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3D or not 3D: That is the Question
by Spotlight Mike

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The Golly-Gee of 3D

The Golly-Gee of 3D

Once again, like that uncle who comes to visit that you initially love, then can't wait for him to leave, 3D is back in fashion.

The re-emergence of the technology comes at a time when the movie-going audience needed a reason to leave their home theaters to see something they can't see at home. With 102" wide-screen HD televisions, THX-quality AV receivers, and those who could afford it, dedicated private theaters, complete with plush, theater-style seats, and even concession stands, the "movie experience" can be duplicated at home without the hassle of travel, parking, gassy movie-goers or screaming babies. And it was within reasonable reach for anyone who was determined enough to afford it. Still, even without the extreme extravagances, the average movie fan could enjoy a better-than-average home movie experience on a Wal-Mart budget. So, for movie theaters, 3D was not only the "next thing," it was a survival tactic.

But for all the golly-gee fascination of 3D, it has its drawbacks:

* first and foremost, the glasses, a necessary facet of the 3D experience, and that have been needed since 3D's introduction in 1890 (though the first 3D use in wide release was in 1956 - by Disney, of course), and haven't essentially changed since, is contrarily the most annoying part of the experience. They are clumsy to people who don't wear glasses, uncomfortable to those who do, unsanitary, (recent studies have shown that the reusable glasses are not always cleaned after each

use), and some moviegoers have complained of headaches. Still, audiences buck up and take it, because there is no other alternative for the 3D experience.

* they are expensive. Movies today are shot in 2D also when the 3D option is available. Because of that, anyone wanting to see a movie in 3D now pay a premium price for the "privilege." Some theaters are charging as much as $20 to watch a 3D movie - no discount for the tiny tots. So for Mom and Dad and the kids, which most 3D movies are geared for, a night out at the 3D theater could cost upwards to $100, not including parking and munchies.

* movie owners cannot fill their auditoriums due the visual restrictions of 3D. The 3D effect could not be experienced on the far ends of the auditorium. So movie-goers have to sacrifice the comfort of spreading out in the theater and forced to sit side-by-side with strangers to accommodate for the unusable seating.

* The ultimate theater experience, IMAX 3D, is not available everywhere, and if it were available, only one, maybe two theaters were available in any major city. For instance, if you lived in Mountain Home, Idaho where there is one IMAX theater in the entire state, in Boise, a night at the IMAX would be a day trip.

And still, regardless of these drawbacks, audiences still flock to see the latest 3D blockbuster, sometimes because of these limitations, sometimes despite of them.

However, recent polls have discovered that audiences are growing tired of 3D. My
What You See is What You Get

What You See is What You Get
feeling is that people aren't growing tired of 3D movies, people are growing tired of the hassle of going to 3D movies. When the technology develops to the point where the glasses are no longer needed, and they are as ubiquitous as Technicolor and just as affordable as their 2D counterparts, most of the issues regarding resistance to 3D will cease to exist.

Escalation in the Entertainment Arms Race continues as D-BOX, those "feel the experience" seats popularized in theme parks and virtual reality rides creep into theaters.. Home Theater retaliates with the introduction of 3D television, and to support the battle, TV stations are adding 3D-specific stations to their cable line-ups. The advantage right now is the movie theater, as these technologies are available only to the well-off. 3D TV's start in at around the 50" size, and 3D movies, also considerably more expensive that your regular DVD can only be played on 3D Blu-Ray players, for a grand total of around $4,000, premium cable programming and 3D Blu-Ray movies not included - oh, and extra glasses. Most 3D TV's come with only two pair of glasses. That means Mom and Dad get to hear the tiny tots whine for the length of the movie or show because they don't have glasses. But fear not - extra glasses can be purchased - at around $100 - $150 a pop. So your new home theater system would "pay" for itself after skipping around 250 movie man-viewings at the theater. Your nuclear family should be able to afford a 3D system after a year or so
You Go the Money -  We Got the Goods

You Go the Money - We Got the Goods
of movie abstinence.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, we are going through an Entertainment Future Shock. While clinging to our VHS collection - God forbid anyone still has Beta or even Videodiscs (look it up, kiddies) - we are being weaned off our classic VHS-only copies of ODE to BILLY JOE or The OSCAR in favor of DVD's, the problem being that not all your cherished VHS movies have been mastered into DVD's yet.. Crawling up our collective behinds is Blu-Ray, and if that wasn't enough, 3D Blu-Ray home entertainment is now popping up in electronic stores. Now there's word of the Japanese developing holographic TV in a bid for the 2016 Olympics (holy Star Trek, Batman!).


So, the jury is still out on Home Theater 3D. 3D in the theaters is probably here for the duration. 2D movies still have "legs," however, especially since there are probably one-horse towns out there still showing first-run viewings of REBEL WITHOUT a CAUSE and silent movies. The 2D format is not going away anytime soon. Our sophistication with these advanced technologies - and our wallets - are constantly and desperately playing "catch-up," not to be left behind in Beta/Videodisc/Quadraphonic buyer's remorse. The dilemma is (with apologies to The Bard) 3D or not 3D. That is the question.

The answer, for both commercial and home theater, is money.

Of course, I could be wrong!

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Aug 26, 2010 9:40 AM
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Remember Smell-O-Vision, Mike? My first experience wasn't in a theatre but in the Smithsonian in Washington. They re-created an 1890's soda shoppe complete with realistic odors.

Aug 27, 2010 7:31 PM
[X] delete
Good article.

My concern with 3D technology is that it focuses film more on the visual experience and less on story and character. CG effects have already contributed to this problem but CGI can be used to make films previously unmakeable. 3D doesn't fill any holes, just inspires filmmakers to ignore existing ones.

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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