John Campea Debates Star Wars 3D 'Scam' on YouTube Show (Is He Right or Wrong?)

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So...there was a debate about 3D on "The John Campea Show" a day or two ago (depending on when this goes up) that I just KNEW I would have to comment on for this blog!  It concerned a question sent in by a viewer who was upset that his local theater was showing the 3D version of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in coveted earlier time slots, where as his preferred choice of 2D was being shown at inconvenient times like 1:45am (I personally think he's lucky; I have the exact opposite problem).  This resulted in Campea going into one of his famous rants about how no one likes the 3D format, how it needs to die, and that no one wants to see 3D (while at the same time admitting some 15% of people do...oddly enough).  The discussion was then turned over to Robert Burnett who had some unique insights of the format (being a fan himself) and Erin Cummings, who admitted to being burned by 3D but open to learning more about the process itself.

Overall, it was a great discussion from everyone all around, and it's certainly worth talking about here.  If you want to watch the whole segment (and I strongly recommend you do) I have embedded the video below...

For those who might not have time, I'll summarize the points made by all three individuals the best I can and give my response to the points made in the order of appearance (though I also think watching the video will be faster than reading this but, eh, if you want to help me feel like my work is being appreciated... ^_^;).

John Campea

Out of the three, Campea is by far the most vocal about his hate for 3D.  This is unsurprising because he sees 3D not as a means to tell a story but as a way to gouge customers for extra money at the box office (which, to be fair, is sometimes the case).  He strongly condemns the theaters who are "forcing people" to see "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in the 3D format as people would much rather see it in 2D.  He uses a poll he set up on his Twitter account as support for his argument, as from a total of over 2,400 responses, 89% percent said they would prefer to see the film in 2D (Editor's note: As of this writing the poll has over 6,500 responses and the number of '2D preferred' shrinks slightly to 87%).  He claims that this means that theaters should only devote about 15% of their screen time to 3D movies (a fair argument, I will admit).  However they instead choose to price gouge their customers for a format they don't like, have never liked, and don't want to see.  He then goes into a huge rant about how no one likes 3D and it needs to die (and yesterday, if he had it his way).  Campea also makes some points about theaters making a bad movie experience with too many previews that I am almost 100% in agreement with, but it's not important to the topic of this blog (another reason to watch the whole video).

My Take

I love John Campea!  He's my favorite person in the world to disagree with!  While there is a good portion of the time I agree with what he has to say, when I disagree with him it is both frustrating and fun to watch someone who is so well versed in movies giving a perfectly plausible argument that I ultimately disagree with, but I can't help respect.  If we were sparring vocally with each other in the same room, he'd be my Siskel: Someone I would fight like hell with to prove wrong, but ultimately not take it so seriously we wouldn't shake hands after our sparring match and say "well done, sir!"

That out of the way...boy does he $%^# up his own argument in more ways than one this time.

First off, we have him complaining that theaters are price gouging customers on 3D and forcing them to see a version of the movie they don't want to see.  Well, as someone who DOES prefer to watch 3D (and already has his "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" IMAX 3D ticket in hand) it sometimes feels like I'm part of the small group that gets shafted all the time just because the version I want to see isn't as popular.  When I got my ticket for the movie, I had ONE show time to pick if I wanted to see it in IMAX 3D (my preferred format)!  The fact that it is at 4:15pm doesn't mean they are forcing people to see a version of the film they don't want to, it just means they are providing that 15% capacity rule to the people who want to see it as a reasonable time.  Also, as someone who DOES prefer the 3D format, it's interesting that he doesn't stand up for my desire to see the 3D version at a reasonable time (thus forcing me to see "Avengers: Endgame" in IMAX 3D at the 'ripe' time of 11:45pm...yay...).  He does admit that this isn't every theater in the world though, so I will give him that.  What about his complaint that theaters are forcing 3D on people with more prime show times though?  Well, I decided to look up the AMC Burbank 16 show times (a theater we both LOVE by the way) and...

...well, on preview night, there appears to be a lot more 2D showings than 3D showings (and there are a couple of 2D show times that are almost sold out, confirming that Campea is likely right about there being more demand for those showings).  However, what about the premium screenings?

In this case we have a rare (I want to stress that point) case in which ALL the IMAX screenings that night are in 3D!  In contrast, all the Dolby screenings are in 2D (even though they are perfectly capable of projecting some excellent 3D images).  So in this case there is a 50% choice between the two, and if you are a fan of 2D and want to see the movie on preview night and those Dolby premium screenings are sold out...well, I guess you're forced (sorry, couldn't resist) to see the film in IMAX 3D or a standard screen.  On the positive side, IMAX 3D almost never costs more money than a IMAX 2D screening (those surcharges are typically for regular screens, and when IMAX does charge more, it's usually by only $1).  Still, this is more 3D on opening night than we usually get, so does this add some credence to the complaint that theaters are forcing 3D on 'Star Wars' fans here?  What does Friday (the actual opening day) look like?

