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Some dimensions you have to pay for

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Mark Kermode | 12:00 UK time, Monday, 13 April 2009

The real story behind the recent 3D bonanza.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Good Doctor,
    I totally agree with you on the 3D cinema experience.

    I went to see 'Monsters vs. Aliens' with my girlfriend last week, I thought it was a great film and the 3D effects were beautiful but I felt rather robbed that I got in free (due to having a Cineworld Go Unlimited card), yet I had to pay £7.25 for my girlfriend's ticket and that was the student price!

    What's even more strange is that I'm going to the BFI premiere of 'Coraline 3D' yet that's only cost me £6?

    I just find it odd that if 3D film is the future and it’s what is going to get the masses back into the cinema; then surely it's the cinema's job to provide a 3D screen anyway, regardless of its price? Why should we pay more money for what is essentially a cinema’s duty now?

    What do you think?

  • Comment number 2.

    Agreed, though I think the real reason they're charging extra is more simple: because they can. Most people probably aren't thinking as deeply about it as you or I and are probably gullible enough to think 'oh yeh well it's in 3D so it's worth an extra couple of quid'. However, those same people would probably kick up a fuss (and rightly so) if the cinema increased the ticket price one day because they'd had the carpet cleaned, or had new toilets installed. Yet it's the same thing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well I watched Beowolf in 3D and it didn't improve the experince for me at all.
    The film was average at best and the 3D glasses gave me and my mate a really bad headache afterwards.

    The showings in my cinema are now in favor of 3D. Bolt had one showing for normal view and something like seven for 3D on a saturday!!!! So I didnt end up watching it.

    If they want to keep audiances away from piracy(which is the real reason for going 3D),they need to give people more choice in cinemas.
    Because the impression I get from the studios,cinemas etc is they want to go 3D full stop.

    If everything goes 3D I will have to avoid the cinema,which in my view is a scary thought.
    Its simply not fair on regular customers,not even given a say on how they want their films.
    I'm sure i'm not the only one who dosent like 3D.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is why the movie industry is in a state. Instead of providing people with what they want, that is, to be able to watch a movie at home instead of traipsing out to the cinema, they invent new ways to fleece their customers.

    Well not only do I not want to see movies in 3D, I also don't want to go to the cinema. If only there was a way for me to view current movies at home...

  • Comment number 5.

    Up here in Fife the 3D version of Monsters vs Aliens at the local Odeon is £9.75 for an adult ticket. Four adults and a child would not leave you much change short of £50 before visiting the refreshments. In the current climate that will encourage many to stay away from 3D (the Sunday showing was almost empty), or just catch the 2D version on DVD. Playing back into the hands of pirates.

    Cinema chains cannot complain about the cost of installing 3D equipment, as this is being done on a gradual basis and is not widespread.

  • Comment number 6.

    I want t'know where this was filmed. The buildings are great, a little like the Southampton University buildings I saw on an open day.

    Very Crimes Of The Future/Clockwork Orange chic.

  • Comment number 7.

    Paying for 3D specs. Hmm. As the saying goes, there's one born every minute.

    Seems to me the average cinema-goer is so gullible that if the cinema insisted on the audience bringing their own seat, their own popcorn, their own sound system, they would.

    3D is total toilet, to quote Kermit, very much like Blu-Ray. And yes, I agree with Kermit that 3D is nothing more than a ploy by the studios to foil the DVD bootleggers. If you like being a mug, then enjoy 3D.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ah Dr Kermode, another flawless overview, as piracy was something i had also thought about...


    This whole situation will change when a good film comes out in 3D, and when i say good i mean actually award worthy...
    I cannot imagine it myself and think this is all a little superstitious in a whole SPACE ODYSEE 1999 kind of manner (by everyone stating a third of all films will one day be in 3D).

  • Comment number 9.

    Very informative thoughts indeed, Doctor. I hadn't previously thought about piracy being the most obvious reason for over-charging people to see films in 3-D, so I'm glad you brought it up.

    However, I'm fairly positive that when 'Avatar' comes out, the James Cameron film that has been many years in post-production due to the new technology he used to shoot in full live 3-D, the matter of charging people extra money to see it will surely descend at some poiint after this.

