3-D Revolution at movie theaters

posted by HowardBHaas on February 4, 2009 at 10:45 am

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the upcoming 3-D pictures coming to a theater near you.

Moviegoers, adjust your eyeglasses for what Hollywood gamblers bet is the next revolution in film: digital 3-D.

Not the cumbersome, headache-inducing gimmickry behind 1950s movie novelties like Bwana Devil and House of Wax. It’s the nanotechnology giving the filmmakers James Cameron and John Lasseter the means to dissolve the screen separating the viewer from the movie experience. Some Wall Street analysts say that within the next two years, 3-D could boost movie revenue 10 percent – if there are enough digital 3-D theaters to accommodate the volume of product.

Comments (56)

JohnHolloway on February 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Been there. Done that! The 1950’s all over again with a tired old gimmick reborn. $3 surcharge (here in Australia) for 3D features, “one-size-fits-all” glasses for adults and children. Why not just produce quality films???? – no gimmick required!

nerwall16 on February 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm

im surprised no one has ever done a documentry about the evolution of 3d films and movie theaters for the 50’s to the wave in the 80’s onto today

longislandmovies on February 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Todays 3d is no gimck…….Go see one first…Digital 3d is amazing……

longislandmovies on February 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Todays 3d is no gimmick…….Go see one first…Digital 3d is amazing……

CinemarkFan on February 4, 2009 at 1:42 pm

As an advocate of actual film, I like the digital 3D. I had a blast seeing MBV in 3D. And while it’s great, people like Jeff Katzenberg shouldn’t expect it to be the end-of all in how we watch movies. And the cost to convert is too high in these times of financial turmoil.

They want to convert up to 20,000 or more screens for the format, which would cost about a billion dollars. Yet they won’t spend a microcent of that to convert 100-200 large screens to SDS-70MM. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m starting to believe that digital purists are kind of affraid of the power in which shooting in 65MM and projecting in 70 or SDS-70 possesses. Just go to your 35MM theater and watch the trailer for “The International”. The 35MM scenes are typical of the projection, yet when the trailer shows the scene with Clive Owen and the bad guy on the roof, you see an instant surge in picture quality due to the scene being shot in 65MM.

I like digital 3D, but I want it to coexist with film.
View link

quasimodo on February 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Yes, the new 3D is much better than its predecessors which date back as early as the 1920’s, then called “Plasticon”. But whether or not 3D’s latest reincarnation will remain a novelty is a big question – and the zealouts that feel it will revolutionize the movie industry have not learned from the lessons of history.

Douglas Gomery writes about the 1950’s 3D in his book “Shared Pleasures” (1992): “The innovation of 3-D was over almost before it began. By mid-1954 it was clear that with all the expense involved with special attachments to projectors and glasses issued to patrons, the added revenues from 3-D never proved worth the investment”.

Currently it seems some people are willing to pay extra to experience 3D – many for the first time. But if every theatre had 3D capability, as Katzenberg would like to see, then the novelty of 3D will be gone and it will be business as usual.

moviebuff82 on February 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I agree. Pretty soon my local 16 plex will have one screen devoted to the 3-D thing and the cost of installing one is more expensive than a dlp and a 35mm installation, although it’s a bit cheaper than the Dietmax conversion.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 4, 2009 at 3:13 pm

No matter how good the 3D process, it is still a gimmick when it is attached only to bad films that stand no chance otherwise.


Audiences can already smell the desperation

BobFurmanek on February 4, 2009 at 3:21 pm

In 1953 and 1954, 3-D was used for some very good films – including House of Wax, Kiss Me Kate, Inferno, Dial M for Murder, The Glass Web, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Hondo, Miss Sadie Thompson, etc.

For some accurate information on the Golden Age of 3-D, check out:


JodarMovieFan on February 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Gimick or not, Digital 3D is the future. My only complaint is that the auditoriums they have are about 40' tops, not including your IMAX-lite installs at the AMCs. If you don’t have the bigger screen, you’re not really immersed into the movie. While many of the Digital 3D releases may have lacked somewhat, I think James Cameron’s Avatar will change people’s minds about the format. :) Who knows, it may be another Titanic-hit.

