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48fps Version Of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' Will Only Play In Limited Release

by Cain Rodriguez
August 8, 2012 9:23 AM
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

With all the talk of the recently announced third film (The Hobbit: Tokyo Drift,” anyone?), the earlier hoopla over intended framerate of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" films has fallen to the wayside. In case you forgot, the director showcased some footage from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in the intended 48fps 3D format in the spring at CinemaCon, and the reaction was less than enthusiastic. Despite Jackson’s defense of the format, it looks like the response from CinemaCon has cooled Warner Bros. on their push for the format.

Variety is reporting that the studio is keeping the high frame-rate release “fairly small...[in] only select locations, perhaps not even into all major cities.” That may be because general audiences don't know/care what 48fps is yet, or because currently there still aren’t any theaters ready to project at the higher frame rate. And that latter point in particular, seems to be the stickiest. The cost of upgrading the software in digital projectors was previously reported to be in the neighborhood of $10,000 and moreover, some projectors aren't able to make the boost, so theater owners in some case would need to buy all new equipment. But even if projectors can be upgraded, the process isn't easy, an depending on what theaters have, additional hardware might be required.

And while vendors are touting 48fps as the wave of the future (of course they are, they have equipment to sell), we'd reckon theater owners may be wary after dropping all kinds of money in recent years to upgrade their theaters for digital and 3D, only to see audiences for the latter becoming much more choosy about what they pay premium dollars for. Undergoing a potentially costly and complicated process for the sake of one movie -- even if it is "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" -- is probably a hard sell for many.

As we get closer to the December 13th release date, the studio will most likely release a list of theaters that will be equipped to handle the new format, so prepare to make some road trips folks. Or will you? Does seeing a movie in 48fps interest you at all? Or is just another high tech fad aimed at getting even more money out of your wallet?

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  • Casey | October 3, 2012 1:18 PMReply

    If I can't find a 48fps theater near me, I will just wait for Bluray.
    I thought that was the whole point of things like 3D and 48fps... to give me a reason to go to the movies again.
    Tsk tsk, Warner.

  • Tom | August 8, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    I am very curious to see what 48fps looks like. I'm not a big LOTR fan, but I'll plunk down the cash to see how this shit looks.

  • starway2001 | August 8, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    So which is it? The article is biased against the higher frames rates, obviously, but which is it... Warner Bros has cooled or the theater owners won't be ready for the format?

  • Huffy | August 8, 2012 11:59 AMReply

    I'd be interested in seeing what it looks like before I judge the idea of 48fps but I already hate the way the cinematography has changed since the LOTR films. The colors are way too garish and the CG sets stand out more in the Hobbit trailer, which is pretty unforgivable considering they had ten years of SFX advancements and what is probably a healthier budget to work with.

  • Joe | August 8, 2012 10:31 AMReply

    Cain, you should proofread your article:

    "And that latter point in particular, seems to be a stickiest." -- A stickiest?

    "...some projecters aren't able to make the boost, so theater owners in some case would need to buy all new equipment. But even if projects can be upgraded, the process isn't easy..." shouldn't projects be projectors?

  • Cde. | August 8, 2012 10:20 AMReply

    Peter Jackson is attempting to redefine what we consider the 'cinematic look'. It's a bold step and to me it's worth putting in the extra effort to witness. To me it's a much more interesting and practical attempt to shift the medium than 3D.

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