Tuesday, June 21, 2011

3D or not 3D? That is the question…

The last couple of movies to hit theaters in a 3D and 2d version (Kung Fu Panda 2 and the Green Lantern) saw their 2D ticket sales outpace their 3D ticket sales by a rather large margin. Roger Ebert has written an opt ed that 3D sucks and is dead. I hope he’s wrong for a number for a number of reasons.

In my experience people either love 3D or hate it, but those who hate it generally hate the surcharge associated with it, only a small number of people I talk to in my social circle actually hate the 3D effect itself. Most would agree the technology has improved a lot over the years, and those who like it are forced to agree the technology still has a way to go yet.

3D, in its present form on the big screen suffers a loss of luminosity once the Real 3D glasses come on. To me the loss in luminosity is mild, but it is there. It’s certainly a lot better than having a blue-red haze over the picture. The 3D effects actually work now, where as when I was a kid I was often disappointed that the blue-red worked sometimes, but not all the time. Could today’s 3D be better? Sure, someday maybe, that is if the critics end up being wrong and this ends up being more than just a fad. It would have to be, it’s hard to imagine James Cameron not doing his Avatar sequel in Stereoscopic 3D.

3D, in my mind, can add a lot to the film, doing more to make a film immersive and pull you into the world of the film. I will admit that I get distracted and annoyed when things go out of their way to pop out at me, like the ball and paddle of Monsters Vs Aliens… that sort of cinema is obnoxious, but those films where the 3D feels natural, like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or even the politically mentally handicapped Avatar, really bring something special to the experience of film watching making the movies feel more real in a way that 2D films can’t. These films break down the glass (or cloth) barrier that is the screen and suck you right into an amazing fantasy in a way you cannot experience without stereo 3D.

But then why are people starting to dismiss it as a fad? We’re in the middle of the worst economic conditions since the great depression, we have leaders in Washington unwilling to do what is necessary to solve the problem (slash spending in half, including entitlements, and lower the tax burden on everyone) and so the situation doesn’t look like it’s improving. The situation is further exacerbated by the government imposed increased requirements for lines of credit, and a nation which is all the way around buried in debt. The masses are having to cut out the extras, and that often means people are looking for different ways to experience movies.

Redbox and Netflix are cheap alternatives to the old theater/rental/buying model. The end result is reduced sales all the way around, both by way of tickets, and DVD/Blu Ray/3D Blu Ray discs. How does Hollywood respond? Like anything else controlled by progressives. They make ticket sales and such more expensive. The $8.00-$18.00 movie ticket (depending on where you go) is something audiences have been complaining about for a good long time. Now in order to experience the optimal version of any given film we have a $2-5 surcharge on top of it all. What’s worse is that the 3D Blu Ray movies are often priced well in excess of $30, sometimes reaching $40 or more making this version of the film unattractive. So far I only have three of them, and all of them were bought while they were on sale under $25 a piece.

Since Progressives can’t seem to solve the problems that kill their businesses allow me to opine on how we can save 3D and the theater and optical disc. It’s called doing the unthinkable, and doing what every other business does when faced with reduced sales, lower prices.

Since the progressive answer to everything is increase prices it’s not surprising Hollywood hasn’t figured this out. Think about it; Obama’s answer to our energy problems? Force energy prices to, in his words, “necessarily skyrocket.” Got a problem with the food supply? Burn food, kill cattle and pay farmers not to produce more forcing prices up, oh and your taxes? Up. We Conservatives and Libertarians know how the market works a little better. Got a problem with energy? Produce more, prices fall sales go up. Problem with the food supply? Increase production, prices fall, sales go up, the same solution can be applied to the movie industry. You see when prices are lower people who wouldn’t buy the goods or services in question do. Many of us buy movies and games we would not ordinarily buy once they hit bargain bin prices, and there is nothing I love more (except my wife) than the $10 Blu Ray.

But why pay $8.00 a head for theatre tickets for a family of four when if you wait the movie will likely end up in a $10 bargain bin? Why pay $32 for the experience your HD TV at home can replicate quite well (and lets face it most of us have one now) at home? Then add a $5.00 per head surcharge on top of it and you are discouraging movie attendees.

Stop the surcharge. Now. The cost of the specialized projectors should be covered by now, or close to it, instead sell 3D glasses for $4 or $5. Encourage people to KEEP them rather than recycle them, even go so far as to sell cleaning kits. That way there is no revenue lost from the glasses, and the extra money from the sales of the 3D glasses to those who don’t have them can help offset the cost of the projectors, a cost theaters will have to eat if 3D movies are forced by high prices into a fad status.

Stop putting out 3D and 2D versions, decide what the film is going to be and go with it. In addition to resolving consumer confusion with the reduced ticket prices, the lack of surcharge and with everyone bringing their own 3D glasses people won’t complain. Believe me, the cost is the central reason 3D is dying and it’s an easy fix.

It’s also time to stop bundling different formats together on the home market. This drives up the cost of buying a product to a point where people are hesitant to pay. Everybody has a Blu Ray Player. There is no need to bundle the DVD with it. I would still bundle the Blu Ray with the 3D Blu Ray because 3D in the home market is still growing slowly as prices fall but haven’t reached a mainstream point of market penetration, but ditch the DVD please. When DVD killed VHS VHS held on longer than it should have too, but it’s clear now that DVD is alive well past it’s death date. It may be time for Hollywood to let go of the format altogether. With most homes having some sort of flat screen HD TV now there just isn’t ample justification in keeping the format alive. Here’s the reason, as long as a cheaper format exists you are eating at the sales of the premium product, and that has the effect of delaying it’s mainstream acceptance, which keeps the product’s prices higher because the reduced demand means fewer bulk sales where as if DVD were to die the Blu Ray production would skyrocket and the prices would fall, then you could find $5 Blu Ray bargain bins, and we could look at Blu Ray 3D as the premium product. The lowered prices would also fend off the assault from Netflix and RedBox as ownership is always preferable to rental solutions and the data streaming technology behind Netflix certainly fails to provide the optimum movie viewing experience. Movies are often interrupted by streaming, and the picture resolution often fluctuates to adjust to your bandwidth needs. You don’t have that problem with optical discs, but $30-$40 asking prices necessarily force consumers toward cheaper options, sometimes even piracy, which we at Jefferson-Adams News Network adamantly oppose.

The fact of the matter is that the movie industry is dying on the whole, it’s just that 3D films may be the first casualty of this ever changing and evolving market and Hollywood’s failure to recognize the need to adapt to the needs of that market. I hope not. Captain America is coming out soon and it will be in 3D, I intend to see it that way and can’t wait to see his shield pop off the screen headed right for me. Granted a few complain of headaches from 3D, but I have done 3D enough that I no longer have that problem. Most people I know have adapted to 3D but are no longer willing to pay the surcharge to experience it, and pretty much everyone I know now only reserves the theatrical experience for those truly special films that are a rare and fun treat like X-Men Last Stand or Thor or Harry Potter. Most films have to wait until they are available on the home market to find their audience now whether they are 3D or not, if only because the prices of everything related to film have become cost prohibitive to the average consumer. Hollywood’s refusal to lower prices and restructure their business models only further demonstrates how out of touch they really are with mainstream America.

Then there’s the fad that needs to die and die quickly, reboots… but that’s another story.

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