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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Will 2011 Be A 3D Car Wreck?

Gulliver’s Travels is the beginning of the end of live-action studio 3D, with the exceptions of much more selective titles moving forward…

When you start breaking down 2011 in 3D, it gets a little more interesting. More than 30 titles in 3D are now on the schedule.

Jan/Feb seems like a big danger zone. Sony is more hopeful about The Green Hornet, though so far, the campaign is not clicking outside of the geekiest of us all. The Bieber concert film is a question mark… more Miley or more Jonas? And Summit returns to Cage as Franchise, his second film in 6 weeks. Does anyone need to see a car film in 3D? We’ll see.

The Green Hornet – Sony – 1/14/11
Sanctum – Universal – 2/4/11
Gnomeo and Juliet – Miramax – 2/11/11
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – Paramount – 2/11/11
Drive Angry – Summit – 2/25/11

The March-Summer offers 10 premium 3D titles and one Screen Gems floater. Disney has the next Zemeckis-style animated film, followed a month later by Fox’s attempt to replicate the Ice Age franchise with Rio. Mars Needs Moms has the tougher road.

Summer is when things get interesting. Pixar and DWA has near-locks with the animated Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2. You also have two franchises that will do huge business with or without 3D, Pirates and Potter. How much will 3D add to the gross? It will be interesting to see… and almost impossible to judge clearly. If, for instance, Pirates does $350m domestic… is that seen as $70m of found 3D money and the film would have been the weakest Pirates without it… or is this a reboot that should be happy to have that… or did 3D prices inhibit the film from another 10 million people coming to the movie theater? Alternately, it could be the biggest of the series… but is that 3D or Depp or the overall quality of the film or… what? No one can know for sure. But whatever the number, watch the theories fly.

Then… 3 new superhero franchises; Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America. The first question is whether the summer will be kind to three new second-tier superhero franchises… not to mention the non-3D X-Men, Apes, and Cowboys & Aliens entries, which all lean heavily on that area of genre. Can any of the three 3D entries do any better than the two Hulk films did domestically… which is about $135 million? Will 3D make that number $160m? Is that enough? Is 3D a real issue for these films?

That leaves Smurfs 3D, which is a kids movie, but is also a reboot. Will it be a Chipmunks or a Yogi? And how will 3D play into that?

The truly fascinating choice would be for Warners to make Potter 7B as accessible in 2D as in 3D and to see how the numbers worked. Would people choose to go more and pay less?

Getting into August and the fall months, 3D becomes a big blur again. Summit’s 2nd and 3rd 3D releases arrive with The Darkest Hour and Paul W.S. Anderson’s version of The Three Musketeers. Hmmm…

Dimension goes back to the well with Spy Kids 4, the second in the series in 3D. The first one was upfront on the 3D resurgence and did quite well. WB also has a kids film, the first chance to see Morgan Freeman in 3D with Dolphin Tale, a variation of Free Willy.

But the parade of 3D horror/thrillers is another question mark. Is it like the animation world, a core audience plus the 3D bump or will this group discern? Fright Night, Final Destination 5 (aka FD5: Suckers!), another Pirahna movie, a Shark thriller from Relativity,

The holiday season brings us back to an overload of family product in 3D. Three “straight animated” films from DWA (Shrek spin-off Puss In Boots), WB sequel Happy Feet 2, and Sony Animation’s Arthur Christmas all in three weeks of November.

Then back-to-back-to-back, you have Scorsese’s first 3D film, a family thriller (Hugo Cabaret), the hybrid animation Chipmunks 3, and Spielberg’s first entry into the digital realm with a hybrid of animation techniques (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn). The two films from the auteurs sound like they have a similar tone. Add into the complicated mix that Spielberg’s War Horse, a live-action family drama with awards aspirations, will also open in December.