Well, well, well...it appears on opening day there is only one IMAX 3D show time.  While there ARE more 3D screenings of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" than usual, the 2D show times still easily outnumber the 3D screenings (particularly in Dolby)!  As more times are announced, I bet you those screenings will be 2D, meaning that there will be a healthy balance.  I will admit that the added amount of 3D screens might come off as "price gouging" in Campea's eyes, but seeing as that the previous 'Star Wars' films (with "Solo" being the exception) were all EXCELLENT in 3D and made those movies better on a visual level, it's difficult to determine if this is the theater 'price gouging' as he says, or whether there is simply more demand to see a movie like "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in 3D (movies with flight and water are especially helped by the 3D format).  Either way, there appears to be a good balance here and there are still FAR more 2D screenings than 3D screenings!

For Campea one IMAX 3D screening may be too much in his eyes, because despite the fact that he admits by his own poll the theaters should be serving 10%-15% of their screens with 3D, he then goes on one of his famous rants about how no one likes 3D, no one wants to see "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in 3D, and that the format needs to die already.  Um...weren't you just saying there were 10%-15% of people who LIKE 3D movies?!  Doesn't that suggest that maybe 3D shouldn't go away per se, but rather change with the specific demand (his co-host Erin has an interesting idea that we'll discuss in a minute)?  10%-15% may not sound like a lot, but to an industry that sells I don't know how many millions of tickets a year (particularly to movies like this), that's a LOT of people you are saying doesn't matter!  That's also a LOT of money being left on the table!

Sure, not having the choice for 3D at all doesn't mean people will stop going to movies, but that is still a substantial amount of people who want to pay for them none-the-less, and so the format doesn't need to die, it simply needs to evolve or change focus.  Also...I do want to throw in one more thing before we move on to Burnett.  This wasn't specifically brought up during the segment, but I want to bring it up anyway.  Campea has been commenting on the whole 'Martin Scorsese vs Marvel' situation (and has been one of the more fair commentators on the subject).  When Scorsese first made his comments about Marvel movies, he said he didn't watch them.  Sure, he tried to watch them, but they just weren't for him.  Campea (in a much more respectful tone than he gave to 3D fans) suggested that while Scorsese was a god amongst film makers, as someone who didn't watch Marvel movies, maybe he wasn't technically qualified to be making comments on them (saying they aren't cinema, they are more like amusement park rides, etc, etc).

Personally, John, I would like to humbly suggest (as someone who is not as big as you and will NEVER be watched/read as much as you) that maybe you aren't qualified to be making comments on 3D as a viable format/business?  After all, you don't watch them.  You have no idea if these movies would be helped or hurt by being in 3D.  You really don't see how good the format can and how much better it's gotten ("Alita: Battle Angel," "Gemini Man," "Mad Max: Fury Road").  For that matter...to my knowledge, you don't own a theater.  You don't know how many tickets to 3D films are sold in general.  I don't think your Twitter poll (being as limited in scope as it is) gives you the right to say 3D needs to die because no one wants it.  If that were TRULY the case, then no one would be buying tickets at all, and the theaters wouldn't show them period!  The fact that IMAX made a big deal about going '2D only' (and I've written extensively about that) yet still manages to squeak in some 3D showings suggest that there IS an audience for them!  It suggests that people DO enjoy them!

And as someone who admits to not watching them, and (again, to my knowledge) doesn't own a theater, I would like to humbly suggest you aren't qualified to be making comments about this particular subject.  On a side note, I too get to go to critic screenings sometimes, and in most cases there appear to be the choice of 3D or 2D (particularly with Marvel movies), and there have been a couple times ("Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" and "Gemini Man" come to mind) where there were people actively picking the 3D version over the 2D version, so it's not like critics who like 3D don't exist.  Personally, I think it just depends on the movie and whether or not the critic wants to see that particular one in 3D.  That's just me though.  Alright, let's move on to Robert.

Robert Burnett

Of the three, Robert Burnett is the biggest fan of 3D.  He admits to owning a 3D TV and projector (if I heard correctly) and imports many 3D films from Europe (like many of us do).  He is, however, very critical of the theatrical 3D experience and says it needs to die, but for very different reasons than Campea.  Instead of blaming the format itself as being the problem, he believes the problem is that for years it has been projected poorly by theaters who want to save money on bulbs (long story, but read up on it here).  He mentions that "Avatar" is the only theatrical 3D experience that was met with overwhelming positive reception because James Cameron demanded that theaters project it a certain way (and left instructions on how to do it).  Otherwise he claims 3D screenings are usually dim, dark, and theaters have been too slow to address the issue.

