"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is the Most Botched 3D Release Ever

Full disclosure upfront: I have not seen Ang Lee's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk." I want to, but thanks to a disastrous launch and a studio that seems apathetic to showing the film, I may not get that chance.  I am not reviewing the movie itself.  I pray we are past the days where 3D in a movie is so bad it makes the movie worse (though I know this isn't the case).  We are in a day and age where film makers are continue to push the 3D format to be more immersive, more vibrant, and more embraced.  James Cameron is even looking into glasses free 3D for the upcoming "Avatar" sequels.  While I don't believe the format ever needed saving in theaters (that is mostly reserved for home viewing), Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" did remind people of just how good 3D could be when done properly.  It helped that this was one of the best films to be released in the last decade, but everyone walked away from it with the same thought: skip 2D, see it in 3D.

What was more impressive was that this was a movie that wasn't an action movie, but a drama about having faith in times of crisis.  You wouldn't think 3D would benefit a movie like this much.  If you think that though, you underestimate Lee's ability as a visual storyteller.  Lee himself was so impressed with how much 3D helped 'Pi' that he decided to not only make most (if not all) of his future movies in 3D, he decided to take it a step further and push further formats as well.  Remember when Peter Jackson decided to up the frame rate of 'The Hobbit' trilogy from 24 frames per second to 48?  Well, Lee decided 'Billy Lynn' should be 120.  Also... why not film it in 8K resolution?  All in 3D.  That is a pretty wild combination.  It's difficult to explain why, but if you are someone who is into display settings and resolution, chances are your head just exploded a little bit.  This is such a step away from the norm, only two theaters in America can display the movie in the proper format.

The ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood, CA

What's more, these two theaters had to have major upgrades just to display this one single movie.  I'm stressing that last part because that is the part that is going to make the whole point of this post clear.  Now, the two screens thing is not really the issue here.  Earlier this year I reviewed a version of "Star Trek Beyond" in Barco Escape that was only on 48 or so screens.  Sometimes a format has to start small before it can get big.  What doesn't make sense if you spend a lot of money upgrading a theater to project a certain movie in a certain way and then decide to dump that movie before anyone gets a chance to see it.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg of how badly the release of "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" release has been handled.  I'm going to take this moment to remind my readers that I was on vacation the past ten days.  I was flying to West Virginia on the day 'Billy Lynn' was opening in just a handful of theaters.

The AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York, NY

It slowly expanded to regular theaters the following week, but in a rare twist, the 120fps, 8K projected, 3D version of the movie was already gone.  One week.  The only two theaters in America capable of showing this movie in the preferred format were ArcLight Hollywood in California and AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York.  To my knowledge, both these theaters had to have extensive upgrades to show the movie in this format.  Why spend all that money and time for this movie, just to show it for one week?  Granted, neither the box office or reviews were great, but let's talk about that.  First of all, yes, the reviews are not glowing.  I have no idea if this movie is even worth seeing at this point.  But I would like to see it.  And the studios took a chance on their film being a "word of mouth" movie by releasing it in less than a dozen theaters from the get go.  They also opened it during a week where most people need that week or two before they even hear the movie has been released.

You are competing with "Doctor Strange" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" after all.  Yet after one measly little week, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" was pulled from these two theaters.  No word on if they will be back or not, but I'm guessing the answer to that is no.  Why bother spending the time and money to upgrade your theaters for this one movie only to pull it before anyone even realizes it's there?  That is pure lunacy to me.  At this point it's not even if people want to see the movie that is the issue: the point of the movie is the format, and you want people to have an extended period of time to be able to check that format out.  This is one of those rare times when word of mouth would carry this particular showing of the movie even if the audience isn't that keen on seeing it in the first place (and, again, with the competition out there you need to give people that time for them realize it's even there).

But, okay, so these two screens are out.  Most people couldn't travel there anyway.  What about the rest of the world?  They are getting screwed over the most.  While there were rumors of the movie initially coming to IMAX 3D, those plans didn't pan out because of commits to "Doctor Strange" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (boy, I feel like this OP-ED is writing itself in circles at this point), so that's out of the question.  What about regular theaters?  Well, regular theaters have been getting the movie, but at this point almost all the showings are after 10:00pm, which is when adult movies tend to do the least amount of business.  Not only that, NONE of them are in 3D!  So, to recap, the movie is INTENDED to be seen at 120fps, in 4K resolution, in 3D!  Virtually all of the movie theaters I've seen the movie in (and I've researched California, New York, and Florida for my sampling, so I can safely say most of the country is getting screwed) are showing the film in 24fps, less than 2K resolution, and in 2D.  Almost all showings at a time when their intended audience is asleep.

This is literally the worst release of a movie I have ever seen.

