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Invasion of the 3D Movies


by Stephen Becker 10 Dec 2008

Jeffrey Katzenberg swooped into Dallas on Wednesday morning to show about 30 minutes of Monsters vs. Aliens, the 3D animated film that he believes represents no less than The Future of Cinema. The film, which comes out in March, is one of the first to be fully conceived and shot in 3D. Up to now, […]

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Jeffrey Katzenberg swooped into Dallas on Wednesday morning to show about 30 minutes of Monsters vs. Aliens, the 3D animated film that he believes represents no less than The Future of Cinema.

The film, which comes out in March, is one of the first to be fully conceived and shot in 3D. Up to now, films were just made in 2D with some depth added in post production. (If you want to read more about the latest 3D revival, a really smart guy wrote about it this summer).

Katzenberg (he’s the K in Dreamworks SKG Animation) told the crowd at the Cinemark 17 that he believes that the 3D revolution started last year with U2 3D, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D and the animated Fly Me to the Moon represents the third major milestone in the history of filmmaking. The other two were the addition of sound and color. As with the first two milestones, Katzenberg bets that once audiences regularly experience well-done 3D, they won’t want to go back.

In fact, he says that in as soon as five years he could fathom seeing movies like Juno and The Queen (his examples) in 3D. I don’t know about that. But I agree with him that we could see a point when the only movies people go out to see are 3D movies because everything else will be available to watch at home first run.

Which is really the driving force behind all of this 3D action. As home theaters become more and more sophisticated, exhibitors need to find new ways to give viewers an experience they can’t replicate from the couch.

“What 3D represents is an opportunity in a very, very big way to re-energize the cinemagoing experience in a way that the home cannot compete and won’t be able to compete with for many years to come,” he said.

There are some other significant benefits to 3D. For starters, Katzenberg says that 90 percent of movie piracy comes from people videotaping movies in the theater. It costs the industry $6 billion annually and would be impossible with a 3D film. In addition, theaters can charge about $5 more a head for 3D films, a fair surcharge considering they cost more to make and will normally also be available to view in 2D at the standard price. Katzenberg says the third dimension added an extra $15 million to Monsters‘ budget, upping the cost from $150 million to $165 mil.

That’s all well and good for Hollywood. But what’s in it for those of us who still go out to see movies in theaters? The buzz word has been “Immersion,” as in, 3D immerses the audience in the movie.

“The job that is being done is to pull us, the audience, into the film,” Katzenberg says.

To that end, what we saw of Monsters vs. Aliens succeeds. Oddly, it is in its restraint that the movie pulls off the trick. In traditional 3D movies, the audience mostly sits and waits for something to fly out of the screen at them. In the new era of 3D, the third dimension serves to place the audience into the action.

It’s kinda hard to describe until you experience it firsthand. And if Jeffrey Katzenberg has his way, you’ll be doing that a lot in 2009.

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