From Avatar to
the New Harry Potter, 3D seems to have taken over the summer blockbuster
lineup, apparently. But with an extra $3 per ticket, moviegoers
are questioning the added expense. If they're asked to recycle
the glasses at the end of each show, why can't they just keep
them and reuse them for the next time they come to the movies?
Well, for one thing, audiences might not
realize that the extra surcharge on the ticket isn't to pay for
the glasses, it's actually to pay for the expensive digital 3d
conversion that the theater had to invest in so that they could
show these films. At close to a half million dollars to upgrade,
the fastest way the theater can recoup its investment is to pass
that cost on to the audience.
Have you also noticed that the price of
a popcorn and soda rivals a weekly grocery bill? I mean, come
on, if it costs more to have a small popcorn and soda than it
does to buy the DVD (when it comes out in 6 months), there's something
wrong. But as a filmmaker, I understand that the price hikes in
concessions are directly related to recouping this digital projector
The funny thing though, once people get
used to paying more for something, they tend not to notice when
the price doesn't go back down to what it used to be. (Case in
point, gasoline. It's never going to drop below $3/gallon...)
How does this relate do 3D? Well, for one
thing, movie studios are competing against not only television,
but also the plethora of "films" that are streaming
on the Internet. In what seems to be a deja-vu from the 1950s,
3D is a way to give audiences "an experience", rather
than just sit passively and watch a movie.
But not all 3D movies are guaranteed to
be profitable. Many movies with lackluster scripts and half-assed
storylines have bombed majorly at the box office, making the big
power players question whether or not this 3D thing is just a
bunch of hype.
However, truth be told, if you have a killer
script with a great cast and kick-ass production values, it will
probably do very well in 3D. In fact, those factors would make
the movie do very well in 2D as well. And most likely, a 2D blockbuster
will have a higher profit margin than a 3D hit. The added cost
of stereography (3D cinematography) brings the budget up a lot
higher. I believe that a filmmaker should ask themselves why their
story needs to be told in 3D rather than the traditional way.
Avatar was a perfect example of this. The setting of the planet
Pandora provided an amazing 3d backdrop that was so vivid and
immersive that there were some audiences who suffered from "Post
Pandora Depression" after they left the theater. (No joke--this
was actually documented a couple years ago).
George Lucas recently announced that the
Star Wars movies would be converted to 3D. Critics are saying
this is just another way to milk more money out of his fanboy
core base. But personally, I'm kind of curious to see how it turns
out. I wish he'd begin with the original 1977 movie, rather than
1999's Phantom Menace, but that's just me. Knowing that ILM has
been in the vanguard of the art of special effects for almost
40 years now, I can see Mr. Lucas coming up with an innovation
to make the planetary settings rival that of Cameron's Pandora.
(Could the new reboot of Disneyland's Star Tours be a precursor
to things to come?)
For the low budget filmmaker, 3D is definitely
out of the question. While digital technology has gotten so good,
and the cost has dropped so much that you can now literally make
a feature film for the price of a used car, shooting in 3D gives
up all of those advantages you had over 35mm film. Even with a
really cool action picture, unless Warner Brothers (or any big
studio) is going to throw millions of dollars at you, you're better
off keeping the budget way down.
Indie films without bankable stars and/or
directors have a hard time getting a wide theatrical release.
But if you've got a great story, word of mouth could make your
little film a sleeper hit, or at the very least, an Oscar contender.
With a lower budget, not only will you make your investors happy,
but you'll probably get to share in the wealth and continue to
make more movies.
Then when Paramount wants to hire you for
their next 3D Blockbuster, you'll be ready.