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

Published 4 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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TAGS: alien, avatar 2, clash of the titans, green lantern, piranha 3d, resident evil 4, saw 3d, sucker punch, the blob, toy story 3, transformers 3, underworld, zombieland

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  1. I totally agree, if something is worth the 3D treatment, then I want to splash out and see it at the IMAX, not pay a similar price to see it at the local.

  2. I liked Avatar in 3D because they used the technique to enhance the sets, it was more of a tool than a gimmick IMO, not just throwing stuff at you a la Spy Kids 3D (the only other 3D film I've seen!).
    I don't mind 3D but it's not worth the £5 mark up price to me, so hopefully the overkill of 3D will soon have everyone bored, broke and running back to “normal” screens.Also, I wear glasses and the huge Imax frames just about stayed on my face and it was tricky to balance them, so that's another consideration for me.

  3. As someone once said, “This is Deja Vu all over again!” One of the reasons 3D failed in the fifties was because the studio powers that were at that time were so greedy for the money they thought might be made with this almost forgotten art form, they paid no attention to the presentation of these films. They only concentrated on grinding them out as quickly as possible to make as much money as possible as soon as possible. And now they are doing it again by beginning to saturate the market with these psuedo 3D films that were made originally in 2D. There is a good chance the public will sense the lack of true depth perception, but not realize exactly why something is amiss. And again, as in the fifties, the public may reject 3D as nothing but a gimmick, as they did before. And this would truly be a very sad thing.

  4. I totally agree 3-D movies are a waste of time and money, paying anything over ten dollars for a 3-D movies is bogues and BS. The fact is 3-D adds really nothing to the movies but some crazy heavy glasses, I found myself taking the glasses off every six mins during Avatar when they weren't needed. I don't find the 3-D experenice all that great, it's a chessey effect that we could really do without. The only reason studios are remaking films in 3-D is of course making money, which alot of films thier remaking in 3-D is going to cost them, because ppl are starting to realize that 3-D is costly and nobody wants to pay the price, so there go see it in 2-D or wait for DVD or Blue-Ray, studios are going to loose so much money doing this, so let them make there mistakes, and please don't make the comic book movies in 3-D it's just going to take away from the storyline. Look Avatar was good but not that good, a second grader could wrote the screenplay, the actors were ok, and they spent most of the time on the effects, spend more time on the story not the effects, stop ruining movies with special effects, ppl want story not stuff trying come out of the screen.

    • I think if they spent equal time on the story of a movie, the special effects, and the acting a movie would be a lot better.

  5. 3D as well as IMAX is here to stay. It's never dying off. As we speak 3D tech is being integrated into your very cell phone displays, computer monitors, HDTV's, etc.

    Like James Cameron said: “I wanted them to forget they were in a theater and in another world”

    He did it. It works and it's here to stay.

  6. Your comments might be worthy of evaluation if it weren't for the fact that you are illiterate. My spelling is pretty bad, but when I'm not sure how to spell a word I look it up. You are so illiterate, you have no idea that you can't spell even the simplest words. And the fact that you really believe 3D adds nothing to a film only means that the disability of blindness must be added to your disability of illiteracy.

  7. Let me quote a movie review I recently came across. The reviewer said, “This new technology is nothing more than a gimmick. The only advantage is the monetary one gained by the makers and distributors of the new motion picture equipment needed to replace the presentation system we now have. Eventually the public will see this and reject this new technology that doesn't really add anything to the art of motion pictures.”
    This was a movie review for “The Jazz Singer”

  8. Vic (& the rest of the crew)

    3D ticket price hike from Variety.com Story (From the Screenrant tweets): http://shar.es/mgRST

    QUESTION: Does this article raise the question as to whether theatre chains have been lying for years now about their not making money on ticket sales which is why they justify the outrageously high cost of concessions? It seems to me that if this were true then the price hike for the 3D surcharge would not only NOT mean dollar signs for theatre chains as the story indicates but it would also be consistent regardless of the location (i.e NY vs some mid-west small town). I know that the ticket price itself varies from region to region but there is still a consistent pattern in that when ticket prices have increased in the past to keep up with the cost of living increase, the increase in terms of percentages was relatively the same regardless of location. That said shouldn’t the same be true for the 3D surcharge unless the fact is that the theatres do make money off ticket sales?