    Yes, cinemas all across the world will undoubtedly want to yank much hard earned money out of the public to see it because it is meant to be something entirely new altogether and not just the 'let's poke you repeatedly until we annoy you' and the fact that the 'global financial crisis' (which I find is not as bad as it sounds) is affecting sales, but the fact of the matter is that the development if Avatar is possibly the reason for all major studios to start using 3-D in movies as a precursor to it.

    This is just a small thought and obviously would need more reading upon if the good Doctor has not followed up more of Avatar than I have done.

  • Comment number 10.

    Another good assessment, Mark. And I agree, wholeheartedly.

    Well, I've never seen a film in 3D, simply cause I don't think adding an extra dimension to it will miraculously make the film better, quality wise, on all levels(on the acting, plot, score and characterisation-side I mean).

    I also see it as one big gimmick ever since I was a kid in the 90s and faffed around with those free old 3D glasses with the one red and one blue in mgas. It made me think 'meh'.

    Yeah the tech would obviously have moved on significantly since then, but point is: I've enjoyed films perfectly fine in 2D, so I don't think it's justifiable to charge extra for 3D that just more than likely give me a migraine.

    It's not like, as aforementioned, any of these from the current 3D crop are bonafide future classics anyway. They did it with CGI and now they're doing it again: trying to make things look 'amazing' to take away from a poor story and characters. I'm not falling for this, Hollywood.

  • Comment number 11.

    If the plan really is to stop the bootleggers, and get us coming to the cinema, then time is short. Already 120hz TVs are being developed, and 3-D TVs and home cinema projectors have been demonstrated at recent trade shows.

    Sky have already 'broadcast' a demo in 3-D (after a fashion).

    It's the next step in consumer electronics manufacturers getting us to upgrade. First the widescreen TV. Then the flatscreen LCD/plasma - HD Ready, of course. Then Full HD.

    Next up will be the 3-D TV. Oh, and don't forget to buy a new 3-D Blu-ray Disc Player to replace your old 2-D player (which replaced your DVD player).

    Steve W

  • Comment number 12.

    The solution is simply go for a Cineworld Unlimited Card if you live close enough to one.

    I only have one query, if 3D does become standard in any sort of way, surely they can't STILL charge that extra price?

    Of what I've seen in 3D, Bolt, Beowulf and MVsA, none of them would actually be any good in 2D the only good part is the ...ahem...spectacle of 3D.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great to hear a mainstream film critic speak up against the absurdity of paying extra for 3D at the multiplex.

    We're not only being forced into paying for this rather feeble provision against piracy, but we're also stumping up for their first major hardware upgrade in 50+ years. 3D films need digital projectors and the cost savings for distributors sending out hard drives instead of tonnes and tonnes of celluloid will save them thousands if not millions in shipping costs.

    Which is unquestionably brilliant in terms of carbon footprint, but why are the punters forced to stump up for this cost/energy saving measure? Audiences didn't pay a surcharge for the introduction of colour or widescreen, so what gives now?

    I think liquidcow hit the nail on the head by pointing out the fact that they charge for 3D because they can. Hopefully this will change over time, but for the moment this transitionary period is more than a little grating.

    ps. for stephenglass it seems like it was shot on top of the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank, right next to the BFI.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Dr K.

    I am still yet to believe in this whole '3D revolution'. I saw Monsters vs Aliens last week and while it was a fun film, the 3D felt more gimmicky than anything else.

    It didn't further engross me or place me in the film and has been claimed to do. Instead I was conscious that it was a 3D film.

    Let the Right one in however. 2D and possibly one of the if not the best films of the year. That had me hooked and it didn't need stupid gimmicky effects like 3D. All those wonderful films that have come and gone, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sideways (just because I saw them recently). They don't need stupid 3D to engross you and pull you into the film. They already hook with pure brilliant filmmaking and masterful storytelling.

    Until I'm convinced otherwise (James Cameron's Avatar), 3D is simply just a gimmick.

  • Comment number 15.

    It does sound rather like the argument that train companies use: we have to charge you more to be able to upgrade the lines so that you can actually have a seat/ not crash and die horribly/ travel anywhere at all on a bank holiday weekend.

    Ah no, not the last one, that's clearly impossible.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm glad to hear some negativity towards 3D here in the comments. I avoid 3D films. I don't like wearing the glasses - they often get me a headache. I don't think the 3D effects add anything to films and the colour you can see is reduced. AND it's more expensive. Not a good deal as far as I'm concerned. Give me a pirated DVD to watch at home on my 2D TV any day.

