3-D trend will not convert me

By Gabrielle Rosas

Timon and Pumbaa dance in a lush sub-Saharan oasis to the tune of “Hakuna Matata” while Simba observes, perplexed. I, too, was perplexed. As I sat in a crowded theater filled with small children and their yuppie parents watching my favorite childhood movie in 3-D, it occurred to me that I paid an extra $5 for what is essentially a resurgence of the gimmicky

3-D trend.

“The Lion King” in 3-D hit theaters on Sept. 16; it is Disney’s effort to promote the Blu-ray version of the film, which will be released on Oct. 4. But what started off as a questionable advertising technique became an unintentional overnight blockbuster. The rereleased film grossed $29.3 million on its opening weekend. Apparently, nobody in Hollywood expected the rerelease of the nearly 20-year-old animated kids’ movie to make any more than $13 million opening weekend. Oh, Hollywood—your blatant ignorance of both the needs and intelligence of your audience appalls me.

Anyone with a brain knew that converting “The Lion King” from 2-D to 3-D would lead to the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow. Now that Hollywood producers, filmmakers and CEOs are in the know, America should prepare for yet another slew of 3-D rereleases next year.

Some of the choices are not too surprising. George Lucas, who is still scraping the bottom of the “Star Wars” barrel, announced earlier this year that the “Star Wars” saga in its entirety will be converted into 3-D and released in theaters throughout the next few years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The rereleases will begin with the first—and worst—film, “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” in April 2012.

James Cameron will also convert his 1997 Academy Award-winner “Titanic” because it is apparently a favorite “library title,” and only those deserve to be converted. Cameron is eating his own words though, as he recently described the process as “mind-numbing.” But probably the most asinine rerelease of next year will be “Top Gun.” I have a feeling Tom Cruise had his dirty little hands in that pie.

All caustic joking aside, 2-D to 3-D conversion isn’t a new idea. What is fairly new, or at least what has been gaining popularity in the last two years, is rereleasing older 2-D movies in 3-D.

This is great news for studios, of course; making movies is a business and business is going to be good. Audiences already love these films and consider them classics.

But why in God’s name would I want to pay nearly $16 for a movie I’ve already seen, no matter how much I love it? Just because it’s converted into 3-D doesn’t make the experience any better. In fact, 2-D to 3-D conversion is notorious for poor quality, which has given me a headache or five.

But the fact remains that post-production conversion is becoming more accepted in Hollywood. And while 3-D-conversion companies and studios can spout off about “better storytelling” and the “new frontier of movie-making,” the fact remains that most 3-D films are meant to bring in a quick buck.

Converting a movie from 2-D to 3-D can cost $50,000 to $100,000 per minute, according to The Hollywood Reporter. While that seems like a ridiculous amount, a 90-minute movie only costs approximately $10 million to convert—sometimes even less. Because there’s no new production, a film would only have to gross more than the conversion and marketing costs to make a profit.

Three-dimensional converted movies can also be a literal headache if not converted properly. The labor-intensive process usually takes up to about a year, but some studios rush conversion and end up with less than stellar results. “Clash of the Titans” was originally shot in 2-D, but the studio decided to make it 3-D at the last second, giving the conversion team only 10 weeks to produce a final product.

But some conversion company chiefs, like HDlogix CEO Jim Spinella, say a converted film done properly should be “indistinguishable” from a movie filmed with stereoscopic technology. Post-production converting also allows for more creative control. Not to mention filmmakers don’t have to deal with the giant stereoscopic cameras, which are difficult to shoot with during live-action scenes.

Don’t get me wrong: I have watched and thoroughly enjoyed some 3-D movies in theaters—just not a lot of them. But until the creative teams and studios behind these converted rereleases produce more quality results and lower ticket prices, audiences should remain stubborn. Don’t be duped.