Finding Nemo 3-D, and Why 3-D Filmmaking Is Not the Future

Categories: Film and TV
In fairness, this guy probably looks awesome in 3-D.
Coming to your local megaplex this weekend is the Pixar masterpiece Finding Nemo, the delightful story of a father and son clownfish who become separated in the Great Barrier Reef. The movie, originally released in 2003, was a gigantic hit, and remains the best selling DVD of all time.

So why a recent film like this find its way back into wide release at the movie theater? The answer, of course, is 3-D.

Like every other astute Hollywood giant, Disney has paid close attention to the 3-D trend and realized there is additional revenue to be made from its existing properites, simply by re-relasing them in 3D in movie theaters. In the last year alone, we've seen Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King both re-released in 3-D. The cost of these conversions generally is in the $15 million dollar range -- a hefty sum for sure, but one that brings a sizable return.  For example, Beauty and the Beast made $45 million from its recent upgrade; The Lion King in 3-D earned $94 million. And that's just in the box office, without taking into account spikes in DVD, Blu-ray, and merchandise sales -- a big spike, considering these are already hugely successful franchises with existing merchandising in the high millions annually.

While that all does add up to serious money. But 3-D sales have dropped considerably in recent years. The average audience member will choose to see a traditional projection of a film over the 3-D projection the majority of the time, to avoid the premium ticket cost of 3-D. Most audience members know that not all films benefit from the technology. There are even 3-D haters across the board. The market is shrinking, and Hollywood knows it. Someday in the not too distant future, 3-D will once again return to the recesses of the movie makers' trick bag.

In the meantime, the moguls are squeezing everything they can out of it -- and many of us are gladly forking over fistfuls of dollars to see a virtual sneeze look remarkably real and close.

As an oft described "indie film guy," I find I'm often expected to find 3-D films utterly abhorrent, or at least to shrug them off as a gimmick. But this indie film guy (who doesn't completely hate Hollywood, by the way) doesn't necessarily hate all 3D films either. They just have to be done right.

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