I have read recent reports in several news arenas that 3D is the next item on the Hollywood agenda for getting us back into theaters instead of our just sitting on the couch at home watching DVDs. If you are not aware, there have already been several of them released at theaters, including Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006), Meet the Robinsons (2007), and Beowulf (2007). In 2008, we have Fly Me to the Moon, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, U2 3D, and Journey to the Center of the Earth (in production). Actually, 3D movies date all the way back to 1915 (Jim the Penman). The ones I listed above are just some of the most recent. All of the studios apparently have 3D movies (live action) planned for 2009.
So, why all of a sudden, is Hollywood saying that 3D movies are the future and audiences will pay a premium to see them? Let’s go back to the early 1950′s for a moment. TV was exploding, and all of a sudden, everyone stayed home to watch TV instead of going to the theaters. So, Hollywood came up with CinemaScope, which was the “widescreen experience”. It worked, along with having the movies in color (color TV was yet to be). We all went back to the theaters to watch anything in CinemaScope.
The next horizon was surround sound. Star Wars in the late 1970′s was as much a sound experience as it was visual. So, there were two big things that got us to go to the movies: multi-channel sound and computer generated imaging. Hollywood was rolling.
In the 1990′s, DVD players changed everything. Now, we could watch great video quality at home, and we got the surround sound too. It was almost as good as being at the theater, and when HDTV came along at the beginning of the 21st century, the “almost” disappeared from that sentence. The Home Theater of 2008 can be actually much better than a commercial theater. For one thing, the picture can be brighter and sharper, because if you have a large flat panel display, the image is not going through a lens. At a theater, they use an anamorphic projection lens, and this will often have distortion at the edges. They also use lots of speakers to give the entire audience a surround sound effect. Where is the sweet spot? I sure don’t know.
In all cases, audiences went to the theaters because of the touted new technology as much as for the story itself. Sound, Color, CinemaScope, Surround Sound, and Computer Generated Imaging. When you finally bought that HDTV, didn’t you watch anything and everything you could find that was in high def? You bet. I sure did.
But now, the novelty of the technology is wearing off. We are back to evaluating the movie or TV program for its content rather than the new technology it might have, because all of the technology used for movies and TV programming is yesterday’s news.
Except for 3D. And the only reason that 3D is not yesterday’s news even though it has been around for a long time, is that we were not ready for that technology, and Hollywood just ran little experiments with it. No big budget movies with Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, etc.
But, I think that is about to change. The timing is right. We have the technology to take the experience far beyond the red and blue glasses of earlier 3D motion pictures. The 3D cameras are now controlled by computers and servo motors, CGI will add incredible 3D special effects, and we will likely be wearing polarized glasses.
I can’t wait to see these movies. I will forsake my home theater and go back to the cineplex. I will pay $10 for the ticket, $5 for a box of popcorn, $3 for a large drink, sit there and be amazed. I figure a good two years before I will start caring about the story again, so Hollywood can go ahead and make whatever silly movies they want, as long as I get to see them in 3D.