CinemarkFan on February 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm

That’s my main problem with Digital 3D too. Since they talk about it being the future, they should try and come up with a process of projecting it on screens like these
View link
View link

Project ‘em on those screens, then you have a fantastic expereince. If not, then the novelity will wear off.

muviebuf on February 4, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Like everything else it takes money …….. See attached from the London Financial Times

Theaters Halting Switch To Digital, Says IMAX Chief

3 February 2009 1:41 AM, PST

The conversion of movie theaters from film to digital projection “has virtually come to a halt,” IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond has told the London Financial Times. While studios and exhibitors have reached an agreement under which the theater owners would receive a “virtual print fee” for every film they run from digital media to cover the costs of the equipment, the economic slowdown has made it difficult for the exhibitors to borrow money. Gelfond, however, said IMAX plans to open 100 digital 3-D screens worldwide in 2009. The FT said that by next month, there will only be a total of 1,500 digital 3-D screens in the U.S., far fewer than the 5,000 that DreamWorks Animation had counted on for the release of Monsters vs. Aliens. Gelfond said that the movie will appear on 200 IMAX screens.

MPol on February 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm

What are the chances of some of the great, golden oldie-but-goody film classics, such as West Side Story, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and others being played in digital 3D? Just curious.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm

The last I heard it cost Universal over 10 million dollars to do ten minutes of JAWS before they abandoned the project.

“Gimick or not, Digital 3D is the future.”

How many times have we heard that one before! Here’s COMIN' AT YA,

“In 1953 and 1954, 3-D was used for some very good films- including House of Wax, Kiss Me Kate, Inferno, Dial M for Murder, The Glass Web, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Hondo, Miss Sadie Thompson, etc.”

Which one of those films are you accusing of being good?

MPol on February 4, 2009 at 7:31 pm

AlAlvarez, I’ve never seen any of the movies you’ve mentioned, with the exception of “Jaws”.

JohnRice on February 4, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I’m a fan of 3-D, have been since the 1950’s when contrary to popular opinion when presented in the right way (dual projector polaroid with perfect projection) it was pretty damn good…and downright amazing for 1950’s technology. I’ve attended both of the more recent 3-D Festivals in Hollywood (where it was also presented in the right way) and thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting those 50’s 3-D classics and not so classics (who can forget “Robot Monster” and “Cat Women of the Moon”?) I’ve even seen a few of the recent animated 3-D digital productions as well as the live action “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and enjoyed them too. However for me 3-D remains a novelty to be experienced just once in a while. No way I would want to see every new flick, even the majority of new flicks in that process. If the industry goes bonkers with their 3-D mania I predict it will die just as quick death as the 1950’s version and the 1980’s version. People still don’t like to wear those damn glasses! If they are selective in what films are shot in 3-D and don’t go overboard well it may be around for a while. Only time will tell.

JohnRice on February 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm

AlAlvarez wrote:
“In 1953 and 1954, 3-D was used for some very good films- including House of Wax, Kiss Me Kate, Inferno, Dial M for Murder, The Glass Web, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Hondo, Miss Sadie Thompson, etc.” Which one of those films are you accusing of being good?"

