Is "Blade Runner 2049" Worth Seeing in RealD 3D?

After more than a couple weeks of being out in theaters, I was finally able to get away from family obligations and government paperwork to see "Blade Runner 2049" a second time.  While I have not written a review of the movie due to excessive writers block (as well as potentially rethinking my career as a writer), I will say that this is so far the best film I've seen this year.  It has made me think about things in ways that I never thought I would, it is smart in ways that few movies are, and it is more interesting the second time around.  Everything is beautiful to look at and the acting is appropriately subtle in what is being said with silence.  It is a modern masterpiece and the fact that no one is turning out to see it shows that people deserve the sorry state of the movie business they currently have.  If you haven't seen it yet, I think you are missing out on an experience you may potentially feel is great.

However, should you see it in IMAX 2D or RealD 3D?  That is the question I asked in a previous article, and I've been slowly answering that question throughout the month.  For someone who loves 3D so much that he'll maintain a blog about the format, it is amazing that it took me as long as it did to see it in this format.  However, the preferred viewing method for this film has been one of much speculation, and after some digging I came to the conclusion that the film makers wanted the film to be seen in 2D.  Still, I wanted to see what the 3D looked like, so I bought a ticket to a XD 3D screening late at night (with Auro 1.11 sound to boot!).  I watched the movie and soaked up the brilliant film making once more.  I also paid attention to the 3D, how it was used, and how it affected the overall experience of the movie.  And now that I've seen the movie in both IMAX 2D and RealD 3D I can safely say that the "Blade Runner 2049" in 3D experience is...ok.

Yeah, that's pretty much all I can muster for it.  It's funny to think I've been writing about this topic for months on end, decrying IMAX for not projecting it in the first place, using it as the reason they won't show 3D movies anymore, having them pretty much back off on that claim pretty quickly, and then finding out that key people who made the movie weren't that impressed with the 3D, it's frustrating because it feels like I've been doing all this complaining for virtually nothing. Because what we ultimately have is a 3D experience that does not detract from your enjoyment of the movie, but doesn't add a whole lot either.  This is especially frustrating because this has all the makings of a great 3D experience.  The kind that could have sat with "Avatar" and "Life of Pi" as being one of the best to be had yet.

There are long, slow shots.  Quick editing is nowhere to be found.  There are vast, open spaces to help 3D emphasize the space between the characters and the world.  Many scenes involve airships in the air and flying.  The pacing and sets are placed so perfectly, that there was a possibility for total emersion on the audiences end, to be literally be sucked into the world and in the middle of it all.  If ever there was a movie I look at and think "this would be SOO much better in 3D," this would be it!  It should be it.  It's not though.  The 3D experience I had with "Blade Runner 2049" was one of minor depth in the background, a few pop out effects for passing buildings, but not a whole lot else.  Even the scene where Joe talks to the prostitute hologram (as seen at the top of this article) - a scene that begs to surround the audience and suck them into the world - only sort of pops out (and certainly never surrounds you).

However, it should be noted this is an up-converted job, and those really can only go so far.  So why didn't Denis Villeneuve just film the thing in 3D?  I don't know.  Really, I don't.  The shooting style of the film goes in hand with the techniques of 3D so perfectly I find it frustrating that the director just couldn't see it.  Or maybe he did and just didn't care?  It is true that the best live action 3D experiences have come from directors who are known for being true masters of the art of cinema: Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Spielberg (alright, that ones animated, but it was SHOT like a live action film), James Cameron, George Miller, and Peter Jackson have delivered the best 3D experiences by far.  I would argue that Villeneuve is in that league of directors and could have pulled it off.  Either he didn't see the potential 3D could bring to the project, or he simply didn't care to.

So, for what it's worth folks, I'm really sorry I made a bigger deal of a 3D version of "Blade Runner 2049" than I had any right to.  I got caught up in IMAX threatening (in a round about way) that 3D experiences in the theaters would be in jeopardy if this movie did well in it's 2D only release.  I got caught up in the lack of BluRay 3D releases we continue to get.  I got excited by the potential of this movie being in 3D.  Ultimately, the experience is average.  Not lukewarm enough to completely ruin the experience, but lukewarm enough that it makes wearing the glasses a royal pain to have to wear.  I hate having to admit this, but I want to be honest with my readers, and the sad reality is that "Blade Runner 2049" is not the 3D experience that was worth dying on a mountain for.  The other sad reality is that is very well could have been, which may be more frustrating than the 3D simply not being very good.