By not addressing the issue for so many years, it has burnt out too many people who will never give it another chance ("done in by our own greed" as he so excellently puts it).  He claims that home 3D is a far superior experience and prefers to wait until he can watch it at home (while he laments on the fact that 3D TV's are no longer being made).  He says the only 3D screenings he trusts now are IMAX 3D with laser projection.  Otherwise...he skips it.  The risk of a sub-par display is too great these days.  Taking all this into account, he feels there is no saving the theatrical 3D market at this point, and it's probably best to let it pass by and save it for Europe and Asia who are doing it properly.  Oddly enough, he doesn't comment on the fact that even in Campea's poll, there are 10%-15% of audiences who still see 3D.

My Take

With all due respect to Campea, Robert Burnett is my favorite member on the show.  He is incredibly smart, very insightful, and I think he does a good job at looking at the other side of issues and explaining them in a ways that is understandable to everyone (not that Campea doesn't do that as well, but...Burnett's just a little bit better at it).  I think he and Campea work great with one another and I am more than happy that he is a semi-regular on the show.  In contrast to Campea, Burnett IS a fan of 3D!  I appreciate this because it kept the conversation from being too one sided.  And yes, I actually agree with him to a certain extent.  As a 3D fan myself, I am VERY particular about where I see my 3D movies and what screens I see them on!  I prefer IMAX and now that I've seen 3D in laser their projection with "Ne Zha" I am even more sold that this is the best way to experience it.  Beyond that, Cinemark XD is a good screen.  AMC PRIME actually has consistently great 3D projection, and should always be picked over a regular 3D screen.

Dolby has great 3D, but I haven't seen them do a 3D film in a LOOOOONNNNG time (so long in fact that the last time I saw one in the format was "Inside Out" all the way back in 2015)!!!  If given a regular screen AMC is better than most.  Regal is the worst.  Don't know why, but they are.  If you are in Orange County, Starlight 4 Star Cinema does great 3D when they decide to do it at all.  I think I got off topic there for a bit...well, the point is there ARE great places to see 3D!  However, the fact that I am surrounded by almost a hundred theaters within 60 miles and limit myself to less than a dozen of them to see a 3D movie speaks volumes about the quality of most 3D screenings.  And Burnett is right when he says this problem has gone on for far too long and has ruined the perception of 3D.  I don't know if I agree with burning the whole thing to ground, but there is a LOT of work to do if it is to turn around and survive!

I personally think there is something there to save, but do theaters want to put in the effort?  I'm not sure if they do.  We know the TV market isn't interested in trying again until glasses free TV's become a reality.  But people keep asking about it, which means someone clearly loves it.  I think Burnett went a little extreme that it was too late to save the format, but he was spot on about pretty much everything else (and even with the one thing I disagree with I admit it will take a lot of work to turn around).  Finally, co-host Erin Cummings gives her two cents.  It's the briefest, but it also contains the best "ah ha" moment in the entire segment.

Erin Cummings

Oh the three, Erin Cummings is the most indifferent.  She claims to have been burnt by bad 3D screenings one too many times to want to give it a serious go again.  After hearing about Robert's complaints she does wonder out loud if a movie theater that is designed specifically for the niche market of 3D would be better (because they would - in theory - optimize ALL their showings to be the best).  She ends with comments about how she doesn't need things flying around her all the time (the joke too graphic to reprint here), but does admit that she enjoys the five minute rides at Disneyland (she just doesn't want that for two hours).

My Take

From the perspective as a casual viewer, I hear comments like Erin's a LOT!  Been burnt too many times, 3D tickets cost too much money, fine for theme parks but not more than that, all the usual bullet points.  Funny enough though, she makes the best suggestion about having 3D exclusive theaters whose reputation on great 3D makes a lot of sense in more ways than one.  If there was a theater house that specialized in quality 3D and didn't cost much more than a regular ticket, you would be killing two birds with one stone.  First of all, a 3D dedicated theater would be where that small but dedicated 3D crowd could go and see their movies, freeing up the average theater to not have 3D showings at all.  Since they would be 3D only, they would make sure that their screenings would be of the highest quality, meaning people would be walking away with mostly good experiences (and likely to recommend it to their friends).

So these theaters would be filling a niche, freeing up the AMC and Regal theaters to not have to deal with the format in the near future, AND the reputation of 3D could slowly be built up again!  Sounds like a win-win situation all around! Now, who would run these theaters?  I don't know.  It's a thought experiment right now, so give me a break!  All joking aside, she does admit she liked "Avatar" and some of the theme park attractions.  I think those comments backs up Burnett's points because that movie and those attractions WERE properly projected for the best possible experience!  Most movies are not, which is one of the major problems with 3D today.  Whether she realized it or not, she made a strong case for keeping 3D, but doing it right by the audiences.  Also, she made a comment at one point she needed to read up more on how 3D works.  Well...I may not have the most technical blog (and without an editor the occasional spelling error occurs), but I can point in her the right direction if she wants to see some great 3D experiences and movies (shameless plug, I know).