Actually most of those flicks were pretty good and can still stand up pretty well today in flat 2-D! You could say the same of several others. However there was also “Robot Monster”, “Cat Women of the Moon”, “Bwana Devil” (which got the 50’s 3-D boom started), “The Maze”, “Fort Ti”, “Drums of Tahiti” and way too many others that would have been turkeys in any format. They helped kill the 3-D boom just as much as imperfect (out of synch, out of frame, etc.) projection and the requirement that the audience wear those 3-D glasses. I still loved it back then, still do in fact!

longislandmovies on February 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Digital 3d is far better than any other 3d.Bolt was a good kids movie that did not need 3d but was far better with it.3d this time is here to stay …..like it or not……

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 4, 2009 at 10:29 pm

If AVATAR fails look for 3D to end up where it did last time. Porn.

longislandmovies on February 4, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Lol….Times are a changing mostly for the better…….I dont have 3d in my theater but love to go to those who do…..

markp on February 4, 2009 at 10:58 pm

I actually remember those 3-D porns, The Stewarsesses I believe was one. As far as the whole 3-D thing, those who want to pay will pay, those who dont care will go to a traditional 2-D theatre. Myself, I agree with CinemarkFan, and he knows this, give me 70MM anytime, anyday, and it will stack up against the best. Check out those 2 screens he posted above. Now THAT’S how to watch a movie.

nerwall16 on February 5, 2009 at 12:19 am

3D porn wow, now just add those squirting chairs from the disney attractions and you got yourself a great night at the movies

KingBiscuits on February 5, 2009 at 12:39 am

4-D porn?

But seriously, I can see 3-D sticking around this time. They just need to keep up with the product flow and make more good 3-D films and reissue a few others in 3-D (the first two Toy Story films, Beauty and The Beast and the Star Wars films are also coming in 3-D).

However, we could use a little less of films like My Bloody Valentine in 3-D in which the 3-D was given more attention that the plot, acting, script or directing. I mean, even a five year old could have come up with a better ending!

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 11:25 am

Don’t believe all the hype and spin from Katzenberg, Cameron and the folks at Real D.

When projected properly, 3-D movies of the 1950’s have greater depth, higher resolution and are generally much better quality than any stereoscopic productions of the past 40 years.

Of the 50 English language Polaroid 3-D features produced in the 1950’s, only 20% could be considered gimmicky with an excessive amount of objects thrown at the camera. That trend didn’t become prevalent until the 1970’s and 1980’s with films such as “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein,” Comin' at Ya” and “Treasure of the Four Crowns.”

During the Golden Age of 3-D, talented directors and cinematographers such as John Alton, Raoul Walsh, Douglas Sirk, Roy Baker, George Sidney, William Cameron Menzies, Jack Arnold, Budd Boetticher, Charles Roscher, Hal Wallis, and Alfred Hitchcock utilized the stereo cinematography to create a dimensional window to the action on screen. This is not a new concept in motion pictures.

All this current ballyhoo that digital 3-D is “better than ever” is a lot of nonsense being spouted by people that have never seen a 3-D movie from the 1950’s properly presented. They should have gone to the two World 3-D Expo’s in Hollywood!

longislandmovies on February 5, 2009 at 11:43 am

Bob I think you have lost your mind.Digital 3d is amazing!Anyone that bashes todays 3d is stuck in the past and probably hates all digital…Sorry it is what it is………..

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

Digital is fine and I have no problem with it. It does eliminate the human factor/skill of presenting a quality 3-D presentation on 35mm film.

But don’t try to sell it as better than what was done 55 years ago. It’s not. The resolution is far less; the image is considerably dimmer, and the cinematography leaves much to be desired.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 5, 2009 at 11:52 am

When they showed their adaptation of the Gene Kelly song scene from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN I was impressed. When I saw scenes from the new films, I was underwhelmed. That should tell you what the problem is.

ThePhotoplayer on February 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Having seen most of the ‘50s (and even '30s and '40s) titles, I must agree with Bob F. that the reputation of the 1950s 3-D films is grossly maligned by the press of today. As mentioned, a cross-section of the '50s titles is actually a far better representation of ANY films made in 1953, as opposed to today’s fare, which is mainly oriented towards kids (animated children’s films) or teenagers (your MY BLOODY VALENTINES, and so on). Whether you like films from 1953 or not, you cannot deny that films such as KISS ME KATE, DIAL ’M’ FOR MURDER, MISS SADIE THOMPSON, MONEY FROM HOME, CEASE FIRE and I, THE JURY were all prestigious pictures in their day.

