People Don’t Want 3D Movies

PhotonQ-AVATAR
Image by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via Flickr

3D is the future of cinema appar­ently. I’m not clear exactly when that deci­sion was made, but it seems that Holly­wood has made up its mind. In the last couple of years we’ve had more and more movies coming out in 3D, a trend which has culmi­nated with Avatar.

And now there is news that Blu-Ray movies will start coming out in 3D as well so we can expe­ri­ence this in the comfort of our own homes. My ques­tion is why?

I don’t mean to dismiss the tech­ni­cal achieve­ment of Avatar, which is clearly substan­tial, but I can’t help feel­ing that the move to 3D is driven entirely by money, not story­telling or artis­tic merit.

There are several reasons why 3D movies are not a good idea currently:

  1. There are at least 4 compet­ing 3D stan­dards
  2. Most cine­mas are not capa­ble of play­ing 3D movies
  3. Shoot­ing a movie in 3D requires special tech­niques or it is more distract­ing than anything else
  4. Not every­one is capa­ble of view­ing movies in 3D

So with all those prob­lems, why is Holly­wood (and the rest of the enter­tain­ment indus­try) push­ing so hard for 3D? Well it comes down to money of course. A large part of the enter­tain­ment dollar has been siphoned away from cine­mas by DVDs, TV and the inter­net. 3D was some­thing that these outlets couldn’t offer. It gave people a reason to spend $15 or so on the movie ticket and asso­ci­ated snacks. It fed into the idea of movie going as an expe­ri­ence.

Money is also the reason you can now by 3D enabled tele­vi­sion sets. People have spent thou­sands of dollars on big screen TVs and the elec­tron­ics compa­nies need a big feature in order to persuade them to upgrade again. 3D is the feature they’ve picked.

We are repeat­edly told that this is what the view­ers want. But do they? In 2008 only 1,400 of the 30,000 screens in the US could actu­ally show 3D movies. In June 2009 there were esti­mated to be only 5,000 3D screens world­wide.

Avatar is held up as the pinna­cle of 3D movie making and it’s been a huge finan­cial success despite the consid­er­able cost. But is that because of the 3D? Well look at the numbers. In the US Avatar has raked in $352,111,000.00 with an aver­age of 3,461 theaters. But most of those theaters will have shown it on multi­ple screens. Wikipedia reports that it played on some 2,200 3D screens for its midnight show­ing, and made only $3,537,000.00. The major­ity of Avatar’s box office came from people view­ing this “3D” movie on non-3D screens. 

It seems to me that the 3D trend is being driven entirely by compa­nies, not by consumer demand. People don’t hate 3D, but they don’t really want it either. Am I wrong?

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?

Comments

    • I have a feel­ing you may be a little biased on this one. 😉

      More seri­ously I don’t think that the success of Avatar had much to do with it being in 3D. Most people watch­ing Avatar have seen it in 2D and when people buy it on DVD and Blu-Ray the over­whelm­ing major­ity will proceed to watch it in 2D.

      3D as currently imple­mented is a hack at best.

      • Yes I am biased to be sure. However, there is some points to be made here.
        Sure, many people will be seeing AVATAR in 2D and there is noth­ing wrong
        with that. But from what I hear, 75% of the revenue is coming from 3D, led
        by IMAX. Actu­ally I want people to see AVATAR in 2D first and then hear that
        it is so much better in 3D that they go a second time. This is happen­ing in
        droves. Repeat busi­ness is through the roof and I can guar­an­tee you it is 3D
        that folks will be seeing their second and subse­quent shows in, not 2D. Why?
        Because the 3D version is much better. It is that simple. I have seen both
        and the differ­ence is amaz­ing.

        Your timing regard­ing 3D home enter­tain­ment couldn’t be better. With CES
        2010 open­ing up in Vegas — you will hear about the explod­ing 3D home
        enter­tain­ment market and how big compa­nies (Sony for exam­ple) are betting
        the bank on S3D. Sure they can watch AVATAR in 2D at home. But they can and
        will have the option, this year, of watch­ing it in 3D. It is now just a
        ques­tion of family budgets vs. the cost. That’s all.

        So 3D as a hack? Hardly. Blu-ray has their 3D spec­i­fi­ca­tion. HDMI has
        theirs. It is happen­ing THIS year. No hack. Heck there isn’t even going to
        be a format war. They have all agreed to agree. Take that one to the bank.

        Cine­matic 3D choices? Good for the indus­try. RealD is big in Amer­ica, Xpand
        does well in Europe. No bother! The aver­age consumer doesn’t care.

        I am amazed there are still some world is flat types out there 🙂

        • I hate 3D, period. Hate it. The bright­ness is like 14 of the 2D. I have to constantly squint to make out the dark areas. Also, I am 1-eye near­sighted.

