3D is the future of cinema apparently. I’m not clear exactly when that decision was made, but it seems that Hollywood has made up its mind. In the last couple of years we’ve had more and more movies coming out in 3D, a trend which has culminated with Avatar.
And now there is news that Blu-Ray movies will start coming out in 3D as well so we can experience this in the comfort of our own homes. My question is why?
I don’t mean to dismiss the technical achievement of Avatar, which is clearly substantial, but I can’t help feeling that the move to 3D is driven entirely by money, not storytelling or artistic merit.
There are several reasons why 3D movies are not a good idea currently:
- There are at least 4 competing 3D standards
- Most cinemas are not capable of playing 3D movies
- Shooting a movie in 3D requires special techniques or it is more distracting than anything else
- Not everyone is capable of viewing movies in 3D
So with all those problems, why is Hollywood (and the rest of the entertainment industry) pushing so hard for 3D? Well it comes down to money of course. A large part of the entertainment dollar has been siphoned away from cinemas by DVDs, TV and the internet. 3D was something that these outlets couldn’t offer. It gave people a reason to spend $15 or so on the movie ticket and associated snacks. It fed into the idea of movie going as an experience.
Money is also the reason you can now by 3D enabled television sets. People have spent thousands of dollars on big screen TVs and the electronics companies need a big feature in order to persuade them to upgrade again. 3D is the feature they’ve picked.
We are repeatedly told that this is what the viewers want. But do they? In 2008 only 1,400 of the 30,000 screens in the US could actually show 3D movies. In June 2009 there were estimated to be only 5,000 3D screens worldwide.
Avatar is held up as the pinnacle of 3D movie making and it’s been a huge financial success despite the considerable cost. But is that because of the 3D? Well look at the numbers. In the US Avatar has raked in $352,111,000.00 with an average of 3,461 theaters. But most of those theaters will have shown it on multiple screens. Wikipedia reports that it played on some 2,200 3D screens for its midnight showing, and made only $3,537,000.00. The majority of Avatar’s box office came from people viewing this “3D” movie on non-3D screens.
It seems to me that the 3D trend is being driven entirely by companies, not by consumer demand. People don’t hate 3D, but they don’t really want it either. Am I wrong?
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