Hollywood Seized by 3D Mania

Success of “Avatar” is giving everyone the three-dimensional fever. Glasses recommended.

Even as moguls shut down their Christmas lights in Bel-Air to head out to the yacht in St. Bart’s, a fever known as 3D is gripping Hollywood.

The nationwide thumbs-up over “Avatar” — which just two weeks ago had the town on edge — is now creating thumb-whiplash from insiders hitting the Blackberry with newfound 3D zeal. 

Director Ridley Scott is breathing down the neck of executives at Universal to get them to approve making a 3D version of his new $200 million epic, “Robin Hood,” according to one person close to the project.   

A deal is in the works with Studio Canal, which owns the rights to “Terminator 2,” to fast-track making the 3D version.

Naturally, George Lucas is exploring a 3D version of “Star Wars.”

And one can only imagine what Steven Spielberg — whose reported comment that "Avatar" was the best film he’d ever seen has been repeated to me by no fewer than four awestruck colleagues — has planned for “Jurassic Park.”

Even directors who are not known for fancy, high-tech special effects are jumping on the bandwagon. Johnny Knoxville and producer Spike Jonze will be shooting the "Jackass" sequel in 3D. It will shoot in January and be called “Jackass 3D.”

“We’re going to take the same 3D technology James Cameron used in ‘Avatar’ and stick it up Steve O’s butt,” Knoxville said in a typically classy news release from MTV and Paramount. "We’re taking stupid to a whole new dimension.”

Sony’s sequel to its sleeper hit "Zombieland" is also now going to be done in 3D.

“The movies have to make sense in 3D,” the film’s producer Gavin Polone told TheWrap. “Zombieland makes a lot of sense — it’s an action movie, there’s stuff coming at camera. We’ll write to it. You don’t want to make a heavy drama that way.”

But don’t count the heavy dramas out. I don’t personally feel a need to be inside the “Brokeback Mountain” tent, for example. But there is reason to fear that this technology will be overused. And the economics have to make sense.

First is that there are low-cost technologies that now make it possible to turn older movies into 3D versions.

Polone warned against this.

“You wouldn’t want to remake ‘Star Wars,’ or ‘Close Encounters.’ just because you can do it in 3D. it’s bad. Then you’re just back into terrible remakes of good movies.

“If you take a classic movie that’s fantastic, what you’re up against is people will just say you blew it. “

Wise words that will probably be ignored.

And for major productions, creating a 3D version is not necessarily a prohibitive cost.

One knowledgeable executive told me that it would cost only an additional $7 to $8 million to create a 3D version of “Robin Hood.” The question is — what will that add to the box-office total?

In the short attention span of Hollywood, those numbers are now dancing with sugar plums.

With "Avatar" winning raves from critics (at one point it hit 100 percent on RottenTomatoes), average viewers and even the most hard-bitten moguls (from David Geffen: “a complete gamechanger”) now — faster than you can say "man the lifeboats!" — everyone is on board.

  • melee

    In what world is this movie 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. As of December 23rd, one day after this article was published, Avatar's rating is 84%.

  • melee

    In what world is this movie 100% on Rotten Tomatoes? As of December 23rd, one day after this article was published, Avatar's rating is 84%.

  • Matt

    You'd think with the increased ticket price of 3D people won't shell it out for just any movie … Avatar has been at 94% for a few days

  • Sharon Waxman

    melee, you're right. i've added the words ‘at one point 100%,” since in the first few days it was.

  • EJAce

    I disagree with Polone. Especially in the action genre (perhaps not so much with adult-themed dramas, although imagine the lines for BASIC INSTINCT IN 3D!), going 3D for some of the classic and pseudo-classic films in the genre is a no-brainer. And if it's true that the technology (Cameron's and otherwise) makes it easy and relatively inexpensive ($7-8 mil? That's it?) to tri-dimensionalize a completed film, please believe the fanboys, nostalgics, and curiosity-seekers would be there.

    With the original filmmakers themselves “desecrating” sacred cows like STAR WARS and BLADE RUNNER with theatrical re-issues and minor updates, as well as Criterion packaged DVDs on steroids, why the hell not go 3D?? THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in 3D? Put me IN the asteroid field!

  • New York Noir

    Not trying to change the subject, just wanna make sure the discourse is retaining some integrity Sharon. Was the “Brokeback” comment really necessary to get your point across? I know homosexuality (and thinly veiled homophobia) is an easy/base punchline for a lot of people but…come on.

