Oscar-winning movie director Danny Boyle thinks 3D films could soon be on their way out – and Shropshire cinema audiences appear to agree.
Boyle, who won a best director Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire and masterminded the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, says: “I don’t know if 3D will survive, to be honest. I think it may be a phase.”
If he’s right, it’s bad news for the movie industry’s earnings.
Cinemas charge a premium for watching movies in 3D – £2 at Telford and up to £2.10 in Shrewsbury – with a further charge of up to £1 for a pair of 3D glasses.
And many top directors, such as Avatar’s James Cameron and Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson, have invested heavily in the assumption that 3D technology is here to stay.
But 56-year-old Boyle, whose latest drama Trance is currently showing, said: “I don’t use 3D. I’m a spectacle wearer, so I hate going to 3D movies because you have to wear two pairs of spectacles, which makes you feel like even more of a prat.
“You know how everybody feels a bit of prat wearing the 3D spectacles – you, as a spectacle wearer, feel a double prat.”
He did concede, however, that there is some ‘extraordinary work’ done in the 3D format, including Ang Lee’s award-winning drama Life of Pi And the pioneering 3D film Avatar.
Shropshire’s two leading cinema chains, Odeon and Cineworld, today admitted that there was a growing trend of viewers choosing to pay less and watch the 2D version of a film, when the two options were available.
And Robert Johnson, who runs the Reels on Wheels cinema service which supplies Shrewsbury’s Old Market Hall as well as venues in Ellesmere and Whitchurch, said: “There is no doubt that the public are getting a bit fed up with it.
“There are cinemas which I supply, who are offered 3D movies but are now asking me if the 2D version if available. At the end of the day, 3D does not make a difference to whether a film is any good or not. And although it is supposed to enhance the viewing experience, people do not want to pay the extra cost. They think it’s a waste of money when the 2D version of a film is perfectly enjoyable.”
Films have existed in 3D format as far back as 1915, but enjoyed their first big rise to prominence in the 1950s, when horrors such as Vincent Price’s House of Wax drew in big audiences.
A second wave followed in the 1980s, when audiences were given disposable cardboard glasses to experience the likes of Jaws 3-D, and sequels to the Amityville and Friday the 13th franchises.
Movie studios are desperate for 3D not to lose its appeal. Nine of the top 15 grossing films last year were in 3D, and Jeff Gomez, boss of Starlight Runner Entertainment, said: “It’s important to remember that 3D does dynamite overseas, accounting for a significant percentage of foreign box office for the studios. I don’t think the studios will be put off the process any time soon.”
Technology that could lead to the creation of glasses-free 3D films at cinemas has actually been developed by researchers in South Korea.
It uses a barrier with slats so that when a viewer looks at the screen, each of their eyes sees the image differently creating an illusion of depth.
It’s a long way from being rolled out worldwide, but experts say it is viable method.