    I’m just ticked because for years now I’ve justified paying the high cost of AMC’s pizzas (currently in the Dallas area its $7.50 for the equivalent of a personal Pan pizza which you can get for half that at Pizza Hut) and their popcorn and soda which for just myself was always another $15-$20 per visit. When I went to see [Insert any major release here] last year on iMax in 3D I paid $25 +/- $1-42 for the ticket plus 1 drink, 1 pizza and 1 popcorn. That’s a lot of money for 1 person to see a movie. I justified this by telling myself that AMC only made money on the food & beverage but now I’m thinking otherwise.

    Thoughts?

    • I don’t know where that Variety article got it’s numbers. I guess the huge chain theaters like AMC get to keep that much since they can negotiate back at the studios, but independent theater owners get shafted at the box office.

      In the first week a movie is out the studio may take up to 90% of the ticket sales. YEAH 90%! It’s sick!

      A great deal is depending on the movie, the location, the distributor, lots of factors. But a big well promoted wide release movie like Toy Story 3 is going to be getting around 80%+ in the first two weeks. The longer the movie is there the less the studio keeps. So in its 4th week they might only take 65% of the tickets sales and down and down the percentage goes over time, but ticket sales drop dramatically by the third week so who cares if we’re keeping 60% of ten tickets sold. Whoop dee doo.

      So I thought, “Why don’t we sell tickets for a dollar since we don’t get to keep much of it anyway.” And the answer to that is because the studio don’t allow it. If we “under-perform” they will just stop letting us show their movies, and then we are really screwed. Because they will only let you have movies that are in their 3rd or 4th week.

      But the bottom line is the studios do get the lion’s share of the ticket. So theaters do require that concession income to keep their doors open. Whether independent or chain.

      And if it makes you feel better independent theater owners REALLY appreciate you buying the popcorn.

  9. i'm sick of this 3D,really….everywhere, every movie with 3D…i don' like this 3D!!!
    i hate 3D….my head spinning while watchin' movie in 3D…2D is my favorite!

  10. I wear glasses, and when I saw the 15-minute trailer of Avatar, the 3D gave me a splitting headache halfway through. I had to wait for Avatar to come out in 2D to see it, and I was not impressed. It was pretty, but the story was one long string of cliches. These “filmmakers” are taking a page from P.T. Barnum: “Nobody ever went bankrupt underestimating the intelligence of the American Public.” All they do is show us pretty images and false 3D, and we happily shell out an extra 7 bucks. I maintain that until we perfect true 3-Dimensional holographic projection, 3D will remain a fad and a gimmick.

  11. But that doesn't take into account what would happen if the movie only came out in 2d. I think people are choosing the 3d over 2d because the option is there and it seems cooler. If there were no 3d option for that movie to begin with, they would sell more 2d tickets because people would still want to see the movie and wouldn't feel like they were settling for second best. You are right that they make more money off of the 3d version though because they get to jack up the ticket price.

  12. I think that as many films as possible should be shot in 3D. If you don't want to see it in 3D, that's fine. Just see the 2D version. But I really believe we should keep as many viewing options open as possible. That way everyone's happy. Even for the people who hate the current 3D technology, or get headaches… who knows? Maybe someday they'll come up with a way of viewing 3D films that you'll enjoy, and then you'll wish that more films had been shot in 3D…

    2D-to-3D conversion should never be done for live-action films, unless they come up with a much more impressive way of doing it than what they did for Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans.