The studio seems to have gone out of their way to show the movie in the worst possible way.  Most theaters can show movies in 4K resolution.  Some theaters are even capable of showing 2D movies in 120fps (and, to be fair, some theaters are doing this).  So why the 24fps?  Why the less than 2K resolution?  Where the heck is the 3D?  Why can't this movie be shown with some of the most basic requirements needed to enjoy it?  When analysts talk about poor box office all I see is a movie showing at times where the target audience is too tired to go to the theater.  "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" isn't just a gimped release, this is a movie that has had it's legs broken, it's skull bashed in, and then shoved onto the streets at night.  Even if you see the movie at all you aren't seeing it anywhere near the format Lee intended it to be seen.

Again, I know the specifications are high and most theaters couldn't project it in the way it was intended to be seen anyway.  But why not just try?  Give theaters a version of the movie that is 48fps, in 4K resolution, and in 3D.  These are NOT impossible specifications to meet for most theaters these days!  But more 3D screens need to be added.  4K needs to be a must.  ArcLight and AMC Loews need to bring the movie back for at least a month or so and give people a chance to experience the movie the way it was intended to be seen (and you upgraded the theaters so... use them).  At this point I have no idea if I'm going to be seeing "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" at all.  The release is too botched and the presentation too compromised for me to even desire to see it at this point.  Maybe it's not the greatest movie in the world, but it comes from a respected director who is trying something new, and the theaters (and studios) need to do a better job standing by this movie.  It is an unconventional movie being released in an unconventional way.  That doesn't always lead to overnight success, but that typically turns heads, which is what theaters need more of these days.

Mashable article for how "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is being presented in most theaters


Memo to 'Fantastic Beasts' Audiences: Double Check Your IMAX Ticket!


I am still on vacation, but I need to issue this warning on this Thanksgiving day to anyone who may be considering seeing "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" in IMAX this weekend.  I went to see the movie at the Tropicana IMAX in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  I have seen several 3D movies in this IMAX before, and they have one of the best projections I've seen.  The last time I viewed a movie there it was with "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies," which was actually being projected in 48 HFR projection.  So, obviously, this is a pretty good screen to see 3D movies in, and I was excited on seeing the new Harry Potter film (that didn't have Harry Potter) on it.  Alas, for some reason the movie was being projected in 2D only.  Since I was with a friend and was treating her to a vacation, I decided not to press the issue, but afterwards I double checked to make sure it was supposed to be in 3D in the first place.

Sure enough: it was.  I now have to see the movie again in a proper IMAX 3D presentation, but all the IMAX's I have near my home are oddly... inconsistent, with the projection.  Most of the them have half the screenings in 2D and half in 3D.  Some aren't showing the 3D version at all (despite being perfectly capable of doing so).  It is strange to see IMAX treading lightly on the 3D showings when they have just come off a very positive reception from "Doctor Strange" and it's great use of 3D.  Also, like 'Strange,' Warner Bros. made it a point to have 'Fantastic Beasts' on more 3D screens than 2D, sending a strong message to audiences about how the movie is supposed to be seen.  The good news is that some IMAX's are still offering 3D showings, but this is a troubling turn of events none-the-less.  It is especially bothersome since this is the only real IMAX in all of New Jersey (to my knowledge), and if you can't see the 3D version here, then you are pretty much screwed out of seeing the movie the best possible way.

Now the movie itself is pretty good.  I can easily recommend it.  Some of the shots looked weird, but, again, I saw it in 2D, so some of the warped images probably look fine when you add a third dimension to them.  Just make it a point to double check your ticket before you see the movie if the 3D is important to you, because this is one time IMAX is not only being coy about whether the movie is presented in 3D or not, they aren't being very upfront that this is what they are doing.  Hopefully this is just a one time thing they are trying, but we're going to be keeping a closer eye on the company from this point on to make sure.


Is the Solution to Disney's 3D Problem UltraHD?

Alright, look, we're ALL frustrated with Disney right now!  Their 3D support is laughably bad and their choices on what to release on BluRay 3D make so little sense you get the feeling that the company is picking titles to distribute by throwing darts at a wall.  Their mistakes for this format makes for a vast majority of the posts on this blog and it brings me no pleasure to point that out.  That said...there may be a solution waiting in the wings for them.  A way to recommit to the 3D format without jeopardizing money or giving fans the middle finger on a double dip.  And that solution may ironically come from the next format that Hollywood is betting big on: UltraHD BluRay!  UltraHD is the new disk format that makes the most use out of those shinny new 4K TV's that are being sold everywhere.  The big issue that is facing movie fans is that a 3D movie is still a separate purchase that needs to be made from a UltraHD disk.  Thankfully, studios are starting to realize people don't like making that choice and - rather than make two niche products - they are starting to package the BluRay 3D disks in the UltraHD releases.

So fans of "The Angry Birds Movie," "Ghostbusters (2016)," and "Star Trek Beyond" have options where they get the best of all worlds (except DVD of course).  Combining the 3D and 4K disks in one package is smart on a couple of levels.  The first is that it does take the aforementioned niche markets and combines them, cutting back on UPC's and rallying the hardcore fans of two products behind one.  The second is that it keeps 3D a viable format, and it gives the premium 4K TV's that still have the 3D option more value to the average consumer.  So... how does this solve the 3D problem Disney is having?  Well, at the moment they are the sole Hollywood studio who has not started backing the UltraHD format (shocking, I know, since they were the sole company not backing Ultraviolet).  There is talk that that is about to change, but until it does they are officially the sole holdout.  When they do enter the market they would be wise to make the long demanded BluRay 3D versions that have been denied to the fans as part of the sets a key selling point.