  • Comment number 17.

    The idea of one in every three movies being 3D genuinely scares me. I haven't seen a 3D film yet in which the technology actually served the story. It's just a distraction and one we have to pay extra for. That's the real tragedy here.

  • Comment number 18.

    Back in the 1920’s, it was widely believed that “talking” movies would never take off - and the rest is history………….
    In the future, maybe this debate around the value of 3D movies will prompt another of Dr Kermode’s sentences that start with the words “Famously, I once…….”!

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Dr Mark,

    I was wondering what's stopping someone paying the extra for the 3D specs on one visit, and then keeping them.

    So next time they go to see a 3D film they say, I don't need the 3D specs, so I'll pay the normal price.

    If questioned why?
    They could simply reply, I have natural 3D vision.

    So in your face cinema man!

  • Comment number 20.

    Like you say, it's not all that of an unusual business practice. How about the BBC. We're forced to pay for a licence, which is used to make programmes, which we have to pay much more than cost price for again if we want them on DVD. Anyway, what about the DVD market? Don't they have to release all the films anyway on DVD in 2D format? Most films are pirated off DVD and people who watch them aren't generally making a choice between going to the cinema and watching a pirated film. They're mostly watching a pirated film that they wouldn't pay to see on DVD or the cinema. A smaller percentage of choices are between watching a pirate and renting a DVD and even less so the choice between a cinema trip and a pirate. People go to the cinema for a night out or a date, it's not always about the film.

    If they want to make cinema more compelling to get numbers in that's fine, they've improved sound etc over the years. If it's an 'improvement' then it's not crazy to have to pay a premium for a premium service and equipment upgrade, in fact that's pretty normal. But is it going to increase takings? Only slightly I would have thought.

  • Comment number 21.

    it's such nonsense. i've yet to see a 3d film at the cinema but i'm not exactly rushing out to do so. as far as i can tell it's never gonna take off in a major way because you need to wear those silly glasses, and what happens if you're already wearing a pair of glasses? do you have to pay the addition fee of £30 a month or whatever for contact lenses?

  • Comment number 22.

    I want to become "immersed" in a film because of its storytelling, not because I think someone is about to stab me in the eyes with a 20 foot pickaxe.

    This raises a few issues.

    Firstly, if 3D is the new "gimmick" to get cinema numbers up again, then these films aren't designed to be watched on DVD.

    Second, if 3D becomes a central focus for a production, will this be at the expense of other areas? Will studios worry less about the quality of the screenplay if you can have your eyeballs pulled out by a 20 foot pickaxe?

    What I'm getting at here is: is the mainstream Hollywood home-viewing experience about to get even worse?

  • Comment number 23.

    Can you not just keep the glasses? If they ask for them back they can jump.

    So far there's been nothing that interests me on 3D, AT ALL!

    I suspect it will be a long time before there is, why? Because proper films sure as hell aren't going to be going 3D.

    The sort of films that arthouse cinemas like show. None of this in-your-face nonsense, thank you very much.

  • Comment number 24.

    "what happens if you're already wearing a pair of glasses?"

    This is a great point... surely they must have thought of this one though? Do they not make them so that they fit over glasses you are already wearing?

    I think the main reason 3D won't take off completely has sort of been hinted at; basically it adds nothing to the medium artistically so far as I can see. Technological advancements like sync sound and colour stayed partly because, yes, they made the image more lifelike, but also because they can be used to add meaning to a film. Both can add drastically to mood, and there can be sonic motifs, or colour codings. Can there be any equivalent in terms of depth that can't already be acheived in 2D? If so, great, but I can't for the life of me see what it could be. And so 3D seems to be essentially nothing more than a theme park attraction.

  • Comment number 25.

    Watching 3D films in 2D does rather show up the gimmicky quality of most 3D inserts as actors lunge at the screen or drop items in elaborate ways; the embarrassing artificiality of these scenes means that in 2D the 'immersive' nature of a 3D experience is shown for what it is - a poorly gilded lily. This may change, but I've yet to see a film that actually has to be seen 3D to be understood or appreciated.

    And by the bye, if the powers that be think that 3D is going to save them from piracy, then I've got a bridge they might be interested in buying.

  • Comment number 26.

