April 24, 2006

"I don't want that grand, visionary, transporting movie experience made for the big screen to become a thing of the past."

That's a general idea -- expressed by James Cameron -- that I can embrace whole-heartedly. But the specific idea is frightful: 3-D.

I've enjoyed some 3-D films in my time -- including "Flesh for Frankenstein" in its original theater release. (I well remember what it was like to have a human liver dangled on a spear out over the audience.) It's a fun novelty. But how could it possibly be what could save film? It's just one more thing that would make film like a theme park ride. So destructive!

31 comments:

Rick Lee said...

Geez, I'm such a geezer. You get to a certain age and all of a sudden it seems like you've seen it all before. It's an idea we've seen come and go how many times? Every few years somebody tells us that technology has evolved so that all the bad stuff about 3D is going to be solved... no more eye-strain, etc. But it always comes off as a gimmick. I think it always will.

Marghlar said...

I kind of wonder about this...if three-D really became the rule, would we look at old movies and think they looked ridiculous now? I have trouble seeing what would be added by 3D, so to me it just seems like extra effort for little real benefit. But then again, mabye the new technology would totally change my mind.

I still don't get why this is going to be all about movie theatres -- don't you need pretty expensive goggles to watch digital 3D? As such, wouldn't people rather own their own -- at which point they could just watch a digital 3D DVD at home?

Harkonnendog said...

I think great writing is all that can save movies. If you look at where the money goes, writing seems to come last.
Contrast this to TV where writers are much mor respected and have more power.
TV is in sort of a golden age of writing while movies get worse and worse, resorting to making movies about crappy television shows or being carried by actors like Vince Vaughn who basically do their own writing by ad libbing.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

How about silent films? That would simultaneously solve your sound problem, too!

XWL said...

Seems some heavy hitters are serious about 3D for home, plus Lucasfilm is working on converting all six Star Wars films into 3D versions to be rolled out starting next year (it's mentioned in the article you linked).

If done right it could add to the visual vocabulary available to cinematographers, if done wrong, it will just be an excuse to amp up the 'thrill ride' quotient of films (which is the likely impetus behind the remaking of the Star Wars films).

But what I'm really curious about is this whole new stab at 'smell-o-vision' a few exhibitors in Japan have tried along with Terence Malick's New World. (I also wonder how Malick felt about the idea given that neither his consent nor input was sought).

(and I liked 'Blood for Dracula' better, have scene both on the big screen, though not the original release, given that I was still in kindergarten when that film was initially released. Udo Kier should be in every film made)

(Looking at Mr. Kier's credits I find it interesting that he worked as an AD on two pictures, a film about him making those films would be great)

Ann Althouse said...

I saw the Dracula one too. (Just want that on the record.)

Joe said...

Start with great writing. Add direction, pacing and editing. And I would love to see real movie stars, not the fuzz faced boys and bloodless, skinny girls we have now. It would also be nice not to have to think about the political views of the people on the screen. The real movie stars respected their audiences, didn't preach to us about how we should think.

Rick Lee said...

"Flesh for Frankenstein"?? I just realized what you were talking about. It was called "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" when I saw it in Time's Square somewhere around 1975. What a trip that was.

downtownlad said...

Porn would be cool in 3-D.

XWL said...

Don't know if the flavor of porn that Downtownlad is more likely to prefer ever did the 3D gimmick, but there were a few films starring John Holmes back in the 70s, so the 3D porn thing has been done (and they showed one of the Holmes ones at the Laemmle Sunset 5 as a midnight movie for awhile back in the mid 90s)

dave said...

as a filmmaker, I'm with James Cameron and Ann that movies are special for their ability to provide transcendant experiences, but 3-D is by no means salvation. I'll agree with harkonnendog that great writing needs to save movies, but let's be honest, even if great writing returns to big-budget cinema (and, as I see it, fat chance), there will still be too much worthwhile content available on TV screens and computers and iPods to coax people into theater seats.

The cinema will be kept alive only by cultists, the way words written on paper are now. and as people prefer home viewing more, even more writers of consequence will follow the viewers into their homes. the cinema will become a place of the past, and will be inhabited only by those willing to visit the past.


porn in 3-D sounds frightening. giant silicone breasts should stay on the internet where they belong.

[and maybe my obituary for the book is premature also, but not by much, I'd wager]

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marghlar said...

Sippican: I think you're wrong. People like public events, and the death of the cinema has been announced many times in the past...meanwhile its still alive and kicking.

3-D film is inherently different from live theatre, b/c of its economies of scale. Theatre inherently becomes either government funded, entertainment for the rich, or low-quality charity projects. Cinema can be mass entertainment in a way that theatre never will be. (Which I say as a former theatrical actor...)

I very much enjoy going out to the movies, and am willing to pay a premium to do so. It feels like a social evening in a way that inviting people over to watch a movie or a TV show never would. Seeing the packed theatres when I go, it seems that there are a lot of other people like me.

These rumors of the death of cinema seem greatly exaggerated.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marghlar said...

I still occasionally go to a drive-in in my parents home town, when I visit. My sister-in-law and her partner regularly go to a drive-in in Michigan.

People like doing stuff in groups -- its just part of who we are, ultimately. Even misanthropist loners like my wife and I.

You could release DVDs on the same day as movies, and there are some movies that people would still want to see on the big screen. Really gorgeous cinematography is just better appreciated on a huge freakin' screen.

