Will Your Favorite Movie Be Better In 3D?

3d-conversionIf you hadn’t yet noticed, 3D is coming back to movies in a big way. Every week or two a new release makes it’s way into a few 3D theaters. By most accounts, or at least box office receipts, people seem to enjoy the 3D thing so Hollywood is going to push it until it’s all pushed out. Because you know, it’s easier to get people to spend more money on movies by making them look spiffier than actually trying to make better movies.

The problem Hollywood has is that not every movie is financially appropriate for 3D. Using Monster vs. Aliens (the biggest digital 3D release to date) as a case study, if you’ve got a big tent pole movie that’s going to be released into over 4,000 theaters, then investing an extra $15 million on the movie is kind of a no-brainer, especially if that can increase the gross by about 20%. But if the movie only cost $20 million to make and will only hit 1,000 theaters, then the cost/benefit ratio doesn’t really look so hot. Sure a few more people would have gone to see Miss March in 3D, both those three people wouldn’t have made that a worthwhile investment. It needs to be a high-profile movie that people want to see, not something someone needs to be convinced to see.

So what can Hollywood do to keep you spending your money on those 3D ticket premiums while trying as little as possible? They’ll do what they always do when they want to make a quick buck: give you the same thing you’ve seen before. The twist is that instead of going to the trouble of remaking movies in 3D, they’re just going to convert the original to 3D. They’ve already been working on Titanic, Transformers, and The Matrix, and Disney has plans for Sleeping Beauty and both Toy Story movies.

Aside from just being a gimmick, it’s a nice little business idea. Take a movie everyone is familiar with and try to give them a reason to see it again. They can 3D retread these mega-budget movies for a fraction of the cost with the possibility of huge profits. When the Special Edition of Star Wars was released in 1997, it made over $250 million- that’s about $400 million at today’s ticket prices. I don’t know what the cost was to add those super swell special effects, but even if it was $100 million, they still made a killing. Some people may have grown a bit tired of Star Wars after all those prequels, but don’t you think if they could 3D it and market it for like $50 million total, George Lucas would make another ton of money and be able to milk the whole franchise for another few hundred million dollars.

Maybe it’s just that everything I’ve ever seen in 3D was just a gimmicky there’s-something-flying-at-your-face-neat-huh kind of thing, but this 3D-ification sounds like something along the lines of colorization, when Ted Turner made people use crayons to color black-and-white movies. It was supposed to bring these old-timey movies up to date so people who associate a lack of color with an abundance of crap would find these movies approachable (i.e. make more money by releasing the same thing again).

Isn’t converting a movie to 3D just today’s equivalent of colorization? Can it do anything to make a movie better or more enjoyable? Proponents will say yes and opponents will say no, but there’s no argument that the however the 3D version turns out was not what was intended when the filmmakers completed the movie. It’s someone else’s version of how the movie should look. Like it or not, Hollywood is going to reach into the vault and see if they can get you to come back for the same thing one more time. At least until the next time.

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