          Because I’m 1-eye, I never wear glasses because I always forget since I see perfect every morn­ing I wake up. After 20 years, I don’t wear glasses at all. So to watch 3D, I have to fish out my old glasses, just wear­ing that alone gives me nausea. Since I promised 3 of the mission­ary kids to watch Avatar in 3D, I went ahead since I already enjoyed the 2D immensely prior. I had the worst 2.5hrs of pain, nausea, dark, dark movie expe­ri­ences ever. The only thing I remem­ber is when he came out of the water, for a brief couple of seconds, I said Wow, that’s cool in 3D. 

          I would never watch 3D ever again. I’m a big 3D fan because in the late 1990’s, I have a special adapter that can stereo vision out and split left and right eye using i-Glasses tech­nol­ogy. I still got bunch of those videos from the late 90’s of 3D home videos I recorded. So I am just as big of a techno geek fan as anyone out there. 

          So I hope I give in just how horri­ble these expe­ri­ences are. Watch­ing my home brewed 3D videos on CRT moni­tor was so much comfort­able to watch because I can sit up close to the TV with­out having to wear normal glasses, just the 3D glasses. In the theatre because of the distance, I don’t have a choice not to wear the normal glasses. If I get contact lens, I might consider it but it’s big incon­ve­nience and the cost involved to get the contacts just for these movies and paying premium while you’re at it at the box office.

          My 0.02.

          • Ok — didn’t know you had a personal issue with 3D. I know some do but not
            many.

            I believe there will always be a 2D coun­ter­part to 3D releases.

            On bright­ness, no, it is more like 35 as bright. Light is lost as it is
            split between the eyes, but then the brain merges the images together and
            some bright­ness is re-attained. Projec­tion compa­nies are work­ing on that
            issue right now and hope to have the situ­a­tion solved soon.

            Would prescrip­tion 3D glasses help in your case? I am not exactly sure about
            what condi­tion you are describ­ing.

        • World is flat???! No, we’re just not suck­ers!

          How’s that 3D tv market a year later? 

          • Excel­lent 3DTV market thanks. 2011 is set to explode.

            I see, you’re not suck­ers. Congrat­u­la­tions on that. You prob­a­bly have head­phones with only one side work­ing right? Good, good for you.

  • I completely agree with you. Today was my second attempt to see Avatar to no avail. Tried the 3D after every­one said how good it was but I didn’t want to see it in 3D because of the past expe­ri­ence I had watch­ing cora­line in 3D. I saw Cora­line in 2D orig­i­nally and it felt like it was 3D because of the digi­tal graph­ics. I person­ally didn’t think the 3D version had anything to offer except a headache. The two other people who saw it with me agreed. Now I tried to see avatar and theaters ACTUALLY don’t have it in 2D! Seri­ously? I am not able to see the movie of the century in the theater because they don’t want to show it in 2D???? So…If this trend contin­ues, I am never going to a theater again. I may even just throw my tv out if they start making it for the home too. I think it’s all about money and to me it’s worth­less.

    • My friend and i tried the 3D version against our own judge­ment but we only lasted 5 minutes. We left and got our money back

  • I cant speak for every­one, but I am one of those people that does not want 3D. I have not had a single good expe­ri­ence with it. Not that my expe­ri­ences with it were ‘bad’, but i found that the diffi­culty of main­tain­ing a clear picture and actu­ally seeing what was happen­ing was not worth the mini­mal 3D effect. In fact, after recently watch­ing a movie in 3D, i found that I had not ‘expe­ri­enced’ any of it because I spent the whole time just trying to make sense of the image. I was also extremely disap­pointed that this very cute little movie was only being shown in 2D at a couple of very incon­ve­nient times. All I want is the choice to see it in 2D.

  • I couldn’t agree more on this one. Want­ing to see a film in 3D baffles me. I’ve tried it a few times but, not only is it annoy­ing to have to wear the glasses — over my own glasses as I cannot wear contacts anymore — but the picture qual­ity is degraded as a result of the whole process.

    And is 3D really that impor­tant? When people watch plain old 2D films are they confused when one person moves behind another person in 2D space? I think not.

    Some have compared the move to 3D to the move from Black and White to Color movies but color actu­ally does convey more infor­ma­tion: Mean­ing­ful infor­ma­tion. While 3D does tech­ni­cally provide more infor­ma­tion to the brain, it’s consid­er­ably less signif­i­cant than the color infor­ma­tion as our brains are already capa­ble of recon­struct­ing a faux-3D land­scape in our minds from the clues in the normal 2D picture.