"Geostorm" to be Released in IMAX 3D

"Geostorm" is one of those really weird movies that comes along once in awhile that makes one scratch their head and wonder who greenlit it?  Who do they expect to see it?  Who is interested?  Who decided there was enough demand to put it on a really expensive theater and charge $20 a ticket for?  I don't know the answer to any of those answers, but whatever they are, "Geostorm" is a thing, and it's coming to theaters October 20th.  What's more interesting though is that a search for listings on IMAX's official website shows that ALL showings of the movie (thus far) are going to be in IMAX 3D!  Is the banishment of 3D movies over for the chain?  Still too early to say, but I think "Blade Runner 2049" did more damage by only being shown in 2D.  Yeah, that's how it was SUPPOSED to be seen, but this is why the company needed to be upfront about it rather than use the format as an excuse to explain away sagging ticket sales!

Numbers don't lie and the numbers have shown only one thing really: that people will see the movies they are interested in seeing and skip the ones they aren't.  If IMAX wants to turn their numbers around they need to first and foremost focus on getting movies people want to see, movies that take advantage of the giant screen, and get more deals with companies to shoot in IMAX cameras so that more image is available exclusively on their theaters.  Once that's over they might want to open more IMAX screens that are truly giant, own the theaters the screens are on, lower the ticket costs a little bit, maybe partner with MoviePass and Sinemia to attract more people to their screens, and just try to be a better experience all around.  With that said, some people likely want to ask me if I think "Geostorm" will prove to be a hit and show that 3D is still a viable format.  No, I don't believe it will.  I'm not under the impression the movie will do all that good at the box office in general, which may prove my point about 3D more or may prove it less.  We'll just have to see how the stockholders feel.


"Blade Runner 2049" NOT Coming to BluRay 3D?

"Blade Runner 2049" is one of the best movies of the year.  So far, it may even be the best one I've seen.  It's the rare intelligent grand spectacle that Hollywood used to make, but now doesn't unless they have superheroes in them.  It has also been a key movie at the center of a big controversy: can it prove that audiences aren't interested in 3D?  IMAX used it as a scapegoat to justify showing more 2D movies (only to have it bomb at theaters).  However, then it was reported that both the director and cinematographer were unhappy with the 3D version, and preferred people see it in 2D.  Now the movie has been announced for pre-order on both 4K and BluRay, but no BluRay 3D version has been announced.  Of course, this doesn't mean we're not getting a 3D release, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely that we do get one if it isn't announced upfront.

What's working in the films favor is that Warner Bros. is handling domestic distribution of the film, and they have been very consistent supporters of the 3D format.  That doesn't mean their stance won't change at some point, but for the time being there is not a lot to suggest they are dropping out now (other movies beyond "Blade Runner 2049" are receiving BluRay 3D releases).  Working against the film are key film makers who don't really care if audiences see the film in 3D or not.  Personally...I haven't seen it in 3D.  I'm going to be making my way out to see it in 3D in a few days.  I have seen it in IMAX 2D and loved the experience.  It LOOKS like a movie that would benefit from 3D, but then the 2D image was so perfect I could just as easily understand why a third dimension could potentially hurt it.  I'm on the fence on whether this is a bad thing or not.  Once I see the movie in 3D I'll let you know if the controversy was worth all the fuss it received (including from me), but for the time being the movie is up for pre-order and there's no 3D version to be found, so take from that what you will.


"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Poster Advertises IMAX 3D

The most recent posters for movies that have been coming out to IMAX have been omitting the word '3D' from advertisements.  This happened for "Justice League," "Thor: Ragnorak," and (most obviously) "Blade Runner 2049."  I assume IMAX has been vague about the '3D' part because they were in the process of pulling away from 3D movies, and didn't want to be falsely advertising them.  Then "Blade Runner 2049" didn't bring in any more movie goers than most of their 3D movies did.  That raised the question on whether or not the company would stick with their new policy or back track a little bit.  Well, while I can't point to this as a definite reversal of policy, when "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" tickets went on sale, I was quick to point out that way more theaters were showing it in 3D and that 2D showings were (at the moment), hard to find.  Well, a new poster for the movie has emerged, and the most telling thing is that it is once again advertising the movie is going to be in IMAX 3D.

So, at least for this movie, IMAX Corporation is pushing the 3D version as the version to see.  I guess we'll see how long THAT lasts!


IMAX Embracing 3D Once Again with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi?"


