My Bloody Valentine 3D, released in early January of this year, was just the first of a parade of 3D films to be released in 2009. The remake of the 1981 cult classic with a budget of $15 million went on to gross over $67 million at the box office. Although the film received mixed reports from critics, most agreed that the 3D worked better in this horror film than any other of its genre. The next on 2009’s hit list was the animated stop-motion 3-D horror fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman‘s 2002 novella, Coraline. It too went on to make big numbers at the box office with just over 72 million domestic, not including the 8 million foreign. In recent years, 3D films have found much success, including the likes of Beowulf and Journey to the Center of the Earth. So it was no surprise when Jeffrey Katzenberg announced in 2007 that all of DreamWorks’ future animated pictures would be released in 3D.
Included on this list is Monsters vs. Aliens, the first computer animated movie to be produced in real 3-D instead of converting the film later on. Starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Stephen Colbert and even Kiefer Sutherland, the film is projected to be among the top grossing films of the year and given the company’s track record, they may be right – but Katzenberg faces a problem here. With another ten major 3D productions headed our way, their simply isn’t enough screens to go around. As is, Monsters vs. Aliens is only expected to run in 2,000 screens as apposed to the initial 4,000 DreamWorks hoped for. It actually costs theatres $25,000 to convert a single digital screen to 3D and in this economy, they aren’t in any rush to make the change. In fact even the critically acclaimed Coraline was quickly replaced for a Jonas Brothers concert (to disappointing results, in terms of revenue). So with dozens of 3D projects still on their way including a Robert Zemeckis adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Jerry Bruckheimer`s G Force and James Cameron’s Avatar, the question remains: What would the average “3D screen” lifespan be for these films?
More to the point: does 3D really bring more people to the box office? After all, every Pixar film to date has landed on the list of top grossing films and yet not one was in 3D. Did My Bloody Valentine top the box office because of its gimmick or rather because of the reputation proceeding the original and its release date? Let’s be honest, at the time there was hardly any competition playing on the big screen. Some may even remember Meet The Spartans. The film was released a year prior to My Bloody Valentine and although possibly one of the worst movies ever made, it still managed to top the box office two weeks in a row without a 3D gimmick.
Finally, there is a greater issue of 3-D’s effectiveness as an immersive tool. Roger Ebert has some thoughts on that issue: “There seems to be a belief that 3-D films are not getting their money’s worth unless they hurtle objects or body parts at the audience. Every time that happens, it creates a fatal break in the illusion of the film. The idea of a movie, even an animated one, is to convince us, halfway at least, that that we’re seeing on the screen is sort of really happening. Images leaping off the screen destroy that illusion.” That’s not to say that 3D isn’t an amusement park gimmick meant to entertain and, well, amuse the audience, but it should stay out of the movie theater. Ebert ends his article by posing a simple question: “Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D?” My answer is no. Have you?
2009 3-D Movie Calendar
January 16th – My Bloody Valentine 3-D
February 6th – Coraline
February 27th – Jonas Brothers 3-D
March 27th – Monsters vs. Aliens
May 1st – Battle for Terra
May 29th – Up
July 1st – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
July 24th – G Force
August 28th – Final Destination: Death Trip 3-D
September 18th Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
October 2nd – Toy Story in 3-D
November 6th – Disney’s A Christmas Carol
December 18th – Avatar