By Wayne Harada
Things are looking way up for 3-D flicks, so anticipate a torrent of in-your-face features.
Today’s opening of Disney Pixar’s “Up,” available in both 3-D and 2-D versions, figuratively and literally characterizes the landscape: Extra-dimension movies are going to be popping up, up and up ... in the months and years ahead. Some 3-D pics will also get IMAX enhancement.
On the horizon this year: “Toy Story 3-D,” “Avatar,” “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland,” “A Christmas Carol.”
Coming up in 2010 and beyond: “Shrek Forever After” (previously, “ShrekGoes Fourth”), “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Cars 2,” “Beauty and the Beast 3-D.” Though timetables are uncertain, George Lucas hopes to relaunch his “Star Wars” in 3-D; other franchises are contemplating a 3-D reboot, like a "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" and even a contemplatd "TRON 3-D."
But experiencing and watching 3-D comes with an added price.
You have to shell out extra for the use of the glasses, updated to plastic and durable like sunglasses, unlike the red-and-blue cello lenses framed in cardboard frames of yesteryear.
The extra charge has become an issue with exhibitors (the theaters) and the producers (the movie companies), with one expecting the other to shoulder the burden.
And guess who's still paying. You and me.
That tack-on charge reflects a fee of about $3.50 for 3-D, which is added to the usual charge to see “Up” with the extra dimension. This means $13.50 for 3-D vs. $10 (for 2-D) for adult admission, $10.50 ($7 2-D) for kids, $10.25 ($6.75 2-D) for seniors, though rates vary at different screenings.
If 3-D is to become a film staple, standardization of the format — including the glasses required to view the pop-out film effects — would benefit consumers.
Here's what I think. Fans could invest in glasses, the way we buy your own golf clubs to tee off , use our own ball at bowling, or swing our own racket to play tennis, and charge rentals only for those who don’t have the specs. I think the toothbrush principle works here: you buy, you bring, you brush.
Right now, the glasses are reused — presumably cleaned and/or wiped for recycling — and that would necessitate the extra charge for maintenance and upkeep.
So, if you could buy and bring your own pair of glasses (I’d pay up to $10 to own my specs), you’d potentially make up this cost if you see three or four 3-D films this year.
Color-frames could easily identify the viewer-owned purchases (say, red), with rentals a different color (say, blue). Still different hues could be utilized to further ID children rentals (green) and senior rentals (gray).
Movies should learn from theme parks: Don’t charge extra for 3-D glasses. When you see the “Shrek” attraction at Universal Studios or the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” at Disney theme parks, there's no add-on tariff. That's the way it should be.
Clearly, folks like 3-D films, if Disney’s recent “Monsters vs. Aliens” is a barometer. It has logged $191 million-plus since its initial release, good for a No. 7 ranking last week of Top 10 film grosses.
And DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg expects between 12 to 18 3-D feature films by 2010, according to Variety, the show biz bible. Like it or hate it, 3-D is here to stay. Nationally, at least 5,000 systems will be able to accommodate the extra dimension motif this year.
But please. Movie theaters should avoid the airlines-style and rampant add-on charges. They get us on the cost of popcorn, hotdogs and soda already, right?
While some future 3-D films will be new, like “Cars 2,” “Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie” and “Rapunzel,” filmmakers also will be looking back to beloved classics to upgrade and re-introduce hot titles — such as “Beauty and the Beast ” and even “Star Wars.” Think about it: You might have seen the original, but a whole new generation of viewers evolves every five to 10 years.
The “Superman” relaunch two years ago had limited 3-D elements, as did Robert Zemeckis’ “The Polar Express” in 2004, and familiar titles with built-audience appeal could legitimately be retrofitted with 3-D.
So what old titles merit the 3-D reboot? I’d list the “Spiderman” franchise, the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, perhaps even the blockbuster “Titanic” ... and part of the “Batman” series.
So what oldies would you want to see in 3-D? And how do you feel about buying your own goggles to ogle the visual effects to avoid extra-payment overload?