How weve Scene It: Finding a Home For 3-D

On occasion, Scene & Heard has singled out the use of 3-D technology as a cheap gimmick in filmmaking rather than a genuine tool. Along with many others who have dismissed the technology, including the likes of critic Roger Ebert, we’ve long seen 3-D as a trend on the verge of dying.

With the failure of adult-oriented 3-D releases, such as “Drive Angry” or “The Green Hornet,” proving that adding “3-D” to the title doesn’t guarantee an audience, there has also been plenty of recent success in 3-D films, such as the blockbuster smash “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

The latter, unfortunately, would have been a hit regardless of the added 3-D price to tickets, and Box Office Mojo even pointed out that a majority of tickets sold to the robot-heavy action picture were for 2-D screenings.

Though if ever there were an argument against the constant outcry against 3-D, it would certainly have to be due to the events that have transpired in the past few weeks. With the rerelease of Disney’s 1995 animated classic “The Lion King” in 3-D Sept. 16, the North American box office has fallen victim to a 3-D takeover.

“The Lion King” debuted at number one on the weekend of its release, and stood tall among the pack with a $39 million opening weekend. Its second release also claimed the number one spot, only to be dethroned this past week by “Dolphin Tale 3-D.”

Based on a true story, “Dolphin Tale” debuted Sept. 23 and went on to perform strongly over the weekend, but finished the weekend behind “The Lion King” and baseball drama “Moneyball.” Its crawl to the top of the charts this weekend simply proves that 3-D may not be dying out; it’s just finally found a home.

While adults seem to be the ones complaining about eye irritation from 3-D goggles and other various problems associated with the technology, it appears as if family films are where the technology can truly prosper. The most successful 3-D films, “Alice in Wonderland,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “Toy Story 3” were all marketed and aimed at family audiences.

The success of “The Lion King” in 3-D has led to Disney announcing it will rerelease several of its classics, such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid,” in the updated format over the next two years.

While the last film, and titles such as “Avatar” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II,” have all received wide release in both 2-D and 3-D formats, it’s safe to say they would have likely succeeded without the technology due to their significant fan following.

As the rerelease of “The Lion King” indicates, audiences have still want to see 3-D films, especially when they are post-converted versions of their favorites. Plans are already underway for “Star Wars” to be released in 3-D, as well as classics such as the “Alien” saga.

Though in the vein of family films, 3-D works best when it’s a tool that enhances the overall film experience rather than becoming the main attraction. Audiences and critics alike have viewed “Coraline” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” both by director Henry Selick, as go-to references for quality 3-D.

“Coraline” wasn’t exactly a hit the size of “How To Train Your Dragon,” mostly due to its dark subject material, but it had a respectable theatrical run and received accolades from the likes of Boston Globe critic Ty Burr, who singled out the film’s imaginative visuals it presented in 3-D.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which was recently released on 3-D Blu-ray by Disney Home Entertainment, is rereleased in theaters every October, once again proving that the classics draw families and 3-D fans alike.

While every filmmaker won’t employ the same care Selick has for his film’s visuals, “How To Train Your Dragon” and, to a lesser extent, “Alice in Wonderland” have shown a logical path for success with the 3-D format.

Perhaps if the entertainment industry invests more time in films that not only create an experience for families but also work without the spectacle, the doomsayers of 3-D won’t be quite as loud.