It has been a rocky road for IMAX the last few months in terms of ticket sales and their corporate stance on 3D.  In the summer they boldly claimed that 3D was dead and that future IMAX releases would be in 2D (with "Blade Runner 2049" being the first to forgo the third dimension altogether).  However, a funny thing happened after that though: 2D screenings were largely no more attended than 3D movies.  With the possible exception of "It," movies like "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" and "Blade Runner 2049" did just OK in IMAX, while "Inhumans" and "War for the Planet of the Apes" tanked outright.  I want to state that I personally don't believe the fact that these movies were in 2D are the cause for them not doing well.  I think these were movies people weren't as interested in seeing in general, and that reflected on IMAX tickets as well as standard tickets (and, in the case of "Inhumans," having a poor showing on TV).

Indeed, the announcement to go from all 3D to all 2D was an announcement meant to confirm that ticket sales would go up, but now that we have proof that such a change made very little impact on overall ticket sales, the company needs to go back to the drawing board to figure out what they're really doing wrong (Spoiler: high ticket costs and shrinking screen sizes may play a MAJOR role in this).  So with this idea that 3D was hurting attendance being proven untrue at this point, it's time for the company to do what all companies do when they realize they made a bold claim they can't back up with facts: back peddle.  That is why "Thor: Ragnorok" is going to have both 2D AND 3D showings split evenly down the middle.  The same will likely happen for "Justice League."  What stands out most though is what the company is doing with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."  Now, for those who are unaware, tickets for the movie went up for pre-order a few days ago.

It was announced by IMAX Corporation that the movie would be shown in IMAX 2D, IMAX 70mm (which is also going to be in 2D), and IMAX 3D.  So right off the bat they announced that 3D was going to be one of the experiences viewers could choose, the only question remaining is how much?  With two formats available in 2D it seemed like the company was going to give preferred treatment to two dimensional showings...until they didn't.

Although ticket pre-ordering is still early for the movie (and more showings are bound to be added), what is interesting to note is that almost all of these preview showings are in 3D.  In fact, from the two pages worth of theater listings that are currently available in my area, only ONE is showing the movie in 2D!  That screening is happening at the TCL Chinese Theater (which, for the record, has a FANTASTIC IMAX screen), where the 10:00m and 1:45am showings are being shown in 2D!  That said, it should also be noted they have a 'fan event' to kick off the (what looks to be an all night) string of screenings is in 3D, which means that theater may believe 2D is the more profitable of the two formats, someone bigger is pushing the 3D version as the opening act because they believe this is the format its meant to be seen in.

Which makes a lot of sense.  "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was one of the biggest 3D success stories in the past five years, and the lack of a BluRay 3D release was so strong at Disney that the company caved and gave it an elaborate special edition release several months later.  Also, George Lucas was in the process of converting all the previous Star Wars films into 3D formats, so there's that fact for whatever its worth.  What is going to be interesting about this specific release is how much more screen showings the 3D version of 'The Last Jedi' receives and how well it does.  Will it be big enough to get IMAX to change course on what was (at the very least) a misguided idea?  How big of a success will it be?  I have no doubt this will be the biggest success for IMAX this year.  There's almost no way it can't be.

The big question, I suppose I have, is that if this is a huge success DESPITE the lack of 2D showings, wouldn't that prove my point that 3D isn't in and of itself the problem with their ticket sales?!  Does that mean IMAX will just have to completely back peddle?  Or, what if we get closer to the release and the screenings are split more down the middle between 2D and 3D?  Will it mean more or less ticket sales for IMAX?  Will it be noticed if there less ticket sales this time around when the movie (possible) does better business overall?  Which version will have had the lower sales?  Will the 70mm screenings be more profitable than the digital screenings were like "Dunkirk" was earlier this year?  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Whatever version you see though, may the force be with you...always.


IMAX Loses Bet that Audiences ONLY Want 2D with "Blade Runner 2049" Release!

IMAX's bet that 3D was the reason for sagging ticket sales is officially wrong.

Alright, this was proven wrong a month ago, but now we can say without a shadow of a doubt 3D showings have NOT been contributing to lower than hoped for ticket sales!  For those new to the situation, IMAX Corporation announced a few months ago that audiences had spoken: They hate 3D overwhelmingly prefer 2D movies!  Thus, they would be scaling back on IMAX 3D movies, and they would start by releasing "Blade Runner 2049" exclusively in 2D (they also, I want to add, also said they would be showing most movies only one week, and I'll explain why that's important later).  Now, as I wrote about last week, this didn't bother the film makers of the movie.  In fact, both the director AND cinematographer wen ton record stating that 2D was the way the movie was meant to be seen! 