    I was quite liter­ally having this discus­sion at lunch today with a co-worker. He was excited that his new Blu-Ray player would be firmware updat­a­ble to 3D and a little down­beat that his new TV was not suit­able for 3D play­back. He’s utterly convinced that 3D tele­vi­sion will be in everyone’s home is a few years, but he couldn’t explain why anyone would want it.

    I told him, “the day all TV goes 3D (at least in its present incar­na­tion) is the day I’ll finally turn off the TV forever.” Perhaps I’m being a luddite, but this seems entirely a manu­fac­tured fad by the indus­try with­out any real demand from the public.

  • This arti­cle got some points but on my personal point of view I’m not convinced to don’t try 3D TVs. Every­one wants inno­va­tion and new gadgets but that doesn’t mean it is perfect.

  • This arti­cle got some points but on my personal point of view I’m not convinced to don’t try 3D TVs. Every­one wants inno­va­tion and new gadgets but that doesn’t mean it is perfect.

  • Your wrong. I love 3D. it’s awesome (most of the time.) and if I could afford it I would deffi­nately buy a 3D TV good move from the differ­ent indus­tries I think.
    and has come far from those blue and red glasses that hurt your eyes.… well mine anyway =)

  • when i see 3 d , most of the times i expect shitty movie
    avatar was succes­full cos the story was good

  • You are right! 3D is crap and gives me a headache. It also spoils the picture with ghost­ing, strob­ing, unfo­cused objects, dimness, color loss, etc. It strains your eyes trying to focus on the perceived loca­tion of 3D-rendered objects, and the screen which is the only place the images are actu­ally in focus. It is a crappy tech­nol­ogy, bad for your eyes (even to the point of giving some people seizures), and spoils the movie so much that it is no fun to watch it anymore. Too bad that chil­dren are targeted by the media to “want” 3D. They will suffer later from the vision prob­lems.

  • I can’t stand the 3D movies, all they do is irri­tate my eyes from the first minute until the end. They start to water and I am constantly taking off the glasses and miss­ing parts of the film. I have never felt sick from them, but they are extremely unpleasent and my eyes straight up hurt. I think the idea of 3d is great, but I’m just not lucky enough to be able to watch them. I’ve seen people say they went with groups of people that had no prob­lem watch­ing the films, and never have seen anyone complain. At the same time though I’ve went with a group and our discus­sion after the film is how much our eyes were irri­tated after the film rather then discussing the film itself.

  • You said it in a nutshell mate. The qual­ity of these films is sub-stan­dard at best. The whole 3D element detracts from your view­ing plea­sure. Every­day it would seem more and more films suffer from this plauge. Trust me, I use the word “suffer” care­fully as I believe story­line, acting and direc­tion have all gone out of the window. Produc­ers are rest­ing on the laurals of objects flying out of the screen in a fuzzy manor as the primary source of enter­tain­ment.

  • I agree. I can’t stand 3D. It gives me a headache, the glasses are the most uncom­fort­able thing to wear and the brightness/ clar­ity goes to shi*. I can’t even take my 4 year old daugh­ter because the glasses drive her nuts. My family and I used to watch every anima­tion that came out and now we can’t watch any of them because there all 3D. I hope this changes soon. I miss going to the movies.

  • I have delib­er­ately avoided going to these 3-D movies trying to discour­age this trend, espe­cially being it costs more. But, the indus­try seems to be deter­mined to push it anyway. I applauded when the latest Harry Potter movie said they wouldn’t have a 3-D version. But, I think they are going to win this war, just like Sony won the HD war.

  • 3D at home sucks. The picture is not as good and who wants to wear those glasses? I heard that the only reason for 3D is that they can not be copied at all in the real world. Forget the 3D

  • I am so tired of 3D movies that I now stay away from them unless it’s an absolute block buster. It makes my eyes water and the Glasses are a constant bother.
    Another prob­lem is that those once pristine glasses that came out during Avatar are now scratchy, that distracts from the expe­ri­ence big time.
    I am pray­ing for this 3D fad to die soon.

  • At the time Avatar came out my local cinema didn’t support 3D so I got to see the movie with­out it. I do think that film is HIGHLY over­rated but it’s far from a bad movie.
    Now however my local cinema has 3D so I’ve not been to it ever since.
    Witch is a shame as I used to go to the cinema allot.
    I person­ally think that it cheap­ens the expe­ri­ence.
    Produc­ers seem to rely solely on 3D & CGI now, who cares about acting talent & story when you can just wow people with another spec­ta­cle.
    I love the Resi­dent Evil movies & I had been wait­ing for the new one for a while, then I find that it’s in 3D, their as like three scenes in the trailer alone where some­thing get’s thrown at the screen. Need­less to say I was pissed, still am.

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