  13. This won't be possible for a long time, but the only real 3-D will be some kind of holographic effect where the viewer will see a different view based on where he is sitting in the theater. The glasses will have some kind of little GPS device in them that can determine the position and angle in which the glasses are looking at the “screen”. In other words, it will be like real life where if I am standing to your left, I will see the left side of your face. If the other viewer is to your right, he will see your right side. True depth, and true dimensionality are what true 3-D can be. Even though Cameron's 3-D photographic and development process are much more advanced than the previous efforts, it is still essentially taking a 2-D picture and manipulating it to look 3-D. CGI may be the only way to fully achieve this effect. Since the computer can render all the objects on the screen in full 3-D it would be possible to do this. It would not be dissimilar to a multi-player video game where each participant is in a different location but they are viewing the same event. The computer would then have to render what the picture would look like for every possible seat location and its resulting viewing angle. Since this type of film could only be shown in a very limited number of theaters under strict control, they will know the exact number of seats and the distances and angles. They will also need to render slightly different views if the viewer's eyes pan all around the screen. Obviously the closer the viewer is to the screen the greater the angle range required.
    The bottom line though is that this system has to be an active system, where the glasses work with the theater's computers to provide you the image. The amount of processing power and bandwidth is pretty steep. The glasses themselves will be little computers. Weight of course will be an issue. It's possible that the theater will have to hand each viewer a separate small device that will feed the image to the glasses. The other optional requirement I would have is that if a person chooses not to watch in 3-D, he can watch the exact same movie in 2-D. Say a person who wears eyeglasses, or has vertigo problems.

  14. A movie ticket here is not that bad, 8 for regular 11 for 3d. I actually saw avatar twice, the first time was in 2d the second in 3d. I can honestly say that the 3d added a lot to the movie, but I still think it would have been hugely successful. I have seen a lot of 3D movies and there is a HUGE difference between stereoscopic and converted 3D. The glasses are a little clunky, but they are tolerable. I like 3D, but whether it is done in stereoscope or converted, It still has to be a good movie to begin with or its pointless

  15. This is basically what I was thinking. I see 3D as the next logical step in the development of cinema. First there was motion itself, then sound, then color, and now depth. And what's wrong with that? I understand that many people have trouble working with the current technology that requires glasses, but they're experimenting with 3D displays that don't require them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autostereoscopy), so I'm hopeful that someday we won't have those problems.

    3D can be used in a gimmicky way, but that doesn't mean it *has* to be. And just because, in some people's opinion, it hasn't added that much to movie making yet doesn't mean it can't. It's another tool that can be used creatively just like lighting, color, focus, etc. I agree with Ben Kendrick's Scorsese post. I think 3D dramas are exactly what needs to happen in order to explore 3D as a tool without so much temptation to turn it into a gimmick.

  16. I agree that it is being abused in terms of its use but it can be put to good use. When it is used more aesthetically (like in Avatar and How to Train You Dragon) it can be a good tool. But when used as a gimmick I want to throw up.

  17. The simple fact is that people expect the technology in movies to move with the times. With the invention of CGI, Hi-def picture and sound etc, there is little the movie industry can't do. What else can they improve without reinventing the preverbial wheel? I'm guessing that 3D movies are here to stay.

  18. Amazing! I adore Miley and her innovative record album. I’d have to say that either Can’t Be Tamed or Scars are probably my favorite songs. She is all grown up from her Hannah Montana days!

    • @rossie

      ummm….i think you’re in the wrong forum

  19. F 3d movies..iv always hated them..its like ur friggin wearing sunglass to watch a movie..the only time i will like a 3d movie is if they can make a 3d movie work without the stupid sunglasses..or the blue and red glasses..making it as if its actually real..so ya F 3d movies

  20. What really makes me insane about all these 3-D movies is that I couldn’t watch them even if I wanted to. My husband is blind in one eye, so we have missed out on seeing some movies we wanted to see because they were released only in 3-D. It is frustrating because on some occasions Hollywood seems to be forgetting an entire section of viewers. I don’t care if the 3-D thing becomes a norm for movies, I just hope they don’t make it the only way movies are released.