Looking at it all, I would guess that the craze inside the studios is going to end this year. WB already dumped out of 2 big films (Potter/Sucker Punch) and I suspect we’ll see more of that. I also imagine that we’ll see fewer titles that are not “event films” trying to pad their pockets with the 3D bump.

But the problem remains… 3D is a tool, not an answer. The problem that I expect next December, for instance, will be a parade of high quality films of a similar tone all piled up in on month. Same with the load of animation in November. And whichever films pay the price – and some films will – it won’t be 3D’s fault, but rather, overloading the marketplace. The franchises are franchises and the product that isn’t franchise will need to be sold smartly and heavily… just as in a world without any 3D at all.

24 Responses to “Will 2011 Be A 3D Car Wreck?”

  1. “The truly fascinating choice would be for Warners to make Potter 7B as accessible in 2D as in 3D and to see how the numbers worked. Would people choose to go more and pay less?”

    That would be, overall, the key to keeping 3D as a permanent tool for mainstream cinema. I know I’ve said this before, but studios can charge whatever they want for 3D/IMAX/Smell-O-Vision/etc as long as moviegoers have a viable 2D 35mm alternative. Deny them that at your peril. Of the many many films coming out in 3D next year, I’m certainly glad I have the option to see them in 3D, but there are only a few I might actually indulge in outside of 3D-only press screenings (Green Hornet, Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Spy Kids 4 – because Spy Kids 3 had fun 3D work before it was cool). As long as I, as a paying moviegoer, can go to one of my local multiplexes as see Captain America, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Green Lantern, etc in 2D, then I don’t care if said films get converted to 3D or not. The problem is that there are going to be so many films in 3D at one time that all but the largest multiplexes will likely end up only playing these films in 3D. THAT, more than anything else (IMO) will cause the flame-out of the technology and possibly a big dip in attendance in general in 2011.

  2. IOv3 says:

    Referring to Cap, Thor, and Hal Jordan as second-tier comic book characters is nonsense. It’s a second wave of characters and those characters are some of the more iconic in the history of comics.

    That aside, SHOOTING FILMS in 3D, should be the key to the survival of 3D in the future. I want to see Drive Angry more than the other early films because they SHOT IT in 3D. That’s the most important thing go forward.

    This also opens a door as to what you think about last year when going forward, the sequels to that film will most likely not be in 3D, because 3D will be damn near over by then.

    It’s all very interesting but the more I experience it. The more I am coming around to 3D being more of a personal experience, be it with cameras and home theatres, than a public one.

  3. chris says:

    The end of the Thor trailer proudly announces the movie will be shown in 3D…and then adds as an afterthought that it will be shown in 2D in select theaters. I pretty much refuse to see any more post-converted 3D films, so if I can’t get to a convenient 2D screen, then I’m waiting for DVD, cause that post conversion shit sucks and it sucks hard. I’m not a 3D hater at all, but I am a hater of studios forcing me to pay extra money to see a 3D movie with awful 3D, and I hope your overall thesis about this being the year that kills the trend comes true, because I hate being strong armed.

    And I agree about shooting films in 3D being the key. Down with post conversion! Up the fusion 3D rigs! Up the real 3D!

  4. Hallick says:

    “WB also has a kids film, the first chance to see Morgan Freeman in 3D with Dolphin Tale, a variation of Free Willy.”

    You mean we’ll get to see the infamous Morgan Freeman face spots in 3D? Somebody’s gotta hook him up in a 3D picture with Edward James Olmos. And, if you make it a third act romance a la “Innocence” you’ve got the chance to see Freeman’s spots lock into place with Olmos’ acne scars in glorious (if dimly lit) three dimensions. It’d be known as “the Logo Network Lego movie”, but what the hell.

  5. IOv3 says:

    Chris, the weird thing about all of the main superhero films next year is their effects are 3D. They are sort of post converted but not really. It’s weird but it’s irksome that they planned it this way instead of just filming the damn things in 3D!

