I'll just start using my eyesight in reality. But, I will go see Tron in 3D…because every addict deserves a relapse.

  8. While I wasn't a fan of the movie Avatar,I have to disagree with you just a bit.There was a part when they blew up Treehome and everything was going to hell,that I literally almost tried to swat away the ash that was floating around in the air.

    While I'm definitely not a big fan of this whole 3D craze right now,that was probably the most impressive part of the movie.

  9. I didn't think the reason that 3d was being used so much now did not have to do with the money each movie made but how many 3d tickets it sold compared to the 2d format of the same movie. Even though over the last year only something like35 % of the screens showed them in 3d, the 3d tickets still out sold the 2d tickets of each 3d movie release. That being between 2 or 4 3d tickets sold for every one 2d ticket sold. A couple went as high a 6 to 1. That was still with most multiplexes across the country having the 3d format also playing the 2d format across the hall. People have had the choice of both formats right there together in most cases. I know here in fort myers where I live and in springfield missouri where my family is from, the 3d seems to sell out fairly often while the 2d format does not. That is not for all 3d movies and every time I or my family goes but we have never seen the sell out sigh for the 2d showing. It is kind of frustrating because you get there 45 minutes early and the 3d showing is sold out but the 2d showing that is starting in 15 minutes is not. That was my impression as to why the push for 3d.

  10. i hate the concept of '3D will make us more money/get peoples attention' biggest load of crap.
    i hope my cinema shows clash of the titans in standard screening, im not paying an extra $5 to see blurry crap all over the screen.

    cameron knew what he was doing with avatar, he knew if he spent alot of money know he would make heaps later… its only logic, and yet the 'geniuses' at studios dont understand this.

  11. Yeah hogg, I covered that in the article. I agree with you 100%. It has nothing to do with making the film better, but everything to do with making more money from less people.

  12. I was wondering why the crappy “Alice in Wonderland” looked so bad

  13. I agree with both of you…. and I would like to add that the darkened 3D glasses muddy the colours of a vibrantly visual film like Alice in Wonderland. During many of the outdoor party scenes in the 'real' world, there was very little 3D effect so I took off the glasses and enjoyed, momentary, unencumbered viewing.

  14. You know, as much as I'd like to enjoy movies in 3D (converted or otherwise), I simply can't. I'm wearing rather thick glasses and whenever I try to watch a movie in 3D, a major headache, dizziness and focus problems lasting hours of not days after the “experience” are guaranteed.

    The truly catastrophic aspect about 3D movies is that there won't be any 2D alternatives left in a couple of months. European theaters are completely converting to 3D and I've contacted several local cinemas. As of this summer, NONE of them will be showing 3D movies in 2D anymore and as of 2011, most genre movies will be 3D. So, I guess that's it for me regarding cinema attendance.

  15. Avatar destroyed my eyes. :(
    I won't be seeing another 3D movie in a looong time.

  16. I will never see another movie in 3D. I will only see it in 2D or I will wait for the DVD. That is the only way this atrocity will end. The people buying these 3D tickets only want to see an expensive trick. They are distracted by the shiny things in the sky and a leaf or two coming out of the screen.

    I'm more concerned with some of the films on the list of 3D movies you supplied in your article Paul: “Clash of the Titans,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Blob,” “Saw VII,” “Transformers 3,” “Underworld 4,” “Resident Evil 4,” “Zombieland 2,” “Re-Animator” remake, “Scream 4,” “The Hobbit,” “Spider-man,” “Gremlins 3,” “Cats and Dogs 2,” “Star Trek 2,” “Avatar 2.”

    Remakes and sequels? Is this what we're being subjected to? Not an original thought or plot but the same story or the same characters… this is really drepressing.

  17. Well, as someone who has esotropia, meaning my eyes don't work together (I may “see” through both, but I only “look” through one at a time, and can switch eyes as necessary, the 3D technology is totally useless to me. I see the real world as flat. TV and movies look the same as reality to me. So I have absolutely no interest in wearing glasses in a movie just to avoid watching a blurry screen. And if the glasses have colored lenses, that's even worse! Because then I have to watch either a red movie or a blue movie, depending on which eye I choose to focus through.

    If the world wants to waste money on 3D, fine with me. I'll never pay the extra money. BUT, all i can say is, there better be a 2D version of all these movies, or I will feel slighted. I realize I'm in the minority, but there are a lot of people with the same or similar problems as me. People with one eye, people who have had corrective surgery to make one eye near sighted and the other far sighted, people who have a definite “lazy eye”, etc.

    Count me out of all the 3D stuff, but leave the 2D options there for those of us who need it and don't want to pay extra for something they don't need or want!

    Enjoyed your rant, Paul. Thanks for letting me rant too.

  18. Really? That's a bummer! (see my rant below). My husband wears glasses and has no interest in 3D either, so I guess we'll just have to wait for the DVD releases. No more theaters attendance for us either! So I guess now I'll just have to hope for 2D DVD releases. Let's hope they don't take that away too!