Mr. Furmanek is also correct in that the image of modern 3-D is technically lower than the standards of the ‘50s 3-D, which utilized the full film resolution on two prints, rather than the digital files on the single-projector systems that have less-than-HD resolution, and surprisingly low light output.

The biggest obstacle that modern 3-D films have to overcome is for the producers to learn the rules of stereoscopic photography. FLY ME TO THE MOON 3D was a perfect example of “breaking the rules,” leading to headache and eye strain.

The lack of product, however, is what will doom the modern 3-D to failure. There is simply not enough product coming from studios to make a successful business model. A film a month isn’t going to cut it.

ThePhotoplayer on February 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm

As a coda, I’m rather surprised that HOUSE OF WAX was listed as “headache inducing.” Technically speaking, it’s a very well photographed picture, and presented properly, is heralded by stereoscopic photographers as one of the best.

KingBiscuits on February 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Here is the current slate for 2009 in 3-D:
Coraline (tomorrow)
Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience (Feb. 27)
Monsters vs. Aliens (Mar. 27)
Battle For Terra (May 1)
Up (May 29)
Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs (Jul. 1)
G-Force (Jul. 24)
Final Destination: Death Trap (Aug. 28)
Toy Story (reissue, Oct. 2)
A Christmas Carol (Nov. 6)
Avatar (Dec. 18)
The Princess and The Frog (Dec. 25)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

I realize it is a subjective thing but, having seen all of the 50’s films mentioned above in 2D, (except perhaps the Martin-Lewis title), I can thinks they are among the 50’s worst films with KISS ME KATE and CEASE FIRE! rating in the unbearable category.

HOUSE OF WAX and BLACK LAGOON are in the “so bad they are funny” category, and MISS SADIE THOMPSON being one of the worst remakes of all time. The best of the lot, DIAL M FOR MURDER, was mediocre for Hitchcock.

The press of today have not maligned 50’s 3D films. The press at the time, including Variety, stated that bad films killed the gimmick. By the end of the cycle the films were not even advertising when they were in 3D for fear of the stigma and in many cases opened nationwide in 2D after failing in 3D in some major markets. The distributors for KISS ME KATE didn’t even open it 3D in New York City.

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

You’re right Al, it is extremely subjective and I dis-agree with you. The 50 3-D movies of that period are on a par with all other studio product of the time.

KISS ME KATE opened flat at the Music Hall for technical reasons. They were concerned with the loss of seating on the extreme sides of the orchestra. However, it did open city-wide in 3-D on the Loew’s circuit just in time for Christmas.

You’re the first person I’ve ever heard describe KATE as “unbearable!”

JohnRice on February 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Amen to what Bob said about anyone describing “Kiss Me Kate” as unbearable! Most movie fans (myself included) consider it one of the better 1950’s musicals and one of the better 3-D films. Too bad it came along right at the end at didn’t get more playdates in 3-D. Leonard Maltin gives it 3 ½ stars in his very reliable movie guide. He gives 3 stars to the other films mentioned with the exception of 2 ½ stars for “Cease Fire” which I didn’t much care for either although I never saw it in 3-D.

“House of Wax” and “Black Lagoon” “so bad they are funny”? Not in my opinion, then or now! Like you say Mr. Alvarez it is definitely subjective though…“different strokes for different folks”…and all that good stuff!

Speaking of “stroking” (sorry about that!) the 1969/71 adult softcore epic “The Stewardesses” has just been released on DVD in anaglyphic 3-D if any of you dirty old men or dirty young men (or women?) want a blast from the past. You can get it from Amazon and other web dealers. It’s pretty tame by today’s standards and pretty bad by the standards of any era, amazing that it played for months during it’s initial release. I remember when the good citizens of Berkeley were picketing the little Elmwood theatre because they were holding it over too long and keeping out the artsy foreign and independent films which were the normal fare of the Elmwood.

