When the first entry in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, releases in theaters there will be several ways in which audiences can enjoy a return trip to Middle-Earth. The most common will, of course, be the traditional 2D but in addition to that will be two separate 3D runs of the film, projected in either 24 FPS or 48 FPS.
Those that have been keeping up with Jackson's video blogs for The Hobbit will know that the film's use of 48 FPS 3D technology is a first for a major studios' tent pole release, and is intended to usher in a new age of filmmaking. Unfortunately, an early preview of The Hobbit's 48 FPS footage didn't engender the expected awe and wonder, and instead left some viewers dismayed by what they saw.
With that in mind, it's no surprise that Warner Bros. has announced they are asking theater owners not to charge a premium for 48 FPS 3D showings of the film. Anyone who has attended a 3D film knows a surcharge is already applied to tickets to accommodate the use of the glasses and for projector maintenance, but since 48 FPS requires a different type of projection we figured an additional charge was likely.
This lack of surcharge, however, won't affect that many patrons - as Warner Bros. is only planning a limited roll-out for 48 FPS versions of the film. While they wouldn't assert it themselves, the lack of excitement over the new format has to be a factor in the decision.
With Peter Jackson having already shot a second film, and now in the early stages of planning a third, it's still possible that either of those releases would carry a premium for the 48 FPS 3D presentation. It all depends on the success of this first film.
Given the critical and commercial accolades for The Lord of the Rings, it's a forgone conclusion that these Hobbit films will be successful - it's just a question of how large their box office take will be. Returning characters like Ian McKellen's Gandalf, Orlando Bloom's Legolas, and Elijah Wood's Frodo (albeit in a smaller capacity) promise a perfect in-road for the uninitiated, and for fans this is likely to be another Tolkien dream come true.
The verdict may still be out on 48 FPS 3D technology, but claims in regards to its clarity have several pioneer filmmakers like James Cameron hopping on board. If there continues to be no surcharge on 48 FPS films while the format works out its kinks, studios might have an easier chance selling audience on its potential.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will hit theaters on December 14, 2012. The second film in the trilogy, There and Back Again, will be out on December 13, 2013. And the untitled third film is said to release in the summer of 2014.