I'm not sure if the future of cinema is 3D (I kind of doubt it, frankly) -- but I know for sure that cinema has a future.

Cousin Don said...

I don't know about plays. I've gone to quite a few, but especially lately when plays have often been remakes of movies, Producers, Spamalot, the Graduate,
I've often felt like my wife and I could have saved our money and rented the movie.

Plus the ticket price of the major plays like the major rock concerts have gone sky high.

And the cheaper theaters are generally too experimental for me.

Slocum said...

There is simply no movie theater experience that can't already be duplicated very well at home with a home theater projector and a wall-sized screen (a setup that is less expensive than a big-screen TV).

And that's just with DVD -- with high-def, the difference in visual experience will be even smaller. On the other side, at home you don't waste your time watching commercials and trailers, the food is better and cheaper (and you can have a beer or glass of wine while you watch), the furniture is more comfortable (and nobody tall ever sits in front of you), you can pause the film for a bathroom break, you can watch any damn movie you want -- all in all, the upside is huge, and movie theaters really can't close any of these gaps.

But movie theaters won't disappear completely even if (when) DVD and theatrical releases are simultaneous--for some fraction of movie viewers (teenagers especially), going out with friends is at least as important as the movie itself.

So what I predict is a sharp reduction in the number of screens and theaters, the release window shrinking to a few weeks, and Hollywood learning to live in an environment where the vast majority of its income comes from home viewing.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I will only go to a movie theater for something I want to see on the big screen rather than my TV. It still must be well written - a visual and auditory assault, special effects, will not make up for writing. Special effects can enhance a well done movie, but cannot replace quality. I am specifically thinking of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

reader_iam said...

There's a drive-in not all that far from where I live.

It is sort of fun to sit outside while watching. And every little should have the opportunity, once in his or her life, to wear footie jammies in public and play on rusty old equipment with strange kids during the previews, while the parents drink beer.

First drive-in movie I recall seeing (yes, in footie jammies): "A Shot In The Dark." The kiddie feature, which I don't remember, aired first, and I was supposed to be sleeping (in the back well of a VW bug, lol) during the main one, but was too curious. Natch!

Ba-dumpa-dum .... ba dumpa-dum ...

SWBarns said...

I saw "Flesh for Frankenstein" under the title of "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein." It was a totally forgettable movie, except for the liver on a pike scene.

About Smell-O-Vision, the only time I ever was unlucky enough to experience this was watching "Polyester" at a John Waters Film festival. It was ODORAMA (tm) and you really didn't want to scratch and sniff number two. What did it smell like? "Number 2" of course.

Jeremy said...

Sippican -
The future sounds good! Maybe we can get to the theatre by hovercar, too?

The one resource that never gets cheaper is time. You seem to suggest that if a playhouse is charging $35 a seat now, upping the performance schedule to two daily shows plus more on the weekend is somehow going to result in lower, more accessible prices. Or maybe we'll see some kind of pricewar among theatres? What am I missing?

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BrianOfAtlanta said...

I remember seeing JAWS 3-D. The only part I remember is where the shark's jaw went flying out over the audience after they blew it up.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

Sippican-
Thanks for the clarification. I did indeed misread you.

According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the average price of a movie ticket is $6.41. I know that LA/NY are much much more, but on average, it's $6.41. That said, how much of a premium do you think a regular joe and his family are going to be willing to pay to see live performance?
Taking a family of four to see the new Disney flick is gonna cost ~$30. People can generally afford that on some regular basis, but I don't think you could get anywhere near the attendence level or frequency of return if that family had to shell out ~$120.
I guess that's just speculation, though.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marghlar said...

I'd just like to point out that Sippican's numbers don't tell the story of a cinema that is going to vanish -- just one that is less big than it used to be. It took ten years (over the period when TV was introduced) for attendance to drop by half -- and then it took nearly fifty years to be divded by two once again. If we project that trend forward, we see that after 250 years, there will be half as many movie visits as present. That's hardly a meteroic decline.

Cinema is probably reaching a level of dynamic equilibrium with other forms of entertainment -- but it doesn't seem like it is going to vanish off the face of the earth, or even decline nearly as much as it has in the past. I'm willing to bet that most of our children will end up going to the movies a little less than we do now, but not much. Meanwhile, producers will recover their revenue by upticks in DVD sales, electronic distribution of content, and etc. None of this will be any great big deal, and the cinema will still be a big part of American culture.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marghlar said...

Sorry, sip, didn't mean to be sneaky, just was looking through and had the thought occur to me...

The vast majority of americans still go to the movies every few months. So I don't think that means that the cinema is dead. I think most people go to the movies more than they go out to any other form of public entertainment. So that isn't exactly D E D.

My point stands that the decline is a trend that seems to be slowing, not accelerating. It's just more fun to see a visually interesting movie on a big screen, and a lot of people enjoy seeing a comedy or thriller along with an audience that reacts to it. You may not enjoy the cinema, but a whole lot of people still do. And if you think attendance at opera and stageplays is going to exceed cinema attendence (go look up the weekly visits on those, why dontcha?), I think you are frankly out of your mind. Cinema is a hundred times more relevant than either form. See, e.g., controversy over Brokeback Mtn. as compared with Angels in America.

I'd hazard that attendence at symphony orchestral performances has declined similarly, if not more, than cinema attendance. Is the symphony D E D?