I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t impressed by the groundbreaking visual effects in Avatar, or that I didn’t shell out extra money to see a number of 3D movies in the past few years. I’m not afraid to admit my own foolishness.
But many other moviegoers have been feeling the same sense of regret lately, falling for the promise that seeing a movie in 3D would be some kind of mind-altering, other-worldly experience. Forgetting for a moment that no one should be tricked into such a situation in this day and age, people did indeed flock to theaters in order to wear uncomfortable glasses during their movies just a handful of years ago.
But soon, we as a collective audience caught on that 3D was adding little to no value to our movies and, if anything, was simply making them worse with darker colors and headache-inducing visuals (my biggest regret in life might be seeing Up in 3D, as my experience with what should have been the most colorful movie I had ever seen was severely mutilated).
We have all dreamed of a day when movie studios realize the public – while brilliantly fooled at first – is no longer under the spell of 3D movies. A day when we rejoice in the streets because never again will we have to endure a shoddy post-production conversion that is nothing but a cash grab to what is usually an already-awful film.
Recently, it has felt like that dream could soon be a reality, as news headlines have certainly offered a glimmer of hope:
They’re beautiful, aren’t they? Amid a still-struggling economy, moviegoers have finally decided to become selective in their choices. Either that, or they’ve finally caught on to the studios’ greedy ploy.
But here is where the plan becomes unhinged.
Studios have invested millions in outfitting theaters with 3D projectors (Fox, Paramount, Disney and Universal collectively paid $700 million to make it happen), which meant the number of 3D releases spiked in recent years, from 20 in 2009 to 45 in 2011.
And as an inferior product consistently disappointed American audiences, it grew in popularity overseas, as 3D accounts for up to 90% of a film’s box office total in countries like Russia and China. Combine that with the money already invested by movie studios, and how cheap it is to convert a movie to 3D, it doesn’t seem like the format is going away anytime soon.
So while audiences become less and less enthused with every new 3D release, the movie studios will continue to churn them out, thanks in large part to international markets and cost effectiveness (which means they’ll be put together hastily, without the attention they deserve and designed to mask the inherent inferiority of the films themselves).
3D movies are here to stay, and like most awful trends in movies, we really only have ourselves to blame.