  • Trent

    “At one point” movies like “Revenge of the Sith” were at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, so that's not saying much. It's at 84% and holding. Maybe you're confusing this with Flixster, where it's at 92% with actual moviegoers? (Which is a surer sign than critics.)

    But, come on — Hollywood is about copy-catting, not taking the bold, daring initiative to do something new. Think about it, the very existence of “Avatar” means that Cameron was prescient and visionary enough to bet the farm on 3-D when Hollywood hadn't even figured it out yet. Now everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.

    So, Hollywood types are now saying “Me too” and spending their precious time at Aspen on the Blackberry so they can greenlight crappy movies that will just be crappy in three dimensions now? This is why these folks get paid so much? People have very, very short memories, don't they? 3-D was having a similar resurgence back around 1983/1984, with theater chains expressly building 3-D-capable theaters. The fad is nothing new, and neither is the fact that lousy movies will kill 3-D faster than anything. But, then, the only thing worse than Hollywood's memory is its forgetfulness. Um, anyone remember that, like, four weeks ago “A Christmas Story” and “X-Games” were 3-D duds?

  • Mr. Sense

    3D is the Emperor's new clothes… for the third or fourth time already. Nobody will see a bad movie because it's in 3D and nobody will see a good movie in 3D that they weren't already going to see. But plenty of people will avoid a movie they're on the fence about if it's in 3D because most people I know… are annoyed by it. Hollywood needs to forget it. Make good movies. Screw 3D.

  • MrGoharth

    The new 3D is a “horse of a different color”. The digital technology has FINALLY brought 3D into the realm of viability. I have been waiting forty years to have my Viewmaster allow me to crawl inside AND come to life. The reason for all of the excitement is that the “new” 3D is simply DEPTH. First movies got sound, then they got color, now they are getting realistic depth. Just as with sound and color – it took directors (artists) some time to get used to working with the “medium”. Cameron is just the first talented upstart to forge a path into the new frontier.

    My company sells, services, and supports digital cinema and 3D equipment, and it is more than obvious to me – our company has installed over 70 systems – that digital and 3D are not only here to stay, but it won't be long before 3D movies are simply called “movies” and 2D titles are called “flatties”.

    Not only the public and the studios are behind this movement. Watch carefully, the home market – 3DTV, 3D gaming/computing, even mobile 3D. Ask people around you who are “in the know”.

    If you don't believe me, then Google it.

    This is no hype. It's the real thing.

    Jim

  • MrGoharth

    The new 3D is a “horse of a different color”. The digital technology has FINALLY brought 3D into the realm of viability. I have been waiting forty years to have my Viewmaster allow me to crawl inside AND come to life. The reason for all of the excitement is that the “new” 3D is simply DEPTH. First movies got sound, then they got color, now they are getting realistic depth. Just as with sound and color – it took directors (artists) some time to get used to working with the “medium”. Cameron is just the first talented pioneer to forge a path into the new frontier. The first “talkies” and the first color features were just a bit “cheesy” because the artists (directors) were adjusting to new media.

    My company sells, services, and supports digital cinema and 3D equipment, and it is more than obvious to me – our company has installed over 70 systems – that digital and 3D are not only here to stay, but it won't be long before 3D movies are simply called “movies” and 2D titles are called “flatties”.

    Not only the public and the studios are behind this movement. Watch carefully, the home market – 3DTV, 3D gaming/computing, even mobile 3D. Ask people around you who are “in the know”, or spend a few minutes with a good search engine and half a brain.

    If you don't believe me, then Google it.

    This is no hype. It's the real thing.

    Jim

  • Debra Kaufman

    The real push to 3D will be in homes, not movie theaters in 2010. With the HD roll-out complete, the camera/TV set manufacturers and many other interested parties are lining up to push the creation of channels and content. BluRay just established a 3D standard, for another outlet for the movies, but we'll start seeing the alliances necessary to create 3D content for the home in 2010.

  • New Wave Generator

    Calling Geffen is a mogul at this point in the defilement of his pseudo-empire is rather generous, no? Or let's say misleading. Your language should free Hollywood from the perception that those who advocate for the bohemian grove path to self-destruction are still in power, or even in business. Though you won't read it anywhere, just listen to your handlers.

  • Abc123

    I don't understand why they keep calling this crap 3D.  It's great depth perception, but nothing comes out of the screen at you. They should call it -3D.  With all of the advancements in resolution and color, who wants to watch a movie through a pair of sunglasses. You also have to pay an extra $3 for the stupid things and you can't reuse them because they will still charge you the $3 if you bring a pair with you.  It's even more for IMAX. If they really want to do 3D, figure out a way to do it so things fly out of the screen.