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Feature: 3D or not to 3D: The Future of Cinema?

Guest blogger Jai Waddell (@jaiwaddell on twitter) gives his opinion on the world of 3D cinema:

3D films are all the rage at the minute. You can’t walk into a cinema without being bombarded with advertisements and most films are now shown in 3D, even if they weren’t filmed for it. There are
many reasons for this, most involving money. Cinemas upgraded theirscreens and projectors due to big budget films such as Avatar and want to make the most of these expensive purchases. Studios
on the other hand can make more money from selling a film in 3D, due to the fact that cinemas can sell tickets for more money. As a business decision it then seems to be a simple idea of we can make money by releasing a film in 3D. In recent months this decision isn’t limited to new films, with ‘The Lion King’, ‘Star Wars:Episode 1’, ‘Toy Story (1 & 2)’ and ‘Titanic’ all being released in 3D. The last of these is the most understandable as April 2012 sees the 100 year anniversary of the ill-fated voyage, but to re-release a product to coincide with an anniversary is a tactic seen more in the music industry than the film industry. With these big name older films it seems to be a slam dunk to re-release in 3D, with the released films all making $30 million and more, with the Lion King taking close to $100 million. The Titanic is released on the 6th April and it would be surprising
not to see it take close to $50 million when the anniversary and all the news coverage it is getting.

Would This Scene Actually Be Any More Dramatic If You Winslets Face Popped Out of the Screen?

It isn’t all good news for 3D films though, as ‘Mars Needs Mom’s was meant to be Disney’s foray into 3D films and was aimed at combining the 3D market with their own well-established young audience. With a budget of $150 million it was no toe-dip by Disney and they were undoubtedly hoping to match the kind of success that the re-release of the ‘Lion King’ achieved. However it has become a money sink as only $21 million was recouped and is one of the biggest financial failures for Hollywood, inflation included, and the biggest in absolute numbers. It also became Disney’s first negatively reviewed animation since ‘Roadside Romeo’ in 2008. While it is a long way from the type of success Disney had during their renaissance, there were a number of both critical and box office success in these four years, including ‘Up’, ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Tangled’, while ‘Wall-E’ was released a
few months before ‘Roadside Romeo’.

These examples lead to the main crux of 3D films in my opinion. Many films in 3D use the effects as a main point of the film. ‘Avatar’ for example was stated by James Cameron as a film which had to be seen
in 3D, which for me defeats the point of a film. I can’t understand how having a spear appearing to come towards me is meant to give me an added perspective on the story or the characters within it.
While I can see that there is a lot of impact which can be gained from the setting, the look and the style of a film, I struggle to see how an extra dimension can be added to a film by adding a literal extra dimension. During a discussion with a friend about the film that started the recent trend to 3D films, ‘Avatar’, he argued that while it’s a very average story and acting, it is a spectacle.

This is the point I don’t understand with 3D films, an average film in the traditional sense, suddenly becomes
one the most commercially successful films of all time. To me a film should be based on the story and the acting, with the locations and way it is filmed as compliments, not the main attraction. When you look down the list of the highest grossing films in 3D you’ll see a lot of films that are part of a series, all of which have been very successful and the films would have been hugely successful regardless. Films such as ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Shrek Forever After’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’. There arealso a number of films which would likely have been extremely successful, such as ‘Despicable Me’, ‘Thor’, ‘Captain America and Tangled’. I would say that the only films in the top 20 grossing 3D films, that rely on the extra dimension are Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. There could also be arguments made for How to Train your Dragon and Up, but both of these films, in my opinion use it as an added gimmick rather than an integral part of the film and both would have stood as good films without the use of 3D.

Is This Really The Future Of Cinema?

I believe a good film is a good film, while a bad film is a bad film, regardless of any gimmicks added. Would ‘Catwoman’ have been a good film if it appeared that Halle Berry was coming out of the screen towards you? A film like Avatar, which to me is basically a futuristic Pocahontas, is seen as a must see just because of a gimmick, while the story is re-hashed from many other films,’Dances with Wolves’  among many others, and the acting is forgettable if not terrible. This is why 3D films will ultimately fall by the wayside and become a niche aspect of cinema, as they havedone before in the 80’s and the 50’s. For a traditionally good film, or a film with a large audience regardless of quality, adding a 3D aspect can be a good way to make more money, but if a poor film adds 3D to try and make it profitable then it will fail and will ultimately lead to the failure of 3D films for another 30 years in the mainstream.

Jai Waddell is an editor at Pro Football Focus Forum (http://www.profootballfocus.com/), one of the best places for NFL stats,news and features 

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