Is a 3-D Backlash Underway? USA Today Wonders

“Is a 3-D backlash underway?” With this question, Mike Snider begins his recent article in USA Today: “3-D movies, gadgets getting lukewarm reception by some.”

The President and First Lady watching the 2009 Super Bowl in 3-D. This photo released from the White House.

Given what appears to be the growing omnipresence of 3-D films and other media, why would Snider wonder about a backlash? He explains:

Trailers for Shark Night 3D, a PG-13 film swarming into theaters this weekend, note prominently that the movie is “also showing in 2D.”

Dolphin Tale, out in three weeks, takes a similar tack. Several summer 3-D films fell flat, and studios appear to be covering their bets by letting moviegoers know there’s a lower-priced traditional viewing option.

“If you do a side-by-side of the movie posters of the last three years, that ‘3-D’ almost keeps getting smaller and smaller in the actual posters,” says Jeff Bock of industry tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.

Why might 3-D be losing ground to good ol’ fashioned 2-D? The USA Today article points mainly to the increased costs of 3-D technology. 3-D movies can be $3 to $5 more than 2-D. And 3-D glasses and televisions are also fairly pricey.

But I think this article misses some of the main reasons 3-D is faltering. For one thing, the visual quality of a 3-D film in theaters is not great. Yes, you get 3-D. But you lose quite a bit in brightness. For me, this makes 3-D movies generally less desirable than 3-D, especially if the movie includes crucial scenes in the dark. Moreover, there’s the discomfort factor of wearing 3-D glasses. This is especially true if you wear eyeglasses.

3-D effects do not make great movies great. If you have strong acting and, above all, a compelling story, then you don’t need to see anything in 3-D to love the movie. No amount of 3-D technology can make a bad film good. As far as I’m concerned, Hollywood should forget about 3-D distractions and focus on making movies that tell good stories.

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