  6. David Poland says:

    The real question is… why the HELL do we need any of them in 3D? What is it really adding?

    Hey… look at that asteroid!!!

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  7. Rob says:

    I’m genuinely curious as to what movies readers of this blog actually pay to see in 3D. Since the craze re-ignited, I’ve seen exactly three: My Bloody Valentine, Avatar, and Piranha.

  8. PastePotPete says:

    Why the hell do they need it? Easy. It’s adding $3-5 to the ticket price. That’s the only reason they’re doing it. It’s become the savior of the studios crumbling business model of giant budget teen-oriented blockbuster releases now that the dvd card has been played out and blu ray hasn’t made up for it.

    The studios have spent years chasing away adult moviegoers back to their living rooms by focusing on generic blockbuster films at the expense of adult-skewing dramas. Adult drama is now limited to cable television and the few dependents like Fox Searchlight that remain.

    James Cameron had a vision that 3D would save the theatrical experience of movies by giving audiences something they can’t get at home. That vision lasted half a year before everyone else latched onto it as a cash grab and killed it. And now it IS available at home, already, though only to first adopters so far. So that lifeline for exhibition is already falling short.

    We’re at a point where most marketing departments have forgotten how to sell any movie that doesn’t already have a built-in fanbase. The studios have abdicated from mid-budget films, and nobody has stepped forward(yet) to fill that gap.

    The studios are chasing their tails in a circle, down a drain.

  9. shillfor alanhorn says:

    The fact of the matter is, even with native 3D cameras, the only movies that really look passable in 3D are the computer-animated ones (and I lump AVATAR in that category, since the majority of the movie was basically computer-animated, though the 3D in the early pre-Pandora “live-action” scenes was indeed impressive). TINTIN is going to basically be a total CGI animated movie, as well, so should look fantastic. The real test, in my mind, will be HUGO CABRET. Everything else on that list that’s not a CGI-animated movie to begin with, with the possible exception of DRIVE ANGRY and maybe FD5 (where the 3-D gimmickry will be part of the fun), will probably be a more satisfying viewing experience in 2-D.

  10. Proman says:

    Tintin a marginal film? Who the fuck are you kidding, Pollahnd? If they can get How to Train Your Dragon, a 3D masterpiece from Spielberg will do what Spielberg always did – put butts in the seats and rule the fucking world.

  11. Proman says:

    “135 million? Will 3D make that number $160m? Is that enough? Is 3D a real issue for these films?”

    Yes, witness the 18.6% 3D bump at work.

  12. Proman says:

    And don’t ever compare Scorsese to Spielberg.

  13. Martin s says:

    Popand’s idea is right when you see how Marvel screwed up on the Cap/Thor 3D. They balked in development and ran out the CYA excuse train only to eat it months later thanks to IM2′s flat opening.

    Lantern has the best shot because it’s effects are perfectly suited for an animated 3D look since they’re not supposed to be photo-realistic. Much like how Carrey’s The Mask benefitted from the rubbery cgi look of the early 90′s.

  14. leahnz says:

    “The fact of the matter is, even with native 3D cameras, the only movies that really look passable in 3D are the computer-animated ones (and I lump AVATAR in that category, since the majority of the movie was basically computer-animated, though the 3D in the early pre-Pandora “live-action” scenes was indeed impressive).”

    bollocks. very few live action feature films released thus far have been designed for and filmed with the fully-developed pace fusion rig using a variety of cameras depending on the requirements of the production, and the 3D in those few films is often stunning – from subtle and detailed, designed to enhance the feeling of being in a real alien world in ‘avatar’, to hard-out and extreme such as the action photography in ‘res evil 4 – adding a layer of dimension, interest, impact and even artistry.

