So, I find myself often noting the odd ways which the past repeats itself. You may have noticed a previous post discussing a modern media trend mirroring a 50's motif of scary science.
So, as an armchair media critic, I feel the need to put down on the record an observation I had today of another very retro 50's media technique. Have you noticed that everything is being released in 3D lately? Not just polarized image movies, they're also airing old-school blue/red separations on television for a 3D experience at home. It never really struck me before... I just chalked it up to the ease of producing a 3D separation of a CG film, which already exists a model with depth. But for some reason today it struck me that the exact same reason that 3D hit it big in the 50's is fueling the modern trend.
In the 50's, you see, film studios were scared to death of television. It was new and unpredictable, it was competing with theaters because people stayed at home to watch shows, and film execs were desperate to come up with a way to keep their product competitive. Widescreen... color... 3D... anything that made the experience something that TV couldn't duplicate, that you had to sit your butt in an actual theater to experience the product.
And now the studios are having the exact same freakout moment and the exact same reaction. To defeat pirates, digital home delivery methods, blu-ray and all the other scary new technologies that, just like television once did, keep people from buying tickets at theatres, 3D is back. You can't project dual polarized images on your wall at home, can you (no matter how good your home bandwidth is.)
And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Modern Hollywood is going to have the exact same problem that they did 5 decades ago. 3D is a gimmick. Smell-o-scope is a gimmick. vibrating seats are a gimmick. All of the techniques you can come up with to make a "unique theatrical experience" take away from the storytelling, the quality... they're just distractions to cover up shoddy filmmaking. Classic 3D was a B-budget tool, and now in the modern day the 3d bits that won't translate to a home DVD means that you lose half of your sales because it's not as good a movie at home as you remembered in the theater.
It'll be interesting to see what other gimmicks they come up with to pursue this method... to desperately get people to stop downloading and netflixing and go buy a $10 ticket. I mean our technology's 5 decades better. There are companies out there that can project some pretty sophisticated holograms. Who's going to make the first theatrical hologram? A movie that interacts directly with your smartphone? Eh, there are crazier people than me trying to answer this question. The fun part will be to sit back and watch what they come up with, and how horribly it will fail.
You see, what I think Hollywood will always overlook is, as many DVD's as you can see, as much as you can pirate and download, you're still going to be sitting on your couch at home like a bum to watch your TV or your computer. Teenagers who want to get away from mom and dad and see their friends (and make out in the theater) will still buy tickets. A first date of dinner and a movie will always sell tickets. There was a time when going to a movie was a lush experience at a movie palace, where you wouldn't mind buying a pricey ticket because you were pampered. And now the business relies on rushing people in and out of massive, sticky-floored mulitplexes.
So, I hope that someone will clue in to the fact that trying to wow an audience with amazing new technology will only work on an audience once or twice. In 10 years it will just look cheesy, just like the golden age of 3D looks to us. Theaters will survive, losing a little bit of market share to the new media forms, and 3d will slowly fall back into obscurity until the next retro revival. To really keep people in theaters, film execs should pamper their audiences, respect them, and trust that treating them as human beings who will gladly pay a premium for a lavish, positive experience out at the movies.
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Monday, 16 November 2009 09:31