Because UltraHD is still so new everyone is expecting to pay more money for the disks up front.  By charging an additional $5 (which is something most people would be used to when buying a Disney movie) they can include the 3D versions and sell disks to the fans who have demanded these for so long.  And, of course, they will have a nice UltraHD disk for when they eventually upgrade to that 4K TV!  In fact, if they focused on releasing titles that also had a 3D version in this manner, their UltraHD launch slate could include:
  • Pete's Dragon
  • Frozen
  • Big Hero 6
  • Need for Speed
  • Beauty & the Beast (1991)
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Maleficent
That wouldn't be a bad launch lineup now would it?  Will they actually do this?  Probably not, but seeing as they are the company that sells dreams, it would be fun to dream of this becoming a reality.


Disney to Release Not One, Not Two, But THREE 3D Titles on Tuesday!

Yes, I'm still alive.  Yes, I'm still working extra hours in my other jobs to save money for my trip.  Yes, once I'm actually on the trip I'll (ironically) have some downtime to update the blog more.  I still have my opinion on the surprise 3D release we're getting this year and my confused feelings about it.  I still don't have time to comment on it right now, but I will say the title is Disney's "The Jungle Book." While the movie came out in 2D only a month or two ago, on Tuesday we will be getting a BluRay 3D of the title.  Also, Disney will be releasing "Finding Dory" and the (also delayed) 3D release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." That is THREE 3D titles coming out in one day!  For once, I'm going to actually have to pass on one of these titles because it exceeds my weekly movie budget for buying discs (plus the whole trip saving thing).

What's interesting is that this is the most 3D releases Disney has released at once.  Not only that, but these are three MAJOR titles!  It's almost as if Disney is pushing the 3D format again!  What gives?  I couldn't really tell you for sure.  I have my suspicions (which will be shared in the upcoming OP-ED piece), but I believe Christmas could be a big clue in all of this.  The timing of these massive releases is also perfect as this will be the week after "Doctor Strange" opened with almost half of it's business being from 3D showings.  Also, 40% of the tickets sold for "Trolls" was for 3D showings.  How on Earth is 3D dead when so many people are still paying to see it and buying the discs?!  *sigh* It really makes my head spin sometimes.  Well, time to get back to packing.  See you all later this week!


"Star Trek: Beyond" On BluRay 3D (And Where the Heck Have I Been?)

"Star Trek: Beyond" hits home video this week and there is a BluRay 3D version.  The 'Star Trek' movies have benefited the most from the 3D effect more than most movies, so it's not too surprising that these movies actually move 3D disks.  At the local Fry's I bought my copy at the salesman mentioned that they got roughly thirty copies in the store, yet they were almost already sold out (there were five copies when I arrived and the store had only been open about four hours).  Now, thirty copies of a disk selling is not a big deal in the long run but we're talking about a format that would normally sell less than ten copies if it were any other movie.  The film is also being released in UltraHD BluRay (because that is a thing now).  Studios are starting to see the benefit of packaging the 3D and 4K disks together in one combo, but chances are this movie will be such a draw to techies (get it?) that Amazon.com got the exclusive rights to the 4K/3D combo pack on their site.

I don't buy from Amazon.com so you'll have to go to the site yourself to get this set, but you should find it easily.  Keep in mind you will also have to buy a replica of the U.S.S. Enterprise that jacks the price of the set up another $50 or so, but if you want the movie in every version available then this is your best bet.  As you can see from the picture above, I bought my copy, so I continue to contribute to the cause.  Which begs the following question: where have I been?  Well... nah, I'm not going to be clever, I was spending time with family.  In a couple weeks I'll be flying across the country to see a girl I happen to love very much, so there may be a small dip in updates there as well.  Once Christmas roles around there will be much to discuss.  I will particularly be interested in seeing how many 4K TV's sell, and whether or not people pick up to that format faster than they did with 3D.

That said, I do have some catching up to do.  I will be posting in the next couple days covering news stories I missed while I was gone.  I will even do an extended OP-ED piece about a huge news story to come out of the BluRay 3D scene that should have made me feel giddy.  Yet, considering the circumstances surrounding the announcement, I sort of just read the news and went "huh?". I won't spoil what that is here (you might have a good idea), but keep an eye out for that piece.  I also want to close this post by mentioning that Barnes & Noble are having their bi-monthly Criterion Collection Sale, where all titles from the Criterion Collection are 50% off!  Obviously you can get some great deals on some great movies, but when you go to add some titles to your cart, maybe I recommended "Pina" be one of them, seeing that it is the sole BluRay 3D Criterion makes, and we'd like to show them that we would buy 3D movies from them.

Plus it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, so you can add that to your awards collection to boot!