Just a few years ago, we were marveling at the quality, and the quantity, of the 3D films released in theaters. Yet in the rush to embrace 3D (and, of course, collect more at the box office), some studios simply jumped on the bandwagon with a half-hearted attempt at stereo. Audiences were quick to forgive, being just as anxious to see a 3D movie as the studios were in offering one. Not so today.
In 2010, there were less than 20 films released in stereo 3D. Not among them: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Could Warner Bros. have made a lot more money with a 3D film? Absolutely. The brand was strong enough and the fans numerous enough to warrant it. But rather than put out a mediocre product, the studio decided to wait. A half-year later, the wait was over. Part 2, which marked an end to the Potter saga, gave us a fitting farewell that embraced the true magic of 3D. In 2011, we saw nearly 30 movies utilize the medium, some coming out on the heels of another. I had to see Pirates in 2D because less than a week after its debut in stereo, theaters began pushing it to their 2D screens to make room for the 3D version of Kung Fu Panda 2. Green Lantern and Cars 2 had the same problem, as did Harry Potter and Captain America.
Nevertheless, the number of 3D-equipped theaters continues to grow. In the coming year, however, audiences will have to pony up more dollars for 3D glasses. I hadn’t realized that the cost for the plastic eyewear (definitely an improvement over the old-style paper ones) had been subsidized by the studios. Now Sony is saying that it will no longer do so starting in May, about the time when its new Spider-Man film will be released. Other studios have not commented on their plans, but I expect more to follow Sony’s lead. So, in addition to the added admission price for a 3D film, moviegoers may have to dig a little deeper for the cost of the eyewear. In Europe, viewers pay roughly $1 for a pair of reusable RealD glasses; in Asia, some plunk down a refundable deposit. Of course, there is a third option: designer 3D glasses. A number of designers are jumping at this trend, Oakley among them. And this past summer, Marchon3D began installing vendor machines at cinemas that dispense 3D designer eyewear ranging in cost from approximately $20 to $70. At first, this sounded ridiculous, given that the glasses are worn in dark theaters—who would even notice them? But even though the glasses are geared for RealD movies, they can also be used with passive laptops, gaming consoles, and HDTVs.
With all the scheduled 3D releases in 2012, there is little question that moviegoers will bite the bullet and rent or purchase the necessary eyewear to see films like Men in Black III, Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit, and more. Kicking off the new year is a new look to a classic: Beauty and the Beast 3D. Just a few months ago, Disney released the hugely popular Lion King (1994) in stereo. Initially planned for a two-week run, the film did so well at the box office—garnering approximately $94 million (in addition to the $826 million generated by the original)—that Disney extended its run. The studio also decided to reissue some other classics in 3D, including Finding Nemo (September 2012), Monsters, Inc. (January 2013), and The Little Mermaid (September 2012). “Great stories and great characters are timeless, and at Disney, we’re fortunate to have a treasure trove of both,” said Alan Bergman, president of The Walt Disney Studios. “We’re thrilled to give audiences of all ages the chance to experience these beloved tales in an exciting new way with 3D.”
Just don’t forget your glasses!