The typical conversion process costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 - $500,000. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overinflated multi-million dollar budgets the major films are getting. For their investment, studios can expect to see anywhere from 30- 50% increase in box office sales because of the additional cost for the “privilege” of watching the film in 3D. Studios know that not everyone is going to do their research on the technology and figure out that it is a scam, so they can be assured that opening weekend will have much higher numbers from people trying out the 3D "experience."
In essence, a film can sell fewer tickets and still turn a profit because of the additional cost the other suckers theater goers are paying. It would be a financially dumb decision for them NOT to convert their films into 3D. The average cost of a standard 2D movie ticket rose in 2009 to $7.20 – I’d like to know where I can see a movie for that price – but the cost of seeing a film in 3D is a flat $3 extra regardless of the theater you go to. That’s a modest 42% additional cost to each moviegoer to just wear a pair of oversized glasses and experience the ILLUSION of 3D.
That’s right, I said ILLUSION! Sometimes people forget that no matter what great 3D special effect directors and studios add to their film it’s not a true 3D experience. They are simply adding depth to the frame that is not there. To experience true 3D you would have to – wait for it – GO OUTSIDE!
Even if the conversion process wasn't being used by a vast majority of the upcoming 3D films, I would still have a problem with it. I’m not completely against the use of 3D technology but I do feel, as a wearer of corrective lenses (read: glasses), that I’m being slighted. I have yet to meet another person wearing glasses who says “Man I absolutely LOVE wearing these ridiculous glasses on top of my existing frames.” They are very awkward to fit on your face and feel like they are constantly sliding down your nose. As beautiful and majestic as Avatar was to look at, I was distracted the entire time by these gigantic over-sized glasses resting on my face.
Last September, Real D did announce that it intends to make designer 3D frames (Gucci, Prada, etc.) and that some time in the future we can expect to have prescription lenses as well. Also on their slate are a line of toddler frames so more kids can "enjoy" the 3D effect. That is a step in the right direction - to get prescription lens wearers on board with shelling out the extra money but honestly, I can't say that will sway me personally to jump on the 3D bandwagon.
So what should studios focus on instead?
Personally, I’d rather see them spend money in a way that enhances the overall quality of a film by shooting it with IMAX or better yet, shooting the film in HiDef 1080p and converting the theaters to show them. I think a headline stating “Green Lantern to be shot in IMAX!” would be less groan inducing than a headline about it being in post-converted 3D.
I know IMAX cameras are big, bulky and expensive but maybe if they pumped just half of the budget from all the dumb 3D movies coming out into research, then they could develop a smaller camera. Say what you want about Transformers 2 but the IMAX scenes in the film looked glorious and I don’t think anyone would argue the IMAX scenes shot for The Dark Knight were anything but fantastic.
Whether we like it or not, 3D technology has proven (to studios at least) to be a very productive and efficient way to recoup their investment. Just like remakes, reboots and sequels, post-conversion 3D is, unfortunately, here to stay; all we can hope is that eventually Hollywood gets tired of playing with their toy fireman’s hat and just uses it for certain films. It would also help if they stopped post converting and started filming in 3D but as long as audiences keep lining up and plopping down the extra cash (Alice in Wonderland is over $200 million in 2 weeks) then studios have no reason to change their tactics. In their minds, they are giving audiences what they want and doing us a favor.
In case you are curious about how many films are actually slated to be released in 3D (post or otherwise) over the next couple of years, here is a list:
Two Harry Potter films, Green Lantern, Sucker Punch, Clash of the Titans, Toy Story 3,The Blob, Saw VII, Transformers 3 , Underworld 4, Resident Evil 4, Zombieland 2, Piranha 3D, Drive Angry, Re-Animator remake, Swamp Thing, Burst, Stretch Armstrong, The Three Musketeers, Yogi Bear, Scream 4, The Hobbit, Twister 2 (possibly), Yellow Submarine, Who Framed roger Rabbit?, Night of the Living Dead, Cowboys and Aliens, Spider-man, Gremlins 3, Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Cats and Dogs 2, Ghost in the Shell, Frankenweenie, Gravity, Tintin, Priest, Star Trek 2 (maybe), Erector Set, How To Train Your Dragon, Samurai Jack, View-Master, and oh yeah, Avatar 2.
Is your head spinning yet? It only took me 5 minutes to look all those up on here on Screen Rant and that only covers films coming out through 2012 – which just proves that it really could be the end of the world. Maybe that’s why the Mayans didn’t have 3D technology? *Note - there are many more films scheduled to be done in 3D that I left off here.*
Again, I’m not completely against the use of 3D in movies, I just think that studios and directors should follow Cameron’s example and plan for it from the start. Scorsese seems to have the right idea and if Marc Webb is consulting Cameron on his Spider-Man 3D reboot, then he will be on the right track as well.
What are your thoughts about this 3D craze? Do you see it slowing down anytime soon and how you would rather see studios spend the money?
Follow me on Twitter @Walwus
Source: Shadow Locked, Hollywood Reporter, Associated Press, Gizmodo, Variety