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3D 29 May 2009 19:55 #31633

  • leeler
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great article that sums up my thoughts on the subject

Fourteen years have passed since Pixar revolutionized the field of animation with Toy Story. In proving that a film animated entirely with computer-generated images could not only be successful, but imaginative and artful, Pixar forever changed the landscape of both animated film and film itself.

This year, Pixar enters the burgeoning market of mainstream 3-D releases. Surprisingly, it was the Mouse House itself that led the way with this technology, not Pixar. 2005's Chicken Little was the first to utilize the new Real D technology, followed by a number of other Disney releases, including Meet the Robinsons and Bolt. The success of the new format has led both Disney/Pixar and chief rival DreamWorks to announce that all of their animated features will henceforth be released in 3-D.

This is a surprising turn for a gimmick once thought dead, relegated to theme parks and comic books in the '90s. However, a sharp distinction lies between the new resurgence of 3-D film and the scattered examples of the technology throughout history. While these films are being released in 3-D, they are also being released in normal, "flat" prints. Seeing these films in 3-D is an option, not the point.

This has made more sense with certain Real D releases than others. Robert Zemeckis' bizarre CGI retelling of Beowulf made good use of the 3-D technology, but was essentially unchanged (and just as mediocre) without the glasses; by contrast, this year's My Bloody Valentine 3D was little more than a thrown-together excuse to show some blood and nudity in three eye-popping, cringe-inducing dimensions.

One gets the impression that most of the films being released with this technology – certainly Pixar and DreamWorks films, if not all the Real D efforts – would still have been greenlit without the gimmick attached. Pixar's late arrival to the party seconds this – Real D is not true, game-changing innovation. If it were, Pixar would have been on top of it long ago. Up is in no way about exploring the possibilities of Real D; I saw a screening of the flat version of the film, and the film did not suffer a bit without the glasses. If you had never told me that a 3-D version of the film existed, I never would've guessed.

The reasoning behind the proliferation of Real D films is actually far more base than one might think. Since the '80s and '90s homogenized nearly every movie theater in America into identical multiplexes, distributors and theater owners have been searching for ways to make the movie-going experience unique – and, thus, charge more for admission. The late-'90s introduction of stadium seating was the first stab at this "added value" system; quickly, all new multiplexes were built with stadium seating alone. Naturally, these super-multiplexes quickly introduced premium seating – if you've never been, these are basically easy chairs in the theater, with the best views and other minor amenities.

One can only dress up a movie chair and jack up the price so much, however, and distributors were only too happy to begin providing advanced technology to encourage exhibitor gouging. IMAX has not only convinced us we need to pay more for a bigger and better screen, they've actually begun convincing us to pay for the brand alone. A recent pseudo-controversy, sparked by blog posts from actor Aziz Ansari, surrounded IMAX's new policy of slapping the brand name on screens that aren't that much bigger than normal movie screens, even though this all but negates the advantages of IMAX projection. Still, the distinction of these exhibitions over normal showings – whether that distinction is significant or minor – gives theaters a reason to charge more for certain showings, and to this point, we seem to be willing to pay it.

The same goes for Real D. Is much lost by seeing Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, or (god forbid) The Jonas Brothers in two dimensions? Not particularly. These films are made for their own purposes, not as a diversion from actual cinema. However, it's a distinction over the presentation at any old theater, and exhibitors love added value; judging by ticket sales and the public's willingness to pay up to 50% more per ticket for Real D and IMAX, it seems that fans love these enhancements as well.

You'll forgive me for being jaded in the face of technology, but this too shall pass. IMAX and Real D are not the future of film, they're just the current trend in exhibition. I'd be utterly surprised if every film was shown on a Real D IMAX screen 40 years from now; I wouldn't be shocked at all if these technologies swiftly went the way of the drive-in.

Come to think of it, I still like the drive-in more than IMAX.
"What a crazy business"
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Re:3D 31 May 2009 18:38 #31635

Between this article and Roger Ebert's blog,, I don't know what to do. Maybe it is best just to sit back for awhile and see how it all shakes out...let the big guys spend the big bucks and take the risk.
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Re:3D 03 Jun 2009 03:07 #31646

I watched UP in 3D (RealD) today in the multiplex down the road. Their digital projector was just installed last week. Cute movie. The 3D wasn't too much in your face, but the glasses picked up a reflection from somewhere and it was pretty distracting. The audience around me was enthusiastic about the 3D.
They had a recycle bin for the glasses, but I didn't see anyone put theirs in the bin. How much do the RealD glasses cost?
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Re:3D 03 Jun 2009 08:59 #31647

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SACO, Maine (AP) - To hear the folks in Hollywood talk about it, improved 3-D technology and the quality films that are quickly lining up behind it represent nothing short of a moviegoing revolution. Tell that to the folks who still live hours from the nearest 3-D-equipped theater.

