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‘Clash of the Titans’ 3-D Success Means More Converted 2-D Films On The Way

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If it seems like Hollywood studios are treating 3-D like the second coming, or at least as the next best thing since the advent of sound, it’s because for them, it is. Disney, Universal and MGM were in dire straits in 2009 and most their big releases flopped on arrival. The result was executive layoffs and in MGM’s case; a declaration of bankruptcy. In addition to releasing a string of hugely expensive financial disappointments, their paranoia over declining DVD profits came to a head with lawsuits filed against companies like Redbox and Austrailian internet service provider iinet. It’s no wonder that they’ve have been doing headstands since the release of Avatar, which proved that audiences would officially take the bait of higher ticket prices for 3-D movies.

The mad dash to cash in on the technology will only intensify after the release of Warner Bros. Greek swords and sandals epic Clash of the Titans, which took in over $60M over the weekend to claim the top spot. It set a record for an Easter weekend and will likely be the gunshot start to the  horse race that’s already underway to release as many high profile 3-D movies as fast as possible. Unlike Avatar, which was filmed using 3-D cameras and took Cameron over ten years to realize the latest 3-D releases, including Clash of the Titans, were filmed in normal 2-D and are being converted to the format in a time span closer to ten weeks.

Demand has skyrocketed for effects houses that can deliver converted films, such as the Indian owned Prime Focus Group, which Warner Bros. contracted to work on Clash of the Titans.  In a recent interview with Variety, Tim Sassoon head of a rival 3-D conversion company; the Santa Monica-based, Sassoon Film Design, said:

Ten weeks is really tight.You’re not really going to be producing final shots right away. So in your last five weeks you have 40 shots a day to be finalled (assuming 1,500 shots for the whole movie). That’s a tall order for anyone, especially for a company that’s never done this before.

Audiences, so far, have been receptive to movies that have been converted after the fact. Alice in Wonderland has been the most successful, with nearly $300 million in ticket sales, only five weeks after opening. James Cameron, has already expressed his disapproval over the universal adoption of 3-D as a money making ploy; as opposed to a mode of artistic expression. Michael Bay, the director of the Transformers movies shares the same feelings and has, so far, refused to convert the third film in the franchise. Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert has been vocal about his dislike of 3-D, adding a postscript to his review of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon that said:

The movie is being shown in both 3-D and 2-D. The 3-D adds nothing but the opportunity to pay more to see a distracting and unnecessary additional dimension. Paramount has threatened theaters that if they don’t clear screens for “Dragon” despite the current glut of 3-D films, the studio won’t let them show it in 2-D. This displays real confidence in 3-D.

The interest in 3-D created by Avatar may not continue to reach such stratospheric heights of profitablity if the quality of the product being rushed out the studio door is not at the same level. The 1950s fad was killed off by cheapie titles that used the technology as a gimmick. When it was revived in 1980s, mostly for  shlocky horror and ridiculous action adventure movies like Jaws  3-D and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, audiences also quickly lost interest. With Clash of the Titans-quality releases filling the market, they may have another chance to lose interest all over again.

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