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 3:08 pm

13 GHOSTS wasn’t in 3-D. It utilized a “Ghost Viewer” with red and blue filters. Look through one filter and the ghosts disappear, and visa versa.

KISS ME KATE played every major engagement in 3-D, including neighborhood theaters. In fact, there was such a demand for 3-D bookings, Technicolor had to strike additional left/right prints!

For the facts about HONDO, check out:


KingBiscuits on February 5, 2009 at 3:08 pm

That was in Percepto, a format in which the ghosts appeared in through a lens handed to the audience patron. If you didn’t want to see the ghost anymore, you could watch the movie without the lens.

KingBiscuits on February 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Oh, crap. I got the name wrong.

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm

THE TINGLER was in Percepto.

ThePhotoplayer on February 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Mr. Furmanek is correct about KISS ME KATE. It played many theaters in 3-D during its initial run, and helped rejuvenate 3-D during the winter season of 1954, which included some of the titles I mentioned.

Whether you like the pictures or not, they were commercial successes— in 3-D— in their day.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 5, 2009 at 4:39 pm

KISS ME KATE opened wide in 3D on the NY Loews circuit in the deadly mid-January slot. It is not true that it had the Christmas slot as that was given to the far more successful FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.

KATE was pulled from Radio city after four weeks and replaced by EASY TO LOVE in time for Christmas. It was showing only in Brooklyn with a second feature by Christmas.

For the sake of comparison, the musical HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE ran for 15 weeks during the same period and did about three times the business. Regardless of whether you like the film, it was not considered a box office success by anyone and is considered one of the nails in the coffin of 3D.

ThePhotoplayer on February 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Yeah, the FROM HERE TO ETERNITY playdate couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that Columbia was pushing for an Oscar that year.

Al, judging from your posts, you seem to have a personal grudge against 3D films from that era, even though you haven’t seen most of the films in their stereoscopic format (can you see 3D?). Given the wide range of films that were made during that time, I find it hard to believe one could call the entire output “cheese.” You overlooked the fact that HOUSE OF WAX was one of the top grossers of the year.

Call January a dead month if you will, but the point is that most of the theaters were not only still playing 3D, they were advertising it, too. HONDO had a nice five-week run at the Paramount in 3-D, followed up by a 3-D booking on the RKO chain (31 theaters).

Do you have a source for the Variety article that states that bad movies were to blame for 3D’s diminish?

ThePhotoplayer on February 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Also, I don’t know how you could consider HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE a musical by any stretch of the imagination.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 5, 2009 at 6:50 pm

All studios push for Oscars every year. Loews decided the give the bigger hit FROM HERE TO ETERNITY that key Christmas playdate.

As you may know, Variety articles did not always carry writer’s credentials back then but here are a couple I have at hand that express the disdain already taking place, not only by audiences, but also exhibitors, in 1953-54:

November 6, 1953 MUSIC HALL FEARS KATE IN 3D

“Shady reputation of 3-D in the public’s mind is giving Radio City Music Hall, NY, a first-rate headache in trying to decide whether or not to present Metro’s “KISS ME KATE” in 3-D or flat.’
It goes on to explain the technical issues that add to the problem including the loss of about 300 seats.
“But if technical difficulties exist, the real stigma on 3-D is its past performance”
This article refers to the fact that films made in 3-D are only playing to kids in small towns with larger towns opting out and showing them in 2-D.

Even if HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was not a musical, of the top rental receipts of 1953 KISS ME KATE came in at an unimpressive number 31. At 2.5 million it was beaten by the musicals PETER PAN, HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, MOULIN ROUGE, ROAD TO BALI, CALL ME MADAM, APRIL IN PARIS, THE BAND WAGON, and EASY TO LOVE.

To compare, HOUSE OF WAX, the biggest 3-D hit of the era made 5.5 million in receipts. THE ROBE alone made somewhere between 20-30 million that year. Cinemascope was the real revelation.