In Conclusion

Phew...THAT was a lot to unpack, right?!  I have to say, it was a VERY interesting 14 minutes!  I obviously sided with Burnett the most, but Campea and Cummings made great points as well.  It was a big reminder of why I love this show so much!  Either way, these are my thoughts on what was said.  Why do all of you think?  Is there a viewpoint you agree with more than the others?  Leave your comments below and keep an eye on this space for more 3D commentary!  Also, whatever format you see "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in, hopefully it is a good movie that we all can enjoy!  And live long and prosper.  Oh, wait, that's the OTHER sci-fi series people gripe about online.  Um...may the force be with you, always!

Yeah...nailed it! ^_^;


Should You See "Gemini Man" in 3D+ (And Why Isn't IMAX Projecting it for Most of their Theaters)?

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Despite being VERY bad at updating this blog recently, I still get e-mails from readers asking me to comment on 3D news in the world (despite the fact there isn't much to discuss sometimes)!  My thanks to all of you who are still here and still send me news tips.  As you know, I do more YouTube then blogging these days, but I do like to dust off the keyboard once in awhile and type out some thoughts, and this topic seemed like the perfect one to do with: Why isn't IMAX showing "Gemini Man" in 3D+ in most of their theaters?  And what is 3D+ anyway?  And is it worth seeing even if the reviews have been pretty bad?  Well, let's answer these almost completely out of order by starting with the question of...

What is 3D+ HFR?

3D+ HFR is a marketing term coined to describe a movie that was filmed in 3D, in High Frame Rate.  Movies are typically filmed in 24 fps.  That means that for every second you are watching a movie, there are 24 frames being displayed in that second to give the illusion of movement.  When you film with more frame rates, usually it isn't talked about much.  Many movies are shown in 30 frames per second (particularly animated films), but to go much higher creates a different, how should we say...look to a movie.  It can be quite jarring if you aren't used to see HFR (which most people aren't).  The HFR is not commonly used by most film makers (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Christopher Nolan all prefer to film in 24 fps), however we have been seeing more and more film makers give it a shot.

Peter Jackson famously filmed 'The Hobbit Trilogy' in 3D with 48 fps, giving the film a look that was a lot smoother and moved a bit more like real life.  I personally didn't like it much.  I felt those movies didn't look very much like movies so much as they looked like home videos, and the disconnect between the special effects and actors were pretty clear watching it in that format.  That said, the 3D had noticeably less strain on the eyes and many people who typically get headaches from 3D (like my aunt) commented how pleasant the overall experience was, so there were pros.  60 fps have also been a God send for video games, so just because it didn't work once didn't mean it wasn't worth trying again.

Enter Ang Lee

This is the part of the blog post where we take a side story by discussing our director, Ang Lee, one of the most acclaimed film makers of our time.  He has directed multiple movies include the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."  He has personally won two Best Director Oscars for the films "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi" (neither of which won Best Picture if you can believe it).  Although he has directed some underwhelming films, Lee is a great director who likes to challenge not only the audience, but himself as a film maker.  His "Hulk" movie may not have been well loved by many, but if you rewatch it again and pay attention to the style, the visuals, and the angle of which the film was conceived to be about, you'll find an auteur challenging the status quo on what a super hero film is, even if the end results aren't entirely successful.

After filming "Life of Pi," Lee was so impressed with the what the 3D brought to the film that he decided to make most of his future films in the format.  His follow-up project was "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk..."

...an Iraq war drama that didn't seem like it would make for a compelling 3D experience, but is actually one of the best uses of the 3D format I've seen.  Lee wanted to take 3D to a new level though and bring the frame rate not up to 30, not 48, not even 60, but a whopping 120fps.  When you think  of what I just described and that new number, you are talking about frame rate overload.  It was so ambitious, only two theaters in America were able to show it, and that was after extensive renovations to the theaters themselves.  It seemed to be a waste when the film was barely marketed in one of the worst releases I had ever seen, but the few people who HAD seen the 120 fps version were intrigued by what the future could bring!  Ultimately, maybe it was just the wrong type of movie to be going all experimental on.

'Billy Lynn' was never going to draw a lot of people to the theater.  It was not a movie that was going to specifically sell 3D tickets when "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" was also playing.  Most theaters near me were only showing the film once a day.  Usually at 10:00pm at night (without 3D).  The reviews were lukewarm.  It was a movie that probably should have been made for $10-$20 million, but because of the expensive 3D and experimental frame rate, ended up costing $40 million to produce (though, from what my Hollywood friends tell me, Lee should be lucky that's ALL it cost).  Either way, the film was a bomb, raking in just over $30 worldwide.  Still, the format showed promise, and Lee still wanted to experiment with making great 3D movies a little bit more, so he would need another movie to make.

His last film had bombed, but not so much that another studio wouldn't take a chance on him.  He would need something a little more profitable though.  Preferably with an actor who can be a draw.  An action movie would be ideal because it would justify the expensive use of 3D cameras and HFR he wanted to film with.  That's when Jerry Bruckheimer - a well known producer of blockbusters - came to Lee with "Gemini Man," a script that had been in development hell for some 20 years.  Bruckheimer wanted it to be made, envisioned it as a great 3D vehicle for Smith, which would also test groundbreaking 'de-aging' special effects that would give Lee a lot to experiment with as a director, and stretch Smith as an actor.  Regardless how the movie turned out (apparently not that good) it made sense.  Lee finally had his mainstream movie to give his new experiment (which is now officially dubbed 3D+) a second chance with a MUCH wider release!