That is probably more of a reason it's only being shown in IMAX 2D as opposed to anything else, but the company needed to show they were doing something - ANYTHING - drastic to show that they were going to do something to lure more people into IMAX theaters!  The problem with this method is that while 2D may indeed have been the film makers intended format to view the movie, but launching war on the 3D fanbase, you actually got many of them (me included) to write scathing articles about how we were NOT going to see the movie in IMAX!  I'm actually going to see the movie in both formats and write a review later on describing which version to see, but I remained skeptical that only showing the movie in 2D would prove any more profitable than usual.  So, how did "Blade Runner 2049" do at the IMAX box office?  Well, as you probably guessed from the headline, it isn't completely good.  However, let's look at box office numbers for IMAX movies that opened this year on their opening weekend (and please keep in mind these are rough estimates from Box Office Mojo):
  • xXx: Return of Xander Cage (3D) - $1.8 million
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (3D) - $800,000
  • The Lego Batman Movie (2D) - $400,000
  • Logan (2D) - $10.1 million
  • Kong: Skull Island (3D) - $7.4 million
  • Beauty and the Beast (3D) - $21 million
  • Ghost in the Shell (3D) - $2.9 million
  • The Fate of the Furious (2D) - $6.7 million
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (3D) - $25 million
  • Alien: Covenant (2D) - $5 million
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (3D) - $8.2 million
  • Wonder Woman (3D) - $12.4 million
  • The Mummy (3D) - $700,000
  • Despicable Me 3 (2D) - $300,000
  • Cars 3 (2D) - $100,000 (yes, "Cars 3" truly is Pixar's least attended film)
  • Transformers: The Last Knight (3D) - $5.2 million
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (3D) - $13.8 million
  • Dunkirk (2D) - $11.9 million
  • Inhumans (2D) - $2.85 million (this isn't the opening weekend: This is the ENTIRE gross!  This was an IMAX funded exclusive that didn't play in ANY other theaters, and it did worse than just the opening weekend of "Ghost in the Shell")!
  • It (2D) - $8.2 million
Now then, the numbers vary a little bit as IMAX records are not reported on in the most rigorous detail, but these are roughly what the opening box office numbers were for movies that were showing in IMAX.  From the list we can gather a few facts: The three highest grossing opening weekends were for 3D movies ("Beauty & the Beast," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," and "Spider-Man: Homecoming").  With the exception of "Beauty and the Beast," the movies that made the most money tended to be the movies that were largely considered 'good' as opposed to 'bad.'  Also, most of these movies stayed in IMAX for more than one week, which is probably why the company really wants to get enough movies to keep content fresh on their screens, as you don't want to get stuck with a stinker any longer than you have to.

Also, judging by the numbers, it appears that good 3D movies are making roughly the same as good 2D movies, so you have to wonder how much IMAX's claim holds up.  Well, let's stop beating around the bush; what did "Blade Runner 2049" ultimately make for IMAX in the opening weekend? 

*drum roll*

That's it.  Purely from a side of finances, it did no better than most 3D bombs and far worse than most 3D successes.  The big announcement that "Blade Runner 2049" would make more money if shown only in 2D has officially proven to be false.  Of course, "Inhumans" sort of proved this a month ago, but since that was a TV pilot that just happened to be screened on IMAX's across America, there was still a little doubt.  With "Blade Runner 2049" there is a 3D version out there, and not having this one in 3D didn't yield in any more money.  Now then, to give IMAX credit in one area, the movie only made $31 million all around, which means this is officially a box office disappointment.  The difference between this movie and most of the ones up there is that if you look at the box office in general, IMAX movies tended to account for somewhere between 5%-12% of the opening total gross.  With "Blade Runner 2049" that number creeps closer to 25%, so that IS an uptake in IMAX ticket sales!

The problem is it doesn't really matter much in a business where accounting is everywhere.  It sort of reminds me when my family went on the Toy Story Mania ride at Disney's California Adventure, where I got the highest score of the family.  My mom - in comparison - got the lowest score.  However, she chalked it up to a win because she had the highest accuracy rate.  I love my mom, but in the real word accuracy and more tickets sold doesn't mean anything if it doesn't result in more money being made.  For that matter, "Beauty and the Beast" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" had numbers that took roughly 25% of the opening grosses themselves.  What do all three of these movies have in common?

All three had aspect ratios that were specifically fitted for IMAX theaters, resulting in about 26% more image at the top and bottom of the screen, to make it more immersive on those giant screens (and people wanted to see them in general).  