I do not have a grudge against 3D. WINGS OF COURAGE in 3D was an amazing flop. I do take issue with revisionist history and anyone trying to pass off a fiasco like 1950’s 3-D as some kind of success, when it was in reality a seriously failed experiment. A little research will confirm that.

BobFurmanek on February 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

My mistake in saying that KATE opened citywide on the New York Loew’s circuit in December. I was not in my office and was relying on memory.

However, KATE in 3-D was MGM’s big Christmas release in major cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, etc. As I said earlier, exhibitor demand for 3-D prints was so great, Technicolor had to strike additional prints to fulfill the bookings of the 3-D version.


KingBiscuits on February 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Actually, Wings Of Courage has made back its $15 million budget though it took many years to do so. I’d cut it some slack considering that the film didn’t even hit 30 theatres at its widest.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 5, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I really think that if IMAX had stuck with the WINGS OF COURAGE headset and concept they would have been a real force in the industry today. Instead they chose to go IMAX light when WINGS OF COURAGE failed to ignite the box office.

By the way, the Variety article that reports that only small town children were responding well to 3-D may be the reason FLY ME TO THE MOON is in 3-D but FROST/NIXON is not.

quasimodo on February 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm

All this 3D banter did induce a trip to the local cinema yesterday to see “Bolt” in “Disney Digital 3D”. I had seen it in 2D and enjoyed it. Here’s the skinny:

I shared the theatre with six other people, mostly young kids. Right from the start I was irritated by the polarized glasses. Ever wear sunglasses in a theatre? The dark glasses washed the brilliant color out of the image and seemed to highlight the poor digital resolution at times.

The depth of image was impressive at first, but after fifteen minutes of fidgeting with my sunglasses I had had enough and left the kiddies to enjoy what I consider to be the cinematic equivalent of my childhood Viewmaster.

I’m not old enough to have experienced the 3D of the 50’s but if it was anything like this, I can see why it died a quick death. I don’t believe that this technology will be well received by anybody over the age of thirty and since you can’t watch the movie without the “sunglasses” I can imagine a lot of parents wandering aimlessly through theatre lobbies everywhere.

ThePhotoplayer on February 6, 2009 at 6:58 am

Al, you’re taking a lot of things out of context. That first KATE/Hall article was referring to the out-of-sync presentations that plagued the films previously.

Both THE ROBE and MILLIONAIRE did better because of their saturation campaigns. KISS KE KATE wasn’t being pushed as hard because everyone knew the musical. And if it was such a flop in 3D, why were there more orders for left/right pairs than Technicolor could make in a short time? The same thing happened with MONEY FROM HOME, which was a box-office hit, as were many of the Martin and Lewis films.

True, THE ROBE outgrossed HOUSE OF WAX, but that wasn’t point. The fact that it actually did quite well at the box office (top ten that year), shows otherwise. You ignored my comment about HONDO, which was enough of a success that Warner re-instated his trust in 3D.

But what it boils down to is this— even then, most of these films got OK to good reviews, and most critics today agree that they’re pretty good pictures, even in 2D. I can’t argue what you like or dislike, but to dismiss fifty totally unrelated films on the basis that they’re in 3D (again, a form that you admit you haven’t seen them in), is glib.

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

I enjoyed “Dial M for Murder” in 35 mm (not 3D)when Warner Brothers showed it as one of the four 1950s films they showed as part of their 75th Anniv festival. It was a popular film at the time. Philadelphians can have extra pride in that Grace Kelly stars.

I know mature adults who enjoyed seeing “Polar Express” in 3D at the King of Prussia Imax. Both 3D and Imax are indeed gimmicks to attract people into the theaters, including young people who are too used to tiny screens they carry around. If the studios produce good 3D movies, they will do well. Let’s wish them luck!

HowardBHaas on February 6, 2009 at 9:45 am

Ah, clarification: my meaning was that “Dial M for Murder” was popular when first released.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 6, 2009 at 11:38 am

Jack, the Variety article did NOT refer to any technical problems outside of Radio City but my main point here is that audiences were avoiding 3-D and these films were not big hits.

