No sooner do I relay Roger Ebert’s concerns about the content-corroding nature of Hollywood’s (profit-driven) 3-D conversions than Hollywood itself now seems to doubt the wisdom of slapping 3-D on movies as a way of charging more.
From the New York Times:
3-D Starts to Fizzle, and Hollywood Frets
Has the 3-D boom already gone bust? It’s starting to look that way — at least for American moviegoers — even as Hollywood prepares to release a glut of the gimmicky pictures.
Ripples of fear spread across Hollywood last week after “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which cost Walt Disney Studios an estimated $400 million to make and market, did poor 3-D business in North America.
Brands are ways of adding value, not extracting value
Brands are ways of adding value that products alone can’t achieve. Brands range from the pragmatic (better warranties) to the highly creative (an iPhone platform that lets you choose from 500,000 apps.) Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how the recent Hollywood practice of inserting 3-D effects in movies any sort of added-value for movie-goers. It is a form of 3-D conversion where the “3-D” is added to a normally-shot movie in post-production. This is done for the express purpose of being able to charge an additional $3 per ticket. Instead of value addition, this is value extraction.
The Avatar 3-D experience vs. the marketing 3-D experience:
Award winning Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time, was conceived, planned and shot in 3-D (with two cameras) so that the 3-D effects would be integral to the film. This was an expensive and laborious process, but it worked because it was true to the rich artistic vision behind the story.
In contrast, the current 3-D conversions are done for added profit, not for artistic merit or user experience. From the ScreenRant article cited above:
The typical conversion process costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 – $500,000. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overinflated multi-million dollar budgets the major films are getting. For their investment, studios can expect to see anywhere from 30- 50% increase in box office sales because of the additional cost for the “privilege” of watching the film in 3D. Studios know that not everyone is going to do their research on the technology and figure out that it is a scam, so they can be assured that opening weekend will have much higher numbers from people trying out the 3D “experience.”
Hollywood is a brand of . . . what?
We’d like to think that “Hollywood” is a brand of superlative, highly engaging movie-making, where the vision of movie makers can be scaled to new heights. Avatar is a good example. However, schemes of converting regular movies to low-level 3-D as a way to increase profits take the Hollywood brand in another direction. They erect a flashing “Caveat Emptor” atop the box office, forcing us ask if “Hollywood” can be trusted, and to wonder if the “Hollywood” brand experience is actually worth it.