Why isn't IMAX showing the 3D+ HFR version in most of their theaters?

I hate having to bring this up every time, but I want to be transparent for new readers: I am an investor in IMAX Corporation.  It's more of what I like to call a 'vanity stock' than anything, but I still have a vested interest in the company doing well.  That said, long time readers of my site know that I have been openly critical of their choice to not screen many movies in 3D (even when the 3D version is CLEARLY better than the 2D version).  With that out of the way, what is my opinion of IMAX's decision to screen "Gemini Man" mostly in the 2D format?  While there are a FEW places that will have the film in 3D+, the vast majority will be in 2D, which seems to run counter to what Lee envisioned when he made this film!  Truthfully, while I am frustrated that this is the direction they are going, I'm going to cut them some slack because they might not have much of a choice in the matter.

See, projecting a movie in 3D+ isn't as simple as flicking a switch.  It requires a special projector, a certain type of lens, and in some cases seats have to be removed because sitting too close will cause the image to be ugly.  Looking through the list of IMAX's in my area I noticed a reoccurring theme: Theaters that have laser projection in their IMAX's had the film in 3D.  Those that didn't were showing it in 2D.  Recently, me and my wife (yes, it HAS been awhile since I've posted) went to see a Chinese film in IMAX 3D called "Ne Zha," which was only showing at an IMAX with laser projection.  It was one of the smoothest and cleanest 3D presentations I had ever seen.  The fact that it was only at this IMAX probably spoke volumes about how difficult this new type of 3D is to project.  The Irvine Spectrum IMAX is being closed for a few months for renovations.

"Alita: Battle Angel" was shown exclusively in IMAX 3D, so the company is ok with skipping a 2D release if the visuals justify it.  "Gemini Man" would clearly benefit from being in 3D, but what if the theater can't project the 120 fps?  Does a 24 fps 3D version of this movie even exist?  I'm starting to think no.  I do believe that laser projection is IMAX's future.  It presents a cleaner image, it makes the 3D better, and slowly but surely the IMAX's in my area are being closed to get the upgrades (some are also changing out the seats while they're at it, which is another topic for another day since while it does result in more comfortable seats it also results in a 40% average reduction of capacity).  I think this is a case where IMAX clearly believes the 3D+ version is THE way to see it, or else they wouldn't advertise it as such, but...well, most of their theaters can't show it, so they have to go with the 2D version!  In that case, I'd probably just show "Joker" for a second week in a row, but that's just me.  This is all fine and dandy, but...

Should I see "Gemini Man" in 3D+ if the movies sucks?

Honestly, that one's up to you.  I've found that trying out a new experience is usually enough of a reason to get me to see a movie I otherwise would have no interest in seeing ("Suicide Squad" in 4DX for example), but I know tickets aren't cheap.  That said, if you have an AMC Stubs A-List subscription, maybe one of your local AMC's will have a 3D+ version playing (even if it's not in IMAX).  Considering that's pretty much a free ticket anyway, there is little reason to not give it a chance other than you don't have time to.  If money is on the line I leave that one up to you.  I'm seeing it in IMAX 3D+ tonight, so I'll let you know what I think about it either in a VLOG or with another blog post.  For those who are uninterested in "Gemini Man" altogether, "The Adams Family" is also opening, which has a select number of 3D screenings as well (and - so far - has slightly better reviews overall).


Should You See "Aladdin" in RealD 3D or IMAX 2D

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We need to get the obvious out of the way first: Disney's "Aladdin" IS showing in IMAX 3D in some cities!  We need to state this upfront because for the sake of this argument, that would normally be in play for this discussion.  The problem is that IMAX is being really stingy with how many 3D screenings of the film they provide.  Most theaters only have one showing and that one showing is typically early in the day, long before most people get out of work and school on the weekdays.  Since the weekend and Memorial Day has passed, there is virtually no guarantee of hard working Americans being available to see this screening (and there is an even greater chance the 3D screenings will be dropped altogether for the second week).  For all intents and purposes, the IMAX 3D version is effectively off the table for anyone who doesn't want to call out sick sometime this week.  That means we must look critically to see if the 3D effects in "Aladdin" are worth giving up giant screen experience.

