Today, I found out my local, erm.. “big corporate multiplex cinema chain” isn’t going to be showing the 2D print (oh, how archaic) of Star Trek into Darkness when it’s released in a couple of weeks and that 3D will be the only option they’re providing. I’d heard about other cinemas doing this a couple of weeks back, but I assumed “as release gets closer, more 2D showings will appear, Paramount just want to prioritise the 3D version for advance sales” Now, I’m finding this isn’t the case, and that priority has left any other version lost in the mud. Now, this worries me because there is absolutely no reason for them to do this.
See, Star Trek is a big name franchise, JJ Abrams is a big name director, and whilst the cast aren’t exactly “Tom Cruise” in terms of household names, they have at least some power in getting the audience to see it based on that, (esp. w/ the casting of Cumberbatch who is the actor of the moment). it’s impossible to predict the success of a movie, but Star Trek follows the “Hollywood formula” pretty closely that it’s a safe bet, so why are they essentially jeopardising their own movie?
So, what’s the problem with only doing 3D showings? Sure, they cost more to go see, therefore giving the studios a slightly bigger return, but Avatar aside, they are still not as popular 2D showings, which remain the default since that film of the train parking at a station that scared half the room of patrons in the 1800s (and ironically did a better job at showing depth then most 3D movies). Most movies still predominantely get their money from 2D screenings, although obviously 3D is still relatively popular and accesible to the casual cinema goer.
Which is fine, but there is still a large amount of people who find 3D uncomfortable, can’t see 3D, dislike or find the effect distracting or have to wear two pairs of glasses to watch the movie, which not only looks silly, but stops them fitting on your face and you have to constantly be distracted from the action by sliding them back up. Not to mention that most 3D movies are converted in post production gives it less of feeling of immersion and more of a feeling of a cash cow gimmick.
And allowing that cash cow gimmick be the default option is therefore alienating a good chunk of your potential audience. Star Trek is a film that inevitably will make money, but it will make considerably less because it’s not as accessible. Maybe that’s the plan though, and they’re hoping for a resurgence through home release in 5 or so months time.
A similar thing happened to Dredd, one of the more surprisingly solid movies of last year. Both movies were made with the ultimatum of “This has to be in 3D” (assuming because of the increased ticket prices?) and both movies have very limited 2D screenings (at least in Britain) Dredd did not do well at the box office, performing lower than expected. It did make a lot more money on DVD/Blu-Ray though, and I think partly down to it being more accesible to people. I never saw it at the cinema because I have trouble with 3D movies, but I bought the DVD the day of release because I wanted to see it.
And Star Trek is doing a similar thing, as I’ve said a few times, it’s going to be successful in some capacity (whether it’ll be “Hollywood succesful” is anyones guess), but this is a huge gamble and one that could either kill the series, or shift the default towards 3D for films in the future, which as a fan of cinema, I do not think would be a positive move. 3D will make them money on opening weekend, but without the big 2D release to steady it, will it be enough?
It’s possible that this is just early worrying and by release date 2D screenings pop up all over the shop, but it just makes me think this is a trend that’s just going to get worse. I’m fortunate in that I’ve a cinema that is showing a 2D version (at double price to my usual haunt though??) but some won’t have that luxury and will be forced to wait till DVD release day, which to me, isn’t really fair.