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Rethinking 3-D: Audiences Rebel at Crap Movies, Ebert Protests, Sony Explains, 2-D Loses Luster

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage and Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 31, 2011 at 1:00AM

It was all too predictable. Hollywood, in its rush to collect premium ticket prices for 3-D fare, has overdone it, pushing too many grade-B movies into 3-D release. Now, not only are moviegoers often not getting value for their money, but 3-D is actually making the theatrical experience worse for audiences who want quality 2-D.
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Thompson on Hollywood

It was all too predictable. Hollywood, in its rush to collect premium ticket prices for 3-D fare, has overdone it, pushing too many grade-B movies into 3-D release. Now, not only are moviegoers often not getting value for their money, but 3-D is actually making the theatrical experience worse for audiences who want quality 2-D.

3-D is starting to fizzle, and Hollywood's starting to fret, reports The NYT. IMAX president Greg Foster tells them: "Audiences are very smart…When they smell something aspiring to be more than it is, they catch on very quickly.” The greedy assumption that we're idiots may have run its course. NYT:

Consumer rebellion over high 3-D ticket prices plays a role, and the novelty of putting on the funny glasses is wearing off, analysts say. But there is also a deeper problem: 3-D has provided an enormous boost to the strongest films, including “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but has actually undercut middling movies that are trying to milk the format for extra dollars.

And that's not all. While 3-D is taking over theaters like a rash -- with the assumption that it was the future of movies -- good old-fashioned flat films are getting the short end of the stick. Take Lincoln Specter. Having seen Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3-D (the only film he insists people see in 3-D) at two different theaters, he learned an important lesson: "The difference between people who love digital projection and people who hate it may be the difference between the theaters they patronize." The problem: not all cinemas can afford to do the technology properly.

Ty Burr brings to light 2-D films left in the dark thanks to new digital projectors and 3-D "polarizers" (which absorb 50% of the light of 2-D films) that aren't removed for 2-D showings. Why? Because it takes time and money and theater staff with technical know-how.

But it's not like we aren't paying for this new technology--we are! Audiences should get value for their money and Hollywood chasing 3-D should neither lead to crappy movies nor hurt the experience of seeing 2-D. People should certainly complain.

This piece by Matthew Humphries explains that "the reason theaters are doing this is more complicated than you may think." He includes a Sony defense of their lenses.

Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League welcomes debate on this issue and offers more specifics on the complexities of the Sony 4K projectors and lenses in question.

Part of the problem, suggests Roger Ebert, is that not everyone was trained by the world's best projectionist (he was) and therefore they don't know they're being screwed with movies that don't look the way they're meant to. Ebert's not happy and neither are we. He says:

The film should have a brightness, a crispness and sparkle that makes an impact. It should look like a movie! -- not a mediocre big-screen television. When people don't have a good time at the movies, they're slower to come back. I can't tell you how many comments on my blog have informed me that the writers enjoy a "better picture" at home on their big-screen TVs with Blu-ray discs. This should not be true. Nobody at Ebertfest confused the experience with sitting at home and watching a video. A movie should leap out and zap you, not recede into itself and get lost in dimness.

I despair. This is a case of Hollywood selling its birthright for a message of pottage. If as much attention were paid to exhibition as to marketing, that would be an investment in the future. People would fall back in love with the movies. Short-sighted, technically illiterate penny-pinchers are wounding a great art form.

[Hat Tip: Balboa Theater's Gary Meyer.]

This article is related to: Box Office, Franchises, Studios, Stuck In Love, Digital Future, Media, Marketing, Exhibition, Roger Ebert Fellowship , 3D


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