That may be a bigger selling point than 3D or film is, so IMAX Corporation may want to start investing in more movies being shot with IMAX cameras so that they can brag about having the "true" image on opening weekend.  Regardless what they decide to do in the future, I think it's pretty clear their attempt to make more money with "Blade Runner 2049" by ditching 3D altogether was a wash.  Would it have made more or less if it had been in 3D?  That's hard to say.  I think the box office shows people weren't as interested in this as Warner Bros. hoped they would be in general, but it seems unlikely 3D would have hurt the ticket sales any more.  People usually want to see good movies and will pay for them in IMAX regardless of the picture format.  I don't know why they didn't want to come out and see this movie, but genuinely great movies bombing at the box office is not a new thing, and is another topic for a different article altogether.


Is "Blade Runner 2049" Worth Seeing in RealD 3D or IMAX 2D?

Alright, I know a lot of you have been wondering where I've been and I'll just state this now: Never get writer's block.  With that out of the way, tonight we will have our first screenings of "Blade Runner 2049," which is being shown in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 2D.  This is IMAX's first public war with 3D.  They fired some warning shots earlier in the year with "The LEGO Batman Movie," "Cars 3," "Despicable Me 3," and "War of the Planet of the Apes."  When it came to THIS movie though, the CEO of IMAX made it very clear that audiences preferred 2D films over 3D, cited "Dunkirk" as their key example, and bragged that "Blade Runner 2049" would be shown in 2D only!

As you can guess, I wasn't impressed with these statements.

Now, "Blade Runner 2049" is put in an unfortunate position of being a movie that IMAX is using to play an elaborate game of chicken with their audiences.  The thing is, by using the movie as a scapegoat to get rid of 3D, IMAX has ignored a potentially bigger issue that (as serious fans of 3D and movies in general) we need to be discussing: That director Denis Villeneuve doesn't want the movie to see seen in 3D.  He filmed it in 2D and always intended to be seen in 2D.  He hasn't made any statements himself, but his cinematographer Roger Deakins (whose work is pretty fantastic if you ask me) has admitted in interviews that the 3D post-conversion was a job done by the studios, and that 2D is the way to view the film.  On a discussion forum on is official website he was prodded by anxious movie goers and asked what he thought of the 3D conversion.

At first he jokingly plead the fifth, before elaborating a little bit more.  He confirmed that, yes, he WAS involved in the 3D conversion process!  He confirmed that, yes, it looks competent.  Finally, he confirmed that, no, he doesn't think too highly of 3D (and this conversion looked as good as it could knowing that its not supposed to look this way).  Now, this is where I maybe have to take some responsibility because I have been critical of IMAX for throwing 3D under the bus to explain sagging ticket sales.  I mean, it's true, but when they announced that "Blade Runner 2049" was going to be released in 2D only I got out my pitchfork and planned for a full boycott of the movie in IMAX, being unaware of the fact that both the director AND cinematographer are apparently not happy with how this 3D version turned out!

While George Miller was more than happy to convert "Mad Max: Fury Road" into 3D because of the effect it added to the movie, apparently Deakins and Villeneuve feel the 3D effect hurts "Blade Runner 2049" more than it helps.  This puts me in an interesting position because of how IMAX has sold this release.  3D fans are justifiably pissed because the company has made it sound like buying a ticket for this movie is a vote AGAINST 3D in the future!  On the other hand, we have film creators who are in the corner telling us that they would honestly prefer we see the movie in 2D.  By all accounts, that means that the IMAX release of "Blade Runner 2049" is the best way to see the movie, as it is on a larger than life screen with 26% more image to show.  Yet IMAX has positioned it where fans of 3D don't want to see the movie in the best possible way because they are afraid they will be voting against seeing "Justice League" in IMAX 3D.

Personally...I'm going to do my homework and see the film both in 3D AND in IMAX 2D!  I'll see it in IMAX first, but I will make it a point to see it again in 3D.  Should my writers block be gone by then (I don't know if you can tell, but I'm still struggling at the moment), I will report what I think of the two different visual experiences, and which format I ultimately liked better.  If you should take one thing away from this article its this: "Blade Runner 2049" in 2D was always the preferred way to view this movie, and by using the film as a political reason to scale back on 3D in the future, IMAX has likely scared away people from buying tickets to see the movie simply because they didn't communicate this with people.  In a way, by emphasizing stock over the film makers vision, they made far more enemies than they needed to.

Update: For those who want to know my final verdict on the 3D version of "Blade Runner 2049," I have written a follow-up article here!