For what it's worth, I don't think "Aladdin" is a movie worth seeing in the first place.  I wrote a review on it, but the long and short of it is that this is a movie that is a pale imitation of the original, doesn't add anything truly great to what was already there, and that you will have an equal (and outright better experience) if you stayed home and rewatched your BluRay of the original.  Let's say you do want to subject yourself to Will Smith's blue Genie though (who - in all fairness - was the best thing about this remake), it's good to know that while the movie wasn't filmed in 3D, director Guy Ritchie was aware it was going to be projected in 3D.  Therefor there are MANY shots that take advantage of the third dimension!  The opening shot alone makes a strong case for seeing the film in 3D, as the camera pans over the water, the credits turn to dust, and the scene ends with the viewer going in and through the citizens of Agrabah.  For some time after the movie doesn't make much use of 3D until we get to the "Friend Like Me" musical number (the other highlight of this film), in which 3D highlights the sheer insanity of the sequence much better than 2D does.

Ironically, this is where the 3D starts to cool a bit.  The "Prince Ali" number is rather flat in how musical numbers should be, so there's not much of a draw there (although the ostriches and confetti coming at the audience was sort of cool).  You would think "A Whole New World" would benefit from 3D (since the characters are flying on a magic carpet and all that), but the scene is oddly still and quiet, so the effects aren't put to much use.  I'm sorry to say this version of the movie does NOT have a sequence where Aladdin fights a giant snake, but Jafar still turns into a red genie, so that's kind of neat!  Otherwise, the movie is fairly pedestrian.  Ritchie does include some slow motion shots that highlight the 3D aspects, however those sequences are fairly brief and few and far between.  So what do I ultimately think?  Well, if IMAX 3D IS an option (and you insist on seeing this movie) I would go with that!  If it's not, the ideal middle ground might be Cinemark XD 3D or AMC Prime 3D.  They aren't as big as IMAX screens, but they are of pretty decent size, so it would be a suitable compromise.

If you have to choose between the two, I would lean towards the 3D version, but only slightly (and not enough to recommend you go out of your way to a theater that isn't close by).  In the case of "Aladdin" there is a lot of reason to recommend the 3D version, but not enough to completely shun the IMAX release.  This is one of those experiences that toe the line on whether or not the 3D is integral to the movie.  On that level it probably isn't, however the few scenes where it is used cleverly is enough to give it the edge that the 3D version is likely the one you'll want to see.


James Cameron Finds Perfect Way to Release "Alita: Battle Angle" on BluRay 3D

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It can't be easy for fans of "Alita: Battle Angle" right now.  On one hand, the movie fared much better at the box office than many were expecting it to.  Instead of outright flopping, the movie more or less broke even, paving the way for a potential sequel to move forward.  On the other hand, this happened during the Disney/Fox buyout, which means it won't be up to Fox to greenlight another sequel, but Disney, a company who has more than enough billion dollar franchises, and might not be interested in trying to nurture one that they didn't personally have a hand in.  What was equally stressful for fans was the MIA BluRay release, which (by many accounts) should have been out now.  We were in a situation where we were wondering if we would get the movie on disk at all, much less the 3D version that James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez had carefully crafted (which resulted in a spike in 3D ticket sales for the first time in years).  After all, if Disney seemed apathetic to a sequel to 'Alita' we KNEW they were apathetic to releasing a BluRay 3D of the film.  BluRay 3D's is a market Disney has pretty much gotten out of both in the states AND internationally (with the exception of the Marvel and Star Wars movies)!

So imagine my surprise and delight when we not only got a date for 'Alita' on BluRay, but that we found out the 3D version WOULD be getting released as well!  What's more, it looks like it will be in every store across the nation for as long as need be, because the disk is being bundled with the 4K UltraHD bundle, which means supplies will be plentiful!

Now, the funny thing is, this isn't the first time this has happened.  Early into the UltraHD lifespan, Sony was particularly aggressive about bundling 3D disks with 4K copies at stores.  Sony was still making 3D TV's and wanted to keep the momentum alive.  It made more sense because the UltraHD bundles were for hardcore film fans who were willing to pay a premium for the best versions of the movie available.  Eventually Sony and other companies dropped this, and to this day the few companies that still make 3D disks have opted to make limited quantity BluRay 3D bundles rather than put the 3D disk in the UltraHD package, which would make more sense it would be a product that caters to two niche markets for a minimal extra cost.  Chances are 'Alita' was a compromise as both Cameron and Rodriguez have stressed that the 3D version is THE way to see the movie, and likely demanded such a release in their contracts!  As a compromise, Disney is putting the disk in the UltraHD bundle.  The funny thing is, this is how they should be doing this for ALL movies!  Sure, it would only add a few hundred thousand extra sales, but since Warner Bros. and Paramount are still doing this, it is clearly a profitable practice.

By bundling the movies this way they can make both versions available to everyone who wants them, it provides more value for the dollar, and it makes the film makers happy.  Heck, when you look at the cover the 3D version is highlighted as the main selling point, so Cameron is VERY well aware of who's REALLY going to be buying this disk!  While it is sad this isn't a normal practice for all studios, we are at a point where I'm happy that it is happening at all.  Also, it's nice that IMAX is setting aside a few showtimes each week to show "Aladdin" in IMAX 3D, so the fact that companies are doing anything with 3D shows that it still is a profitable format.  Either way, I'm going to be buying a couple copies of this movie: One for me and one as a gift.  I want to support this release financially, and I would love to see a sequel, so buying this set supports both.  It's something I highly recommend everyone do if they love this (surprisingly fun) little $180 million dollar blockbuster.