    Totally agree Dr K.
    Piracy is the main reason for this 3D push.
    I kind of started walking funny after paying to see Beowulf and U23D, absolutely ridiculous prices.

    Also what are we paying extra for exactly? I know it's not for the glasses.

    You mention that it's for the new technology conversion to show these 3-d films. But aren't they digitally projected?

    I thought studios and cinema chains had come to an agreement whereby the studios would cover the costs of putting in digital projectors and that eventually all cinemas would only have digital prjectors, thereby dramatically reducing distribution costs for distributors. So they can't be seriously asking us to fund the installation of digital projectors.

    So maybe they are asking us to pay for the extra 3D production costs for studios? But this still isn't acceptable. Now we are expecting ticket prices to be tied to the budget of a film? If that were so, then surely you'd have to take out a mortgage to see a James Cameron film.

    Either way it's an absolute scam.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ lordtangent

    Exactly. If the whole point in 3D is to stop piracy, then it follows that a 3D film is not worth watching in 2D. So is the standard of home viewing going to drop even further?

  • Comment number 28.

    This extra charge as enraged me not least because on the Odeon web site the justify it with the following comment ' 3D Films (with digital projection and crystal clear sound) '. I knew this to be absolute rubbish and so emailed them. They came back with the statement that the extra cost is due to ' 3D films are more expensive to make and to buy. The added cost also covers the 3D glasses with which guests are supplied to view such films '. Again this is absolute rubbish so replied with some facts and figures.

    There reply is to long to post but the crux of their argument is now the cost of installing the extra equipment required for 3D films. I've done some research on this and it's claimed that distributors will save an estimated 4-5 billion dollars annually if all cinema changed over to digital projectors.

    Their are further saving in the making of films ' In an interview to Rick McCallum, one of the producers on "Attack of the Clones," said they spent $16,000 on 220 hours of digital tape, and they would have spent about $1.8 million on 220 hours of film '

    Cinema's also have new revenue streams with the change over to digital as they can now show live sporting events, concerts etc.

    In short it's a complete rip-off, the industry as a whole should be paying for this change over, not me and you. I emailed on Wednesday last week the Odeon again with these's facts and my thoughts, still waiting a reply!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I sent a nippy email to cineworld Unlimited last week regarding the 3D charge and this is the reply I got. I especially like their 'issue resolution' approach in the last paragraph... so far for their 'philosophy to provide an excellent level of customer service'.

    "Thank you for your email below regarding the recent introduction of a price increase for 3D screenings.

    The reason for the decision to implement this nominal charge is the decision by Cineworld to roll out 3D screens as part of an overall drive to improve the cinema experience for all customer's not just members of the Unlimited scheme. Cineworld have introduced the latest 3D technology to a large selection of our cinema screens across the UK and we have also made a considerable investment in improving our digital projection equipment in order to enhance the customer's film experience.

    In accordance with the Terms and Conditions of the Unlimited Scheme, card holders have always been excluded from accessing premium screenings such as VIP, Deluxe and 3D. However, more recently Cineworld felt that, as the 3D experience was the ultimate cinematic experience, they would waiver clause 3.5 of the Unlimited Terms and Conditions of use and allowed Unlimited Customers the opportunity to experience 3D films for a limited period free of charge.

    As 3D is a premium product and the overhead costs involved to bring this experience to our customers are much higher than the standard film product Cineworld have now decided to implement a small uplift on the ticket price for Unlimited Card holders who wish to continue viewing 3D films in order to make Unlimited viewing commercially viable. This surcharge has been advertised in our Monthly Unlimited magazine, on line on the web site and in our fortnightly newsletter and on promotional posters in store.

    I hope the above explains the situation with regards to your comments/grievances but should you still remain unhappy about the offerings of your Unlimited card or consider that the restrictions affect your subscription substantially then I am able to cancel your contract at any time giving one months notice.

    Kind Regards
    Unlimited Team
    Cineworld Cinemas"

  • Comment number 30.

    Doc Mark - this may be considered a stupid question (though it isnt to people who require glasses to SEE!) and I probably won't get a reply to this, but, whats your system of cleaning your glasses when your going to the cinema? When i go I usually have to try and occupy the seatnext to me so I can set my bags down, set my popcorn and drink below them, and then get my glasses case out of my bag and proceed to clean my glasses - now this is difficult in the dark, when theres limited space!


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