  21. Our local theatre (we have only one) has been playing nothing but 3d. I am totally sick peering through a pair of small uncomfortable glasses that cut off my peripheral vision and otherwise negatively affect my moviegoing experience. I have resolved to quit the theatre until they get over this 3d fad!

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  23. Interesting and well written. I enjoyed it, thanks for that.
    Personally I agree on shooting more in higher quality than making things in 3D. I have seen Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in 3D. Avatar was alright and after 5 minutes I wished I bought the ticket for the not 3D Alice. And now I know why. Overall I don’t like 3D that much. I can still see the 2D edge of the screen and sometimes it feels like I’m watching a movie through a square hole in the wall. We will see if 3D is here to stay. It seems logical though, from BW to color and from color to 3D, all adding realism. But I personally think the technology needs to improve.
    I won’t be seeing any movies in 3D soon though.

  24. Negative or what?
    If you are lucky enough to have good 3d vision with or without corrective glasses, then properly filmed 3D really does add an exciting amount of realism. The latest commercial passive 3D TVs, blu-ray 3D players and 3D video cameras work extremely well, producing a very acceptable amount of depth.
    As another member said, ’3D is here to stay’. What Avatar did was demonstrate how far 3D technology has advanced. It woke up the industry.
    I and millions of other Tolkien 3D fans can’t wait to see the Hobbit in 3D!

  25. I know it’s been a couple of years, but if someone doesn’t like 3D then here is a simple option: don’t watch films in 3D. Studios are not forcing 3D down people’s throat. It’s an option we have if we want to see it that way. The 2D option is still there. When 3D is done right it looks amazing and I have plenty in blu ray, but I still only watch movies in 2D when in theatres, besides Avatar and Transformers Dark of the Moon. So it doesn’t really matter if people think it should stop because all they have to do is watch the films in 2D and let people who like 3D enjoy it.

  26. 3D is such a rip-off! I’m upset because hansel and gretal is only offered in 3D in my area and I am refusing to spend 5 extra dollar to spend on cheap plastic glasses!!! So I will watch it on the Internet for free!!! Two can play that game major studios!! Lol

  27. My whole opinion on the 3D band Wagon is that they should film the movies in 3D. None of this conversion after the fact. And they should leave all the movies that are not 3D movies alone. I like 3D movies, but how many of you out there, after seeing a 3D movie, walked out of the theater with a raging headache. I raise my hand. Almost every 3D movie I have seen left me with a throbbing headache from the strain of the 3D.

  28. I feel 3d is getting old. I love 3d spend 2500 on my 3dtv xtra glasses the works. But allmost all movies are converted to 3d. I want to see all movies shot in 3d. And ill have no complaints. I feel my money wassnot well spend, regret it. PS. Not to mension the all the cash i spend on 3d blueray movies is crazy. What can we do? Wish i could do something.

  29. Man! You are such a buzzkill! Don’t like 3D? Don’t watch it! But don’t riun the experience for the rest of us! You have a serious SERIOUS case of oldfartitis!

    Motion pictures themselves are an illusion! As is magic & time travel! The whole industry is built on selling illusions! Meryl Streep isn’t a Danish woman born in the late 1800s, after all, but I’m sure you didn’t object to her portraying the illusion of one in Out of Africa!

    The goal of many filmmakers is to draw their audience into the reality of their illusion by mimmicking real life. Except for the blind (or blind in ine eye) we all experience real life in 3D!

    You sound like those Philistines who poopoo’d photography, then motion pictures, then sound & then color! “People will get headaches from all those bright colors!”

    Be a cumudgeonly dinosaur if you want, but the rest of ud would rather move forward in time, not become extinct in our pointless, purposeless self-righteous indignation.

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