"Avengers: Endgame" WILL Be in IMAX 3D (But You Have to Find it)


There has been good reason to worry that "Avengers: Endgame" wouldn't be screened in IMAX 3D.  Despite the format having to VERY big 3D successes with "Aquaman" and "Alita: Battle Angel," the company opted not to show "Captain Marvel," "Dumbo," the upcoming "Shazam," or (worst of all) "How to Train Your Dragon 3" in 3D.  Despite the fact that all movies had 3D trailers that looked awesome playing in their theaters, all of them went out 2D only (except in maybe a FEW locations I am not aware of).  It's been so bad that I - one of the biggest IMAX fans to the point that I own stock in the company - haven't been going to see many of these movies in IMAX at all.  I was afraid that I would have to choose once again between seeing the movie on a standard 3D screen over a really big 3D screen.  That would have been a shame because "Avengers: Endgame" was filmed 100% with IMAX cameras, and as such the footage looks best on a true IMAX screen.

Thankfully, we have a good news/bad news situation.  Tickets for "Avengers: Endgame" have gone on sale today, and the good news is there ARE IMAX 3D screenings available!  The bad news...

...if that most theaters are only showing once a day.  The worse news is that they are usually during times that will be inconvenient for most viewers.  11:00am and 10:30pm might work for someone like me (who basically makes his own schedule), but for everyone else that might be more difficult.  Also concerning is the fact that there is no certainty that these showings extend beyond the first week.  Which means unless you see it during the first week (which might be difficult considering how popular the movie is certain to be), you might not see it at all.  It's a far from ideal situation, but we are at the point where 'some screenings' are better than 'no screenings.'  I don't know why IMAX is playing this game.  A movie like "Avengers: Endgame" is certainly popular enough that screenings would be sold out regardless of the format, so why not show the version that is better suited for the film (and brings in more money for the theater)?

I can't answer that one for you, but at least I can report that screenings will be available, and that I guess I'm going to go buy my tickets later.  It's not a movie that I would normally rush to see on the opening weekend, but I REALLY want to see this in IMAX 3D, and I'm afraid I won't have the chance if I miss the opening weekend!


"Alita: Battle Angel" Delivers a Holiday Miracle: A Genuine 3D Hit

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"Alita: Battle Angle" is (if nothing else) something that the cinema world hasn't really seen in a few years: a genuine 3D success story.  Yeah, the movie itself could have done better on opening weekend.  And yeah, it may struggle to make enough money to justify its existence (never mind justify a sequel).  The one thing that is not in dispute is that the film is a strong 3D success story, and shows that when done right, audiences WILL turn out to see it!  IMAX was pretty much forced by producer James Cameron to show the film in 3D.  While they may have done that begrudgingly, it resulted in them capturing 15% of the overall ticket sales.  For that matter, in regards to regular screenings, it has been reported that 3D showings accounted for up to 66% of tickets sold.

It was so crazy that when I went to buy tickets to see it again, one of the 3D screenings was sold out on a Tuesday.  This hasn't happened in so long I had to laugh.  I have a friend of mine who I debate the merits of 3D (and really anything) in film with frequently, and he always jokes "well, maybe James Cameron will be back to save 3D again?"  Now, he has said this in a joking manner, and he was probably referring to future 'Avatar' movie, but now we have "Alita: Battle Angel" tearing up the 3D world, and while Cameron didn't direct the film ("3D God No. 4" Robert Rodriguez did), with his name on it, it appears he's blazing the trail once again.  Its starting to make me wonder how many times this man has to show Hollywood that 3D isn't dead.  That if you make the right movie and use the format correctly, not only will people love it (and despite how the critics feel, there's no doubt most audience members fell over themselves), but they will GLADLY pay extra to see it!

I'm wondering how many people were regretting not picking up a 3D TV after seeing this.  Clearly this would have been something worth having at home, right?  Heck, this might even suggest that if you make the 3D seem like an event in the marketing, it will pay off if you actually deliver that experience.  I'm not certain what the future of "Alita: Battle Angle" is.  I'm not sure if word-of-mouth will be able to make this successful enough to justify a sequel.  Even if it does, I'm not sure Disney would be interested in one (they will likely own Fox by then).  However it has shown that 3D is not dead as many proclaim, and it is successful enough that many IMAX screens will be skipping out on "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" in favor of keeping this another week.  Speaking of which...I have some things to say about the release of THAT film later this week!


