The concept of 3D filmmaking has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, but the trend now appears to be in decline. Of course, this decline shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the popularity of 3D filmmaking has both risen and declined since its arrival in mainstream movie theaters over sixty years ago. Still, despite the decreasing popularity of the medium, Hollywood studios continue to release 3D films both domestically and now more commonly, abroad.
The arrival of the fifth installment in the Bourne franchise brought with it the return of Matt Damon in the titular role of Jason Bourne, but also director Paul Greengrass. Aside from these two heavyweights however, Jason Bourne also brought a 3D version specifically for its Chinese market. If the handheld, ultra-fast pace of Jason Bourne’s cinematography seems like an odd match for 3D technology, well, you’re not the only one who thinks so.
According to Deadline, moviegoers and critics alike in China are complaining about the 3D version of Jason Bourne after only two days in theaters. Audiences have registered such an adverse reaction that the film’s distributors are now doing everything they can to bring more 2D versions of the film to China. Chinese viewers have called the 3D Bourne film “a rip-off” and have accused Universal Pictures and its Chinese affiliates of releasing the film primarily in 3D across China to capitalize on the format’s higher ticket prices.
Despite the 3D backlash however, Jason Bourne’s box office numbers in China thus far have been quite strong. The film has already marked its Chinese debut as the highest grossing installment in the series. But the meager number of theaters in China currently screening a 2D version of Jason Bourne (only eight of the 149 theaters in Beijing have the 2D option) means that as the negative press and response for Jason Bourne 3D increases, time is of the essence for Universal. It would certainly be a shame for them to spoil an opportunity to greatly increase what has to date been a decent global box office gross for the film.
Judging by the paltry number of theaters screening a 2D version of Jason Bourne in Beijing alone – a city of 11 million people - Chinese moviegoers are certainly justified in feeling they’ve been ripped-off. Western audiences wouldn’t have been interested in a 3D version of Jason Bourne, so why should it be foisted upon the Chinese? It definitely looks as though Universal took a big gamble that did not pay off at all and now they’re scrambling to do damage control.
The Chinese reaction to Jason Bourne 3D will hopefully be taken as lesson by Universal, that audiences need to be respected, wherever they may be. 3D filmmaking has its time and place and it’s arguable that maintaining interest in this format will best be served by using it only for films that merit it - and not simply as a cash grab for anything and everything that comes along.
Jason Bourne is currently in theaters.