There is a cadre of internet journalists who, at every opportunity, ask filmmakers if their next big budget film will be in IMAX or in 3D. Every filmmaker, by the way, says ‘I would love to do it that way!’ I mean, who wouldn’t want to have their next film made using the latest toys and goodies.
The question I have, though, is ‘Who really cares?’ Does IMAX or 3D really make that big a difference to theater goers beyond being a neat gimmick? This is even setting aside the fact that the vast majority of you reading this will never be able to see a movie in IMAX, unless it’s a nature doc at the local museum or you’re on vacation.
To me IMAX and 3D are the epitome of gimmicks. While I’ve seen really good 3D and am willing to give it a shot in the future as an addition to the filmmaker’s bag of storytelling tools, I can’t for the life of me figure out how IMAX is different from Cinerama or Vistavision – an exhibition format that’s mainly about wowing the audience, not really telling a story.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of anything that gets people into movie theaters. The theatrical experience is doing okay for itself right now (although it doesn’t have a spot on what it was like in the days before TV and video games), but it’s eternally on the edge. We’re always a couple of years away from audiences abandoning cinemas altogether, and that would be a tragedy. If it takes a really big picture to keep them in theaters, that’s cool with me.
But to me IMAX is like stadium seating and gourmet food at the concession – nice but in no way the focus of my moviegoing. Yet I see tons of reporting about what movie will or won’t be coming out in IMAX (the latest big news is that Star Trek will hit in IMAX). I have to admit that I just don’t get it. And 3D… even the good 3D films I have seen have left me with some headache and minor sickness. I can’t imagine going to the movies every week and feeling that way.
Of course some people, like Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron, think we will want that. Katzenberg has famously said that one day all movies will be in 3D; it’s hard to think how The Apartment or My Dinner With Andre would be improved with a third dimension, but Katzenberg knows best. Meanwhile, the truth is that the real life of movies are on TV and home video – how valuable is an effect that cannot be translated easily to the home market? If you have six friends over to watch a new Blu-Ray do you want to have to invest in a whole bunch of 3D glasses? Or would you just lug your glasses everywhere in case you were going to watch a movie (hilariously Katzenberg has compared the future of 3D glasses to tennis – everybody has a racket, he said. This is what being a rich white guy teaches you about the world)?
How much do you care about movies being on IMAX or in 3D? Do you need the extra gimmickry to get out to theaters, or are you content to watch movies in mini-IMAX on your 52 inch flat screen? Do you get actually excited about 3D releases or do you get sort of motion sick? Most importantly: do you see 3D and IMAX as gimmicks or as actual storytelling tools like color and sound?
Weigh in below or in the message board thread here.