    avatar’s 40% live action fusion photography (the live action is most certainly not “pre-pandora”) is interspersed throughout the entire running time of the movie, much of it seamless compositing; and whatever one thinks of the kid’s flick ‘journey to the centre of the earth’, the 3D photography in that film is really the ONLY aspect that elevates the movie from sheer tedium to somewhat visually interesting and engaging. ‘resident evil 4″ is GREATLY enhance by its really quite inventive 3D action photography as an intrinsic element of the film’s design and execution, and as for ‘tron:l’, i’ve heard mostly positive reaction to the 3D photography/compositing but i still haven’t managed to see the thing for myself so i’ll withhold comment until then.

    but to say, “The fact of the matter is, even with native 3D cameras, the only movies that really look passable in 3D are the computer-animated ones” as if this is somehow an accepted or consensus opinion is absurd. there has been some really interesting photography achieved with the fusion rig thus far — and as the rigs are further refined and likely proliferate, by necessity changing the way films are designed and shot, there’ll likely be more fantastic, innovative fusion photography to come in the future. where this will lead, nobody knows.

    (and i’d think anyone who has a good whinge about shaky-cam as the scourge of modern film-making would welcome the inherntly stabilising effect of the fusion system)

  15. djk813 says:

    I’ll say it again – the best 3D I have seen in any film was in Step Up 3D. I think shooting in 3D is definitely a huge plus, but just as important is the cinematography. It’s not just about objects zooming out towards the audience either. There’s a different shot composition and editing style required for a 3D film to really work. I saw Step Up 3D (a fairly lame movie if you’re talking plot/acting/script) twice in the theater because it was the first time I was ever drawn into the 3D experience. (Even moreso than in Avatar or any of the computer animation 3D). I want to watch it in 2D now that it’s out on DVD because I have a feeling that a lot of the shot compositions will actually look kind of odd in 2D because the cinematography was optimized for 3D. In particular, I think the film uses a lot more foreground activity than you would normally see.

  16. leahnz says:

    forgot about step-up 3D filmed with the rig, i didn’t see that one but i heard the 3D is effective (and like i mentioned above filming with the fusion rig DOES change the way a production is designed and shot, no question)

  17. David Poland says:

    Proman/Maxim… now you’re making up stuff.

    “Tintin a marginal film?” Never said that.

    “witness the 18.6% 3D bump at work.” Did you need me to do a precise analysis of potential box office, including the IMAX pricing and 2D screens?

    “don’t ever compare Scorsese to Spielberg” Why? Because you are six? They came up in the same period. Both are masters. What’s your issue… cause frankly, there are those who lean to either side on this issue.

    And Leah… I still think Avatar 2D was every bit as good as the 3D version… better in some respects. Your issues with the script can’t really be diminished by a third visual dimension, can they?

  18. leahnz says:

    well no…(my issues or issues in general? not sure what you mean there, but the design of a film and how it’s shot/edited and the screenplay are not one in the same)

    but if you think about it, i really like avatar in 2D as well, but why? is it because the photography is so smooth and languid and non-choppy? the action coherent with close attention paid to the depiction of space and movement and proximity with coherent editing; the proper selection and timing of long, medium and close shots edited for clarity and cohesion? these aspects can be largely attributed to cameron’s 3D design and the necessity of effective 3D photography, which attempts to more closely mimic ‘the viewer is THERE watching’ realism rather than having to create visual interest by changing shots/editing/etc of traditional film-making. effective fusion photography requires longer, smoother shots and less editing/copping and changing, all of which even when viewed in 2D can be very beneficial to clarity of form. that’s my theory.

  19. IOv3 says:

    David: I have no idea why any of those films need 3D effects but Martin is right on with the reasoning behind it. They want that bump even if that bump has been somewhat marginalized and this leaves me asking again… what do we do about a film being number one all-time that capitalized on a technology that will most likely be phased out within 3 to 5 years of that film’s release?

    That aside; I try to see as many 3D films as possible except the shit horror ones. The best use of 3D in a film ever is How to Train Your Dragon. It’s phenomenal 3D. TL and Avatar are right up there though for live action because they were intended to be in 3D.