For them, all the extradimensional summer offerings and slick marketing campaigns amount to nothing more than a big, frustrating tease.

For them, the movie world is still flat.

Because of the credit crunch and high cost of upgrading equipment, the vast majority of theaters don't yet have the ability to show 3-D movies, a situation that affects the nation's furthest-flung areas most. In Maine, you can count on one hand the number of theaters that showed Pixar Animation's "Up" in 3-D when it opened late last week.

Those who haven't made the costly transition run the risk of losing customers who're willing to travel to see it elsewhere in 3-D, said Bob Collins, marketing director of Zyacorp Entertainment's Cinemagic, which has been offering 3-D at its Saco theater for more than a year.

"A chain that doesn't have the 3-D technology, they're going to be in a very tough situation because they're basically going to be turning away customers," he said.

As it stands, 26 percent of 5,756 cinemas across the country have one or more screens capable of showing 3-D movies, but that number is expected to grow as financing becomes available later in the summer, said Patrick Corcoran from the National Association of Theater Owners.

All told, there were only 2,385 3-D screens out of a total of 38,853 screens nationwide at the end of May, according to the theater group.

Northern New England is among the places where 3-D is scarce. RealD and Dolby Digital, which are aggressively deploying 3-D in theaters, say they have equipped six cinemas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, so far. Other rural states face similar 3-D shortages.

There would be thousands more screens converted to the format if not for the recession. Two separate financing deals that would've brought 3-D to more than 20,000 movie screens across the country collapsed because of the economic meltdown, Corcoran said.

And the technology doesn't come cheap.

It costs about $70,000 for a movie theater to upgrade from film to a digital projector, and the 3-D add-on costs another $30,000. That $100,000 total compares to the cost of $15,000 to $20,000 for a traditional 35 mm projector that has been the industry standard.

Upgrading all movie screens to the digital technology would cost billions, and the slow progress has created tension between studios and cinemas.

At last month's Cannes Film Festival, Dick Cook, Disney studio chairman, made a friendly jab at cinema owners when he noted that Disney was able to have a makeshift theater up and running in three days. The company set up the screen at a Cannes hotel to show reporters 3-D footage of its new version of Charles Dickens'"A Christmas Carol," starring Jim Carrey and due in theaters late this year.

"It just dawned on me, this theater that you're in today, it's digital, it's 3-D, and we built it in three days," Cook said. "Now I was just thinking to all the exhibitors that are here, it only took us three days. So let's pick up the pace a little bit."

The first movie theater to take the leap in Maine was Zyacorp Entertainment's Cinemagic, a regional chain that has used digital projectors since its inception a decade ago.

In the projector booth, 35 mm projectors with giant film spools seem quaint next to the whirring black digital projectors running on autopilot. Giant silver venting tubes that dissipate heat and laptop computers residing atop them lend the appearance of something out of a science fiction movie.

Customers are eager for 3-D movies and willing to travel to see them, said Donna Spencer, manager of the 13-screen Cinemagic in Saco. One family traveled from Bangor - a distance of about 140 miles - to see the "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience," she said.

Spencer said she has yet to see a customer leave a 3-D movie disappointed. And there have been no complaints over the $3 ticket premium for 3-D movies, she said.

Parents especially enjoy bringing their kids to 3-D movies. DreamWorks Animation and Disney Pixar Animation say all future movies will be released in 3-D.

"The kids loved the 3-D," said Kim Marcotte, of Falmouth, who watched "Monsters vs. Aliens" with her 7-year-old daughter Sophie. "They were reaching out for the objects in front of their faces, and the audience would gasp. They all clapped at the end."
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Re:3D 03 Jun 2009 15:40 #31649

  • rufusjack
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"$15,000 to $20,000 for a traditional 35 mm projector that has been the industry standard"

I guess I have been undercharged!!

How many CBG screens have been converted so far?
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