"They Shall Not Grow Old" Expands on Super Bowl Weekend

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Many of you will be watching the Super Bowl today.  I will not.  With all due respect to most of the country, I have never been much of a sports fan in general, and football fans largely take their game so seriously that the entire event is something I can only step back from and scoff at.  All of the "we won" or "we're going to be the best" as if they are actually doing anything to help the team win is silly to me.  I am more interested in seeing if Maroon 5 performs a SpongeBob SquarePants song during the half time show more than I am who wins the game.  However, I WILL be enjoying seeing Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" in 3D for the first time!  The movie has had three sold out Fathom Events screenings (none of which I had time to see), and despite not getting an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary at the 91st Annual Academy Awards, the fact that it did sell out and has Peter Jackson as a director probably gave the studio a lot of confidence in attracting those who don't partake in the ritual of the 'Big Game' to their screenings.

What's more, the vast majority of the showings will be in 3D and it is being advertised as something you need to see in that format.

Is the movie going to crack the top ten at the box office?  I doubt it.  Even though it premiered at the number nine spot on Friday, it IS a documentary at the end of the day!  One that is based off World War I (a time period that is usually overlooked by the more popular World War II subject).  Also, it has received criticism from critics (myself included I admit) that colorizing the footage and making it 3D actually tampers with history.  I can understand why they would think that.  My last two BluRay's of "It's a Wonderful Life" have color versions available, and despite hearing that they are excellent, I wouldn't dare watch them.  The film is perfect as is and no tinkering is needed as far as I'm concerned.  Granted, that version pretty much exists so that NBC can air it every year and not get letters about why they are showing something in black and white.  While I need to see what Peter Jackson has done with his movie, I believe he is trying to bring interest to a topic that is largely undiscussed by the general public, and he is trying to do so in a way that will catch people's attention (in all fairness, it seems to be working).

People are actually talking about this one and most people I know are planning to spend an extra few bucks for the 3D screening.  That is an admission I have not heard from some of my friends in a long time.  Well, unless they were seeing the movie with me, in which case they more or less had to see the 3D version (ask the group of people who ended up shelling out extra money for the "Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse" IMAX 3D screening even though I was the only one who cared to see it in that format in the first place).  So even if it isn't a huge box office hit, it is very nice to know that Peter Jackson is still creating art with 3D, and is even making a point to get the public interested in a 3D movie during a weekend where most will be watching TV with colors painted on their face and spilling nachos on the ground when 'their team' makes a stupid mistake that they obviously shouldn't have.  And he's pulling it off with a documentary on World War I.  That is a certain kind of marketing genius I could not have predicted going into the weekend, and "They Shall Not Grow Old" should not be overlooked for that.


Eight 3D Films Nominated for 2019 Oscars

Yesterday the Academy of Motion Pictures Sciences reveled their nominations for the 91st Annual Academy Awards.  In total, eight 3D films were nominated (mostly in the Best Animated Feature category).  They are as follows:

Avengers: Infinity Way
Black Panther
Incredibles II
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ready Player One
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Solo: A Star Wars Story

It should be noted that "Black Panther" actually made it into the Best Picture category.  The Academy has consistently nominated strong 3D films without actually acknowledging the 3D itself (there is still no Best 3D Oscar...though we could still imagine what that would look like), and many people may be looking at this list and wonder if that's changing.  To my knowledge this is the lowest amount of 3D films to be nominated in five years, so it would be easy to think that Hollywood is cooling on the format altogether.  I would argue that what more than likely happened is that there were simply few visually strong films up for Best Picture (the most visual ones being "Black Panther," "Roma," and "The Favorite," and two of those films have strong visuals mainly because of the ascetics and costumes).

3D movies that get nominated for Oscars are usually big budget blockbusters these days, which is the kind of movie the Academy normally doesn't faun over.  For that matter, the days of film makers like Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, and Werner Herzog using 3D for more experimental purposes seems to have cooled for the time being.  Also, despite being renewed for a long term deal with RealD, 3D showtimes are on the decline, and studios might not want to throw too much money into a format that might have a limited appeal (for the time being).  So really, the lack of 3D films getting too many nominations isn't too surprising.  But as we enter 2019, there are still some positive things to take away from today.  First of all, 3D is still a huge part of film, and, as such, is still getting nominated.

For that matter, "Black Panther" is the first 3D film to crack the Best Picture category since "Mad Max: Fury Road" from a few years ago.  Also, it should be noted that while it wasn't nominated, Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" was a fascinating World War I documentary where the film maker took old video footage, colored it, converted it to 3D, and then released it to sold out showings for several special engagements.  I have conflicting feelings about altering old footage that way, but the fact that a documentary was sold as a '3D event' film and actually made a good amount of money in that limited release shows that the format still has life in it.  For that matter, "Alita: Battle Angel" is being heavily advertised as a "3D event" in the previews, so the format is still being played up when the studios feel it can make money.

And yes, one year a 3D film will win Best Picture.  It might not happen this year (I think "Roma" is going to be the big winner), but it will happen, and possibly sooner than we expect.  In the meantime, I will continue to update this blog, write about the format here and there, and see every 3D film in theaters that I can!  Also, I guess I'll be buying "The Grinch" in BluRay 3D next week, because...who the heck thought that Universal would dip back into the format with that movie of all things?!