HONDO, which buried the fact that it was in 3-D in ads, is was mostly seen in 1954, only showed $4.1 in receipts and came in at number 16 that year. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY had done $5.2 that year in 2-D.

DIAL M FOR MURDER, (Hitchcock was ‘compelled’ by Warners to film it in 3-D) was not even advertised as being in that format in any New York run to avoid the stigma. It made $2.7 compared to $5.3 for REAR WINDOW that same year.

MONEY FROM HOME made $3.5, the same as THE CADDY in 2-D but less that LIVING IT UP $4.2 in 2-D that same year.

The Robe $20-30
From Here to Eternity $12.5
Shane $8.0
How to Marry a Millionaire $7.5
Peter Pan $7.0
Hans Christian Anderson $6.0
House of Wax (3-D) $5.5
Mogambo $5.2
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes $5.1
Moulin Rouge $5.0
Salome $4.7
The Charge at Feather River (3-D) $3.6

White Christmas $12.0
The Caine Mutiny $8.7
The Glenn Miller Story $7.0
The Egyptian $6.0
Rear Window $5.3
The High and the Mighty $5.2
Magnificent Obsession $5.0
Three Coins in the Fountain $5.0
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers $4.7
Desiree $4.5

My point is that the whole history of the 3-D in the 50’s lived and died in one year and was killed by audience rejection. Whether it was head-ache inducing sync or bad films remains a matter of opinion. I was a theatre manager during the COMIN’ AT YA! era and gave out many refunds to unhappy patrons. You might argue we have come a long way but the last HARRY POTTER gave me a headache after only ten minutes of IMAX 3-D.

JohnRice on February 6, 2009 at 11:52 am

Regarding the success of “The Robe” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” relative to “Kiss Me Kate” you also have to remember that the former were the first films in the brand new CinemaScope process when that widescreen format’s name had big marquee value, just as 3-D had at the beginning of the brief 3-D era. The novelty of 3-D had pretty much worn off, people were in fact tired of wearing those 3-D glasses, the darkened image caused by them and the sometimes imperfect projection. The mediocrity of many (but definitely not all) of the films of course had something to do with it. Meanwhile they were anxious to see the mostly extravagant and star packed CinemaScope films on their local theater’s new wide screens, hopefully accompanied by four channel stereophonic sound. CinemaScope of course was here to stay and 3-D was on it’s last legs.

Growing up in RIchmond CA I could tell that the 3-D era’s end was near. We had two downtown theaters equipped for 3-D, the UA and the Fox. I dismayed to see that films that played San Francisco and Oakland in 3-D like “Kiss Me Kate” were arriving in Richmond a month or so later in flat 3-D versions. We fortunately did get “Hondo” in 3-D and then (surprisingly) “Revenge of the Creature” and that was the end of 3-D for us. Our local suburban theater, the Park in El Sobrante, had previously announced that 3-D was “coming soon” but soon saw the handwriting on the wall and cancelled plans to install it. At theaters all over town you would see posters for films originally shot in 3-D with pasted strips over the 3-D logos and obviously being played flat in those theaters. As a teenage boy who enjoyed the novelty of 3-D I was completely bummed out but looking back I can see the reasons for the format’s quick demise in both the 1950’s and 1980’s.

I’m not optimistic that 3-D will really catch on in a big way this time either. Unless they can finally find a way to perfect it without having the audience wearing glasses I think it will just remain the novelty it has always been…not that there is anything wrong with novelties! If there is ever a 3-D Expo III in Hollywood, I’m on my way!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm

If Cinemascope and Cinerama had novelty blockbusters to lead with why didn’t the 3-D ever produce one?

If you add all the receipts for every 3-D film from BWANA DEVIL to HONDO you still get less than $30 million.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 16, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Unfortunately, if you adjust for inflation on that same site you will find HOUSE OF WAX is still as good as it gets.

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