Why would you go to a movie theater to see something you can watch in your living room?
This pesky question began popping up in the late '70s with the advent of pay cable and movies without commercials. Then came videos. Then came DVDs. Now comes 3-D.
That's right, 3-D televisions are on the way (actually, they're already here if you're willing to pay a fortune for one).
And that could be a major problem for movie theaters, since 3-D hasn't even reached most film screens yet.
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A major film – such as the upcoming “Monsters vs. Aliens,” say – generally opens on somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 screens nationwide.
But “Monsters vs. Aliens” happens to be a 3-D film. And there are only about 1,500 3-D screens, counting IMAX, available in the United States.
Which means most of the theaters that play “Monsters vs. Aliens” won't be able to play it in 3-D, a fact likely to frustrate both moviegoers and the studio that paid big bucks to shoot the film in 3-D.
This is going to be happening a lot in 2009.
The horror flick “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” is in theaters right now; the animated children's story “Coraline” arrives on Feb. 6; and “Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience” comes to theaters Feb. 27. Then it's “Monsters” in March, as a parade of 3-D films playing in non-3-D theaters leads to James Cameron's much-anticipated 3-D epic “Avatar” in December.
For those who haven't seen one of the better recent 3-D efforts, things have changed a lot since the days of flimsy cardboard glasses and cheesy gotcha effects.
The cheesy gotcha effects are still there, true, but the glasses are much nicer, and the 3-D experience – when perfectly integrated into a film as in 2007's “Beowulf” or last year's “Bolt” – has become both story-enhancing and mind-boggling.
According to reports, there are 30 more 3-D films on the way from Hollywood, including reworked versions of classics like “Toy Story.”
So what's the hang-up with the screens? Well, it costs about $100,000 to set up a theater for 3-D, and you may have heard there's an economic and credit crunch going on right now. So you have to really, really believe that 3-D movies are going to bring more people to your theater.