    I read an article the other day about people having problems watching 3D movies and experiencing headaches, vertigo, etc. One doctor estimated that 20% of the population will have problems watching 3D movies, either side effects from viewing, and/or not being able to see the 3D like me. That's a pretty big part of the population to alienate, if you ask me.

  19. I think that Avatar 3D was visually stunning, but Alice in Wonderland 3D definitely had an artificial feel. I'm going to be very careful to see 3D movies that were SHOT in 3D.

  20. Thank you screenrant for writing this article. Hollywood still believes the audience doesn't pay attention to how movies are produced and don't know about the whole trend-riding business model that they've been using to squeeze every last cent out of audiences by re-hashing fresh concepts and ideas that have already been invented by true artistic film-makers. Everyone saw Avatar cause they knew Cameron makes quality pictures, even though the story was kinda childish, we knew it was something new.

  21. No love for Disney's “Bolt”? I saw that in 3-D and it was really cool to look at. The guinea pig in the Habitrail ball was a really cool effect. I thought it made money too as a film.

    But I agree with the premise that not all films should be made in 3-D.

    But then again, I also think that more films should be made in black & white if color does not forward the story line.

  22. I like it.
    Granted it doesn't work for every film and the dark tint on the glasses themselves is counter productive but in spite of that I think it's bitchin'. Alice In Wonderland wouldn't have been as good without it IMO, Beowulf was outstanding in 3D and was totally lackluster in 2D, Up was great, etc.

    It doesn't always work and we still get the option to pay the extra $$ or not. So it's not a problem for me. More choices is always good.

  23. You're right, Coraline was AMAZING in 3D! If it's in 3D I'm all over it as well.

  24. I'm another rather rare bird. 3-D doesn't effect me much either. Lenticular systems which would require an active view screen is better and their's no need for glasses
    but hasn't had popular adaptation schemes to facilitate adoption. Oddly enough we'll see better 3-D in the home market sooner than in the theater market unless something changes. This is a much greater reason for pushing 3-D in the theater than most other reasons. New projection systems aren't cheap though and with
    theater owners working on close margins it's difficult to justify, unless absolutely necessary. Hollywood is working overtime to make that a reality.

    You can blame Cameron for part of it. At ShoWest, an Exhibitioners convention back in 2005, he was reported as saying to Exhibitors that those that don't get on board, would “regret it.” As you can see it's coming true. From 2005 to 09 the number of theaters that could show a digital 3-D movie went from 79 to 3000.

    On the home front “the global digital Electronic & Media market as a whole, including both consumer and advertising spending will grow by 2.7% compound annual growth (CAGR) for the entire forecast period to US$1.6 trillion in 2013,” according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2009-2013's outlook. I think by the end of that period that OLED Lenticular screens would be available to higher paying customers. Certainly in
    Asia Pacific countries where increases are projected to be at 7.1% compound annual rate over the period of the same Forecast.

    Source: Wired, PriceWaterhouseCooper

  25. I have no depth perception due to lazy eye, so I've never bothered to see a 3D movie. But when I saw Alice in 2D I stuck my head into the 3D version and I could see a 3D effect. Try it and see if it doesn't work for you. I don't know if I saw what everyone else saw but it did look much cooler than the 2D version. I'm going to try it in IMAX 3D. Not only did I see it in 3D, that's the first time I've seen anything in 3D! Like you said, for me the world is flat. Maybe there's something about the kind of 3D they are using in Alice, which doesn't work like your eyes are supposed to work, that actually works for me. I only saw the end of it, but it did look cool. I've never seen Avatar so I don't know if the “real” 3D as everyone seems to consider it, would work for me. You should try these movies and see if they work for you. I asked the theater and they let me try it for free.

  26. I have no depth perception due to lazy eye, so I've never bothered to see a 3D movie. But when I saw Alice in 2D I stuck my head into the 3D version and I could see a 3D effect. Try it and see if it doesn't work for you. I don't know if I saw what everyone else saw but it did look much cooler than the 2D version. I'm going to try it in IMAX 3D. Not only did I see it in 3D, that's the first time I've seen anything in 3D! Like you said, for me the world is flat. Maybe there's something about the kind of 3D they are using in Alice, which doesn't work like your eyes are supposed to work, that actually works for me. I only saw the end of it, but it did look cool. I've never seen Avatar so I don't know if the “real” 3D as everyone seems to consider it, would work for me. You should try these movies and see if they work for you. I asked the theater and they let me try it for free.

  27. I am over 3D as well. It's good for some movies, like animated ones, but for live action, it's not worth it and just gives me a headache. I also wear glasses so having to put the 3D glasses over my own is annoying and if I forgo my real glasses, I get a migraine. Not worth it at all.
    Movies like My Bloody Valentine, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans do not need to be in 3D.

  28. I want direct signal to my brain, forgettabout these pesky eyes, ears, and clunky interfaces.

  29. As long as the option of NOT seeing it in 3D is there for a lower price 3D will die off.

    The real test of a film(3D) will be when it is done in 3D, having to pay the extra price as there is no other option.

    I just dont see the need for 3D. IMAX, great sound, comfortable seats, decent pricing and considerate movie goers is my required list. I dont get that often so I dont go to movies often.