    Again, if I had the sheckles, I would have a 3D TV in a minute. Yeah, wearing the glasses at home is goofy, but it’s cool. It also does not give me a headache anymore, which is a big plus.

    Nevertheless, Shil makes a great point, and Tin-Tin will be lucky to make 80 million in the states. Internationally that bastard is going to kill it but here, few know that character, and probably fewer give a shit about seeing him in a movie.

    ETA: I disagree with Leah. Avatar on cable is just weird looking. Seriously, it should be renamed the FORCED PERSPECTIVE MIX because every shot clearly has one character standing slightly in front of another to create 3D depth. It’s really noticeable during all of the Na’Vi scenes, where there’s more Larry the Na’Vis in the background than one can count.

  20. David Poland says:

    Well Leah, I think the secret of Avatar is not the 3D tech or the prep for 3d at all… it’s the new way of handling the virtual camera that was built on this film. Spielberg used it on Tintin too.

    When Jim talks about how he can now create these amazing camera movements by, essentially, playing with the camera like a child would play with their toys and then allowing the computer to make that into a complete image… that’s the breakthrough. I don’t think, with all the 3D chatter, that people got this at all.

    And that’s why, in my opinion, the images are so surprising and yet feel very natural. More than ever, we are inside a live action director’s imagination, not encumbered by having to figure out how to make it tangible and shootable.

  21. leahnz says:

    “I think the secret of Avatar is not the 3D tech or the prep for 3d at all”

    well, to say the 3D tech and prep is not the secret of avatar i think betrays a certain amount of ignorance about what exactly goes into designing shots, staging, shooting and editing within the 3D sensibility, which is not the same as shooting 2D. no offence, honestly, but i think you sorta don’t know what you’re talking about.

    i agree that the virtual camera is very important to avatar’s visual beauty and interest, except the fact is that 40% of the film (not far off half) is NOT created with the virtual camera, filmed live action with the pace fusion rig with an enormous number of compositing shots, integrating live action with the virtual. cameron has also talked about this a good deal, how this ‘hybridisation’ is the lynch-pin of the film.

    giving all the credit to the virtual camera for avatar’s visual style is a tad misguided, because only slightly more than half the photography is achieved virtually. the live-action photography had to be meticulously planned (DESIGNED), staged and shot with the fusion rig specifically for the 3D sensibility and for the purpose of seamless integration with the virtual camera/world, which sustains this sensibility, peas in a pod. where one begins and the other ends is almost impossible to tell (cameron has noted this ad nauseum).

    the movie is clearly designed for the 3D sensibility with a view to capturing the sensation of ‘YOU ARE ACTUALLY RIGHT THERE VIEWING THIS’ for the viewer: longer smoother shots, less chopping and changing from character/shot-to-shot, less frenetic camera movement and editing (because this belies the reality of how humans see in the world), etc. this is true for both the live action fusion photography and the virtual camera.

    this is all carefully designed and staged with exacting detail, not achieved willy nilly with just the virtual camera on some safari in the imagination. the virtual camera is one important ingredient/tool in the complex avatar soup but thinking that how the film is designed or how the crucial live action is planned and shot is not critical to the final product is folly.

    yes, it also had to work in 2D, and the 3D sensibility works beautifully for avatar because it hearkens back to an era when action shots were often long and smooth and expertly staged (you could actually see what’s going on), and camera work and editing was less frenetic, one of avatar’s visual strengths in the frenetic glut of modern action flicks.

  22. James says:

    “Looking at it all, I would guess that the craze inside the studios is going to end this year. WB already dumped out of 2 big films (Potter/Sucker Punch) and I suspect we’ll see more of that.”

    These were only canceled because they were unhappy with the conversion quality. The fewer bad conversions, the better.

  23. Cody says:

    It’s nice to find a good article. I enjoy lots of the blog posts on your web site.

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