These are, excuse the pun, dark days for stereo cinema. The 3D novelty might have helped "Avatar" to become the biggest-grossing film of all time, causing everyone and their mums to jump on board, but the shine has come off this year: "Green Lantern" was barely helped by the inflated ticket prices, domestic grosses for big 3D event pictures have disappointed, and crucially, ticket sales have swung in favor of traditional 2D viewing on films like "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung Fu Panda 2," despite stereo screenings making up the majority of showings.
It's down to a number of reasons, and one of the most repeated criticisms, amongst the cinerati at least, is that more often than not, the films aren't correctly projected. The glasses worn dim the image, meaning theaters are meant to show the films with brighter bulbs in the projector: all well and good at premieres and studio lots, but considering the 17-year-olds who staff most multiplexes often seem to have a problem projecting films the right way up, let alone in the correct brightness, it's starting to hurt the format's reputation. With "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" the last great hope for a mega-hit this summer, Paramount aren't taking any chances, as Variety reports that the studio is releasing to 2000 screens a special digital print which will run at twice the brightness of usual 3D projection.
It seems to be the idea of 3D convert Michael Bay, the director of the film, who tells Variety, "We want the best presentation possible. We have created a special version with extra sharpening, color and contrast. It is a superior look in the format. The brighter the image, the brain processes in a different way and the result sharpens and makes it more vibrant. We did many studies on the formats for presentation and I found this to be the best result."
But of course, there may be other motivations here: Deadline says that the idea may be a strategy to ensure that the film dominates 3D digital screens at a time when both Disney's "Cars 2" and Warners' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2" will be after them, keeping the 'Transformers' grosses up, and hurting the competitions, before clearing the way for their own "Captain America" after four weeks: the minimum term that the studio are giving to movie theaters.
Of course, the question here is whether it'll make any difference to moviegoers. It's unclear whether the brighter screens will be advertised by theaters (frankly, we're surprised they're not trying to charge an extra dollar for them...), but it's also unclear whether Joe Public gives a shit: we might care about the brightness of projections, but we suspect that it's the extravagant ticket prices, lackluster post-conversion and sheer quantity of mostly low-quality product that are turning audiences off 3D, and none of these seem to be addressed here (though, yes, 'Dark Of The Moon' was actually shot in 3D, but the advertising makes no mention of that).
Still, cinephiles worried about distinguishing the robots in a gloomy theater have one less thing to worry about: now they just have to deal with Bay failing to give any of them individual personalities. Reports that the studio have also developed technology to make Frances McDormand slum it twice as hard, or give Rosie Huntington-Whitely half the number of lines, are, as yet, unconfirmed. The newer, brighter "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" hits theaters next Tuesday, June 28